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.. 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
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.”  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.
Danta Dhavan Tila
Nand Maharaja would sit on this small hill tila and clean his teeth (danta-dhavan) with a twig.
Nand Baba's Residence
Around the base of Danta-dhavan-tila stood the residences of Nand as well as those of his brothers and relatives. The ruins of these houses can still be seen today, even from a distance.
The Supreme Lord Shri Krishna and Yogmaya took birth as twins from the womb of Mother Yashoda in her room in Nand's palace. They were born at midnight on Astami (the eighth day after the full moon) in the month of Bhadra when the star (nakshatra) known as Rohini was visible in the sky. One can take darshan of Yogmaya here. Shrimad-Bhagavata vividly describes how the most fortunate Nand Baba became very joyful upon receiving a son. After the ceremony known as nadicheda-samskara had been performed, in which the umbilical cord is cut, baby Krishna was bathed and so on. Nand Baba then called the brahmanas to perform the various purificatory rituals and other rites of childbirth. Shri Raghupati Upadhyay says: "In a world frightened by birth and death, some people take shelter of the Srutis, some of the Smrits and some of the Mahabharat. But I pay my homage to Shri Nandrai, in whose courtyard Parabrahma is playing as a child.” .
Mahavan Related Links
Here, the naked babies Krishna and Balram wrestled with each other. The gopis encouraged Them to wrestle by offering to give the winner a laddu. At this, the two boys, each desiring to defeat the other, began to wrestle. Today, Gopeshwar Mahadev is here.
This well is also known as Sapta-Samudrika-kup. Maharaja Nand used to draw water from it. It is said that the demigods created it for the service of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. Its water stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and liberates one who bathes in it from all sins.
Shri Sanatan Goswami's place of Bhajan
Below the temple of Chaurasi Khamba, near Samudrika-kup, is Sanatan Goswami's bhajan-kuti situated inside a cave. Sanatan Goswami would come to Gokul occasionally. He would perform bhajan at this place, and daily take darshan of Shri Madan-Gopal.
Once, Sanatan Goswami was amazed by an extraordinary child he saw playing in the soft sand on the bank of the Yamuna. When the child had finished his game, Sanatan Goswami followed him into the temple of Shri Madan-Gopal. Upon entering the temple, however, Sanatan Goswami could only see the deity. Some time later in Mathura, Sanatan Goswami saw that same Shri Madan-Gopal playing in the house of a Chaubain with her son. Shri Madan-Gopal requested Sanatan to take Him with him to Vrindavan. Sanatan Goswami brought Him to his bhajan-kuti, and later had a magnificent temple constructed for Him, where he arranged for His service and worship.
This is the place of residence of Devspati Gopa and is situated about ten miles north of Dauji. Places of darshan are Ram-sagar-kund, an ancient and large kadamb tree, and the Govardhan-shila worshipped by Devspati Gopa. Nand Ray's baithak is in the village of Hataura near Dauji.
Karn Chhedan Sthan
The place where ears were pierced- The karna-chhedan sanskar, or ear-piercing ceremony, of the small boys Krishna and Balram took place here. This village is currently known as Karnavala. One can have darshan of Karnabedha-kup, Ratnachauk, and of the deities of Shri Madan-mohan and Madhav ray here.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Mahavan
Before Shri Rup and Shri Sanatan's arrival in Braj, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Braj and wandered throughout its forests. At the place of Krishna's birth in Mahavan, Mahaprabhu took darshan of Shri Madan-mohan and, overwhelmed with prem, began to dance as streams of tears flowed from His eyes. Shri-man Mahaprabhu's darshan of Krishna's birthplace has been described in Bhakti-Ratnakar:
ahe Shrinivasa! Krishna chaitanya ethaya
janmotsava sthan dekhi ullasa hiyaya
bhavavese prabhu nrtya, gite magna haila
krpa kari sarvachitta akarshan kaila
"O Shrinivas, seeing the place of Krishna's birth festival Shri Chaitanya became overwhelmed with ecstatic joy. He became absorbed in dancing and singing. By His mercy He attracted the hearts of everyone."
Mathura Nath Shri Dwarika Nath, Mahavan, Mathura
Chorasi Khamba, Mahavan, Mathura
Raman Reti Ashram, Mahavan, Mathura
Raskhan Couplets, Mahavan, Mathura
Raskhan grave, Mahavan, Mathura
- golokarupine tubhyam, gokulaya namo namah
atidirdhaya ramyaya , dvavimsadyojanayate ---Bhavishya Purana (Uttara-khand)
- ekavimsati tirthanam, yuktam bhurigurtanvitam,
Yamalarjuna punyatmanam , nanda-kupam tathaiva cha
chintaharanam brahmandam , kundam sarasvatam tatha
sarasvati-shila tatra , vishnu-kundam samanvitam
karna-kupam Krishna-kundam, gopa-kupam tathaiva cha
ramanam ramana-sthanam , trinavartakhya-patanam
putana-patanasthanam , trinavartakhya-patanam
nanda-harmya nandageha , ghatam ramana-samjnakam
mathuranathodbhavam kshetram ,punyam papa-pranasanam
janma-sthanam tu sheshashya, janma yogamayaya
- nandas tv atmaja utpanne, jatahlado maha-manah
ahuya viprana veda jnan , snatah suchir alarrkrtah ---Shrimad-Bhagavata (10.5.1)
- srutim apare smrtim itare, bharatam anye bhajantu bhava-bhitah
aham iha nandam vande, yasyalinde param brahma ---Shri Padyavali (text 127)
- sanatan madangopal darshane, mahasukha paiya rahe mahavane ---Bhakti-Ratnakar