Vrindavan, 2017.09.29 (VT): Radha and Krishna are at the center of worship in Vrindavan, yet Devi, the Divine Mother, also plays a very important role in Braj lila.
Devi as Krishna’s Sister
The Durga Saptashati 11.42states:
nanda-gopa-gṛhe jātā yaśoda-garbha-sambhavā
I will be born in Nanda’s house from the womb of Yashoda.
Katyayani Devi, Cheer Ghat
After Shri Krishna was born at Kans’s prison in Mathura, his father Vasudev smuggled him out and took him to Gokul. The Bhagwatam says that by the power of the goddess Yogamaya, all the prison guards and all the residents of the palace were fast asleep when Krishna was smuggled away. The doors spontaneously opened to give them passage.
Just as Vasudev was leaving Mathura, Yogamaya was born to Yashoda in Gokul. The two children were switched, and when Vasudev came back to the prison, he left baby Yogamaya on his wife Devaki’s bed.
The demon king Kans tried to kill the baby by thowing her against the wall, thinking her to be Krishna. At that moment, the Goddess revealed her divine form and told Kans that the child he was looking for had been born elsewhere.
sā tad-dhastāt samutpatya sadyo devy ambaraṁ gatā
adṛśyatānujā viṣṇoḥ sāyudhāṣṭa-mahābhujā
The infant slipped from Kansa’s hands and hovered in the air, revealing herself as the divine Goddess with eight arms, each holding a weapon.
“O foolish Kans!” said the goddess. “The one who will be the death of you has already been born somewhere else!” Speaking thus, the Bhagwatam says that the Goddess took various forms with various names, in various places all over India. But having been born to Yashoda in Gokul, Braj remains the Divine Mother’s homeland.
Devi as Paurnamasi
Paurnamasi Devi, Seva Kunj
In Braj, Devi is worshipped as Yogamaya, the one who brings together the Lord and his devotees. In Braj lila she is embodied as an elderly Brahmin lady named Paurnamasi, the mother of Krishna’s Guru Sandipani Muni, and the grandmother of Krishna’s sakha Madhumangal.
As Paurnamasi, Yogamaya fills the role of the Guru of Shri Radha and the gopis, helping them in their efforts to attain Krishna. She knows many magical mantras and methods, which she uses to create the perfect circumstances for Shri Radha and Krishna’s lilas.
In Vrindavan, there is a temple of Yogamaya at the Yogpeeth, in an underground grotto just next to the main altar of the old temple of Shri Radha Govind Dev. The deity is very small and beautiful, and the temple only opens a couple of times a year.
There is also a Paurnamasi temple in Seva Kunj. The origin of this deity is shrouded in mystery. She used to be worshipped by a Brajwasi family, but the temple was recently taken over by the Gaudiya Math. Paurnamasi Devi is sitting in a padmasan, with one hand granting blessings and the other chanting on a 27-bead mala.
Devi as Katyayani
At Cheer Ghat, the gopis worshipped the Goddess in the form of Katyayani Devi, praying to get Shri Krishna as their husband. A beautiful deity of Katyayani Devi can be seen there to this day.
Vrindavan is also one of the 51 shaktipeeths. It is the place where, after Goddess Sati immolated herself, her curly locks of hair fell on the ground. It is not clear where the Goddess’s hair actually fell, and several temples claim to be the original site.
About a hundred years ago, a mahatma named Swami Keshavananda – a disciple of the famous Shri Lahiri Mahashay – came to Vrindavan from the Himalayas searching for the exact location of the shakti-peeth where the Divine Mother’s hair fell. According to his research and realizations, the place is what is known today as the Katyayani Temple, near Rangji’s Bade Bagicha in Vrindavan. The temple itself was built in 1923.
Devi as the revealer of Vrindavan
Chamunda Devi, Rajpur, Vrindavan
Another important Devi temple of Vrindavan is the Chamunda Devi mandir, just off the parikrama marg towards Mathura. A story related to this temple is also told about Katyayani temple as well.
According to legend, when Shri Roop and Sanatan Goswami came to Braj about 500 years ago, they wanted to find the places of Shri Krishna’s lila that had been lost over time, according to the order of their Guru, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. But they didn’t know where to begin; they were not even sure where Vrindavan was.
The Divine Mother appeared to them in the form of a lali – a young Brajwasi girl – and told them that the land embraced on three sides by the Yamuna is indeed Vrindavan, thereby giving them the direction and inspiration to move forward with their mission.
The connection of the Divine Mother with Shri Krishna and his lila is a deep one, and this article merely skims the surface. But we hope, by her blessings, that you may relish deeper and deeper realization of this sacred land of Vrindavan.