During my last visit to India, I visited Madhuvan or Mahauli, a village near Mathura. Madhuvan is the name of one of the twelve original forests of Vraja Mandala, situated on the western side of the Yamuna. This is a very special forest area with many interesting references in the scriptures. Although today the forest area is reduced to a bare minimum, maybe about 50 acres, the place (now a small village) still has some magical charm to it. After visiting the temple and taking darshan of the deity of Lord Vishnu, we stepped on to explore the forest.
There are a number of peacocks and some small cottages, huts where some babajis live. We entered the residence of one of the babajis, who had few cows. I looked around nervously to see if there is any sign-boards like, “Keep off! Private property. Trespassers will be prosecuted,” or something similar. However, there was nothing like that and our guide, Radha Charan Prabhu, being a local, was quite at ease and patting the cows there remarked to the old man relaxing on a cot, “Beautiful cows, Babaji, are these yours?” And, the old babaji got up and with folded hands said, “Nothing is mine. They all belong to Thakurji (Lord Krishna).”
Srimad Bhagavatam describes the pastime of Dhruva Maharaj in Satya Yuga, who at the tender age of five, left home in anger. He wanted to sit on the lap of his father while his step brother is already sitting. His step mother immediately stopped him, saying that “to gain the eligibility to sit on your father’s lap, you will have to be born as my son.”
Angry and humiliated Dhruva went to his own mother and told her that – as a revenge, he wanted to get a bigger kingdom than that of his father or anyone else in the world. His mother advised him that only Lord Vishnu can fulfill his desire and it is said that Lord gives his vision to people who worship him undergoing severe penances in the forests.
Then Dhruva left home and on his way met Narada Rishi on his way. Narada Rishi took pity on the boy and advised him to go back. But, upon seeing determination of the young Prince, Narada Rishi gave his blessings and advised him to go to Madhuvan forest,perform his tapasya there.He also gave initiation and the mantra Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya to Dhruva. Interestingly, Narada Rishi gave a wonderful description of the appearance, features of what the Supreme God looks like and instructed Dhruva to meditate on this form of Lord Vishnu and not on any light or other formless aspects of God.
So there is a hillock famously known as Dhruva Teela, which is the place where he performed his tapasya meditation and attained the darshan, vision of Lord Vishnu known as Prishni Garbha. Today, there is a small temple with an image of Lord Vishnu. There is also a Shiva Linga and a centuries-old stone inscription by a sadhu, which glorifies the power of this place and how he also performed tapasya there and had darshan of Lord Vishnu.
As instructed by Narada Rishi, Dhruva practiced breath control, pranayama, ashtanga yoga, devotional service and worship of Lord Vishnu for six months.
The Bhagavatam explains that when Dhruva Maharaj performed tapasya or austerities, deity worship, devotional service, chanting the mantra given by Narada Rishi, Lord Vishnu appeared and awarded him the kingdom of Dhruva Loka, also known as the Pole Star, which is the brightest star visible in the sky, and which is dhruva, “fixed or unmoving” in the sky. Because it is stable, it is said to be the connecting point to the spiritual world within the material universe.
Then there is also a small temple of Shatrughna, the brother of Lord Rama,who made his capital in Madhuvan. There is a small temple and deity of Shatrughna. There is also a cave in which the demon Lavanasura lived and who was killed by Satrughna. You can visit the cave of the demon Lavanasura today which was of course built with steps and walls so that people can go and visit the place. This is probably the only place where there is a temple for Shatrughna (I thought but, later found out that there is one more temple for Shatrughna. Bharat and Shatrughna are the two demigods known as Ashwini Kumaras incarnated in human form).
Krishna Kund or Madhu Kund
Then, there is Krishna Kund which was made by Krishna striking his flute on the ground. It is also said that during the time of Lord Krishna’s pastimes on earth, this used to be the pasturing ground for his cows.Lord Krishna, as Gopal would bring His cows for grazing to the forest of Madhuvan and would have His cows drink the cool nectarine waters of Madhu Kunda also known as Krishna Kunda in Madhuvan.
It is said that during the time of Krishna, Madhuvan was filled with Kalpavriksha trees covered with the most nectarine bee hives which would produce the sweetest Madhu (honey) in all the creation for the pleasure of Krishna. Therefore this forest came to be known as Madhuvan and Krishna would perform the sweet pastime of Rasa Leela with the Gopis on the banks of Madhu Kunda in the autumn season.
Bal Dauji temple
There is also a temple of Balarama who is known as Dauji (“elder brother”) and the specialty of Balaram here is that instead of white color, here the deity’s complexion is black. The reason for which is explained that once while extolling the beautiful qualities of Krishna to the Gopis, in order to pacify their feelings of separation after Krishna’s departure from Vrindavan, Balaram ji himself became so absorbed in thoughts of Krishna that his complexion turned blackish.
Dauji is the village deity and we have also visited this temple and took darshan and blessings of Dauji. I went into a local village shop and bought some mishri (sugar candy) and yogurt and offered them to Dauji because one should never go to a temple empty handed.