Mahavan is situated about six miles east of Mathura. It is also called Brahdvan, because it is the largest of all the forests . In fact this forest has three names: Mahavan, Gokul and Brahdvan. This Gokul is non-different from Goloka..[1] Parjanya Gopa, the father of Goparaja Nand Baba, initially resided at Nand Gaon where he had five sons – namely Upanand, Abhinand, Nand, Sunand and Nandan – and two daughters named Sanand and Nandini. Also, while staying in Nandgaon he gave all his sons and daughters in marriage. His middle son, Nand, had no offspring, which caused Parjanya Gopa great concern. He worshipped Narayan in the hope that Nand would father a child. By a voice in the sky, he came to know that a very brave son would soon be born to Sri Nand. This son would possess all good qualities and annihilate every demon. Some time after this aerial prophecy, Kesi and other demons began to cause a disturbance in Nandgaon. Parjanya Gopa together with his family and all of his relatives moved here to Brahdvan. The Yamuna flows close by Brahdvan, or Mahavan. This forest is beautifully decorated with different kinds of trees, creepers and flowers, and there are lush, green meadows for the cows to graze in. Beholding this beauty, the Brajvasi gopas became very pleased and happily began to reside here. Yashoda-maiya gave birth to the twins Krishna Kanhaiya and Yogmaya at midnight, in the delivery room at Nand-bhavan in Mahavan. The umbilical cord was cut and other Vedic purificatory rituals were performed here. Krishna killed the demons Putana, Trinavart and Shakatasur here, thus liberating them. Krishna and Baldev's name-giving ceremony also took place at Mahavan, in the nearby cowshed (goshala) of Nand Maharaja. It was here that Rama and Krishna started to crawl on Their knees, that Mother Yashoda tied the naughty baby Krishna to a mortar, and that Krishna delivered the Yamala-Arjuna trees. The childhood pastimes of Krishna and Rama up to the age of two-and-a-half to three years took place here in Mahavan. These pastimes are briefly described further on.

The Pastime Places of Mahavan

Raskhan grave, Mahavan, Mathura

The pastime places of Brahdvan, or Mahavan, are mentioned in the Brahmanda Purana as follows: "In Mahavan, there are twenty-one sacred places which are saturated with good qualities. They include Yamala-Rrjuna-uddhara-sthal, Nand-kup, Chintaharan-Ghat, Brahmanda-Ghat, Sarasvat-kund, Sarasvat-Shila, Vishnu-Kund, Karna-kup, Krishna-kund, Gopa-kup, Raman Reti, Trinavart-Vadh-sthal, Putana-Vadh-sthal, Nand’s palace, Nand-bhavan, Raman-ghat and Mathura Kshetra (the birthplace of Mathuranath, Sheshha (Balram) and Yogmaya). Visiting Mathura Kshetra dispels all one's sins and brings about all auspiciousness.” [2] Both Braj-Bhakti-Vilas and Bhakti-Ratnakar mention the following pastime places: the place where the Yamala-arjuna trees were delivered (Yamalarjuna-uddhara-sthal), the place where Putana was killed (Putana-Vadh-sthal), the place where the cart was broken (Shakat-bhanjan-sthan), Sapta-samudrika-kup and Gopeshwar Mahadev. Additionally, Braj-bhakti-vilas mentions Shri Nand Temple, Yashoda's resting-place (Yashoda-shayan-sthal), the place of the grinding mortar (Okhala-sthal), the birthplace of Yogmaya (Yogmaya-janma-sthal), Bala Gokuleshwar and Rohini Temple. Bhakti-Ratnakar further mentions Krishna's birthplace (Janma-sthan), the place where the sanctifying ceremonies took place at the time of Krishna's birth (Janma-sanskar-sthan), the cowshed, the place of the name-giving ceremony (Nam-karan-sthan), Agni-sanskar-sthal, Stanya-pana-sthal, the place where Trinavart was killed (Trinavart-vadh-sthal), the place where Krishna and Balram crawled on Their knees, Brahmanda-Ghat, Yashodaji's courtyard, the place where navanita, or the fresh butter, was stolen (Navanit-chori-sthal), the place where the Damodar-lila took place (Damodar-lila-sthal), Shri Sanatan Gosvami's place of bhajan, the place of Madan Mohan Ji, Raman-Reti, Gopa-kup, the residences of Upanand and the other gopas, the place of Shri Krishna's birth-ceremony and other ceremonies, Gopa-baithak, the path to go to Vrindavan (Vrindavan-gaman-path), Sakrauli and so forth. We will now describe those places of darshan that still remain visible today.