Braj also known as Brij or Brajbhoomi is a region mainly in Uttar Pradesh of India, around Mathura-Vrindavan. Brajati gachchhati iti Brajah– That which moves around is Braj." This is the original understanding of the word Braj. The places where Nand Baba dwelt and moved around with his cows, calves, family and associates are called Braj. "Brajanti gavah yasminnati Brajah – the land where the cows, cowherd men. cowherd boys and cowherd girls wander is known as Braj." Braj particularly denotes the land of the Supreme Person Brajendra-nandan Shri Krishna's pastimes. The flirtatious hero of Braj, Shri Krishna, is Akhil-Rasamritamurti, the embodiment of the nectar of all primary and secondary spiritual tastes, or rasas. In this Braj, He performs His eternal pastimes with RadhaRadhika, who is the embodiment of mahabhav (the essence of Shri Krishna's pleasure potency), and His other associates. The most exalted of all nectar-filled pastimes, namely, Shri Krishna's rasa-lila, and His numerous other pastimes, take place here eternally. In this Braj, every glance and gesture is filled with rasa. Here, the original enjoyer, Shri Govind eternally enjoys nectar-filled sports and pastimes with those gopis who have manifested from His own intrinsic form. These pastimes have no beginning and no end. That place where there is nothing but an endless ocean of prem, whose waves of the most elevated, radiant mellow of intimate paramour love are constantly rising up and swelling over, is Braj. That place consisting purely of rasa, that is continuously savoured by those expert in relishing loving mellows, and those who can taste transcendental mellows, is the land of Braj.
Shrimad Bhagavata (10.44.13) gives a deeply moving description of Braj:
"O sakhi, the actual truth is that the land of Braj is supremely pure and blessed, because here the Supreme Person is living, disguised as a human being. That same Lord, whose lotus feet are worshipped by the lord of all lords, Mahadev Shankar, and by Shri Rama Devi, wanders about here with His brother Balram and His cowherd boy friends. Adorned with a garland of multicoloured flowers, He grazes the cows and plays the flute sweetly. Absorbed in many kinds of pastimes, He wanders here and there with delight. By the touch of His lotus feet, this land of Braj has become virtuous and successful."
The Skand Purana also presents a beautiful definition of the word Braj: "Parabrahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth, is beyond the three modes – goodness, passion and ignorance – and because He pervades every single particle of the universe, He is called Braj. His place, the embodiment of eternity, knowledge and bliss, is supremely brilliant and indestructible. Residing here are the supreme connoisseurs of ecstatic transcendental mellows, who are liberated from material existence."
Krishna so tied by bonds of love with his consort Radha and Brajwaasis remains eternally in spirit in Brajbhoomi. This city lying between the twin Mughal capital cities of Agra and Delhi bore the brunt of invaders several times. It was destroyed and patronized alternately. The present day Brajbhoomi was resurrected by the passionate devotion of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Vallabhacharya in the 16th century. The patronizing rule of Akbar helped seers and devotees discover and redecorate the ancient and mythological sites and spots of the Brajbhoomi. This land used to be largely green, redolent with gardens, groves and lakes in which the Lord frolicked. The land exuberantly bursts with folklore and legend. There is certain magnetism and cosmic energy in this land which draws millions of pilgrims from across the globe. Faith draws millions to this reverberating pastoral land of Krishna. Of all the sacred places in India, none enjoys a greater popularity than the capital of Braj, the holy city of Mathura. It is one of the seven sacred salvation cities (Mokshadayini Nagari) of India. Hundreds of pilgrims stay here to have their last breath. For nine months in the year festival follows upon festival in rapid succession, and the ghats and temples are daily thronged with a huge mass of way-worn pilgrims. So great is the sanctity of the spot that its panegyrists do not hesitate to declare that a single day spent at Mathura is more meritorious and rewarding than a lifetime passed at some other religious place. All this celebrity is due to the fact of its being the reputed birthplace of the Lord Krishna.
Hallowed by the aura of Shri Krishna, Brajbhoomi can be divided into two distinct units–the eastern part in the trans-Yamuna tract with places like Baldeo, Mahavan, Gokul, Mansarovar, Mat and Bhandirvan and the western side of Yamuna covering the Mathura region that encompasses Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Kama, Nandgaon, Barsana and Kokilavan. The land of Braj starts from Kotvan near Hodal about 95 km from Delhi and ends, 15 km ahead of Agra at Runkta, a place known specially for its association with the great Brajbhasha poet Surdas, an ardent Krishna devotee.
The Mathura city stretches along the right bank of the Yamuna and the continuous series of Ghats along the river make a splendid spectacle when viewed from the opposite bank. A long line of picturesque Ghats–with their steps leading to the water's edge, arched gateways and temple spires extending along the bank of the river, emphasizes the sacred character of the town. It is at Vishram Ghat that the traditional parikrama (perambulation) of all the important religious and cultural places of the city starts and ends. In all there are 24 Ghats. The Vishram (or Vishrant) Ghat is considered as most sacred and important, because according to legend, Shri Krishna took rest here after killing Kansa. The Ghat is lined with some elegant and important temples. The baithak of the great Vaishnava saint Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is also nearby. The aarti held at the Vishram Ghat each evening is not to be missed, for the little oil or ghee lamps that are floated on the river set the placid water sparkling with myriad flickering lights. A boat ride in moonlight is an awesome experience on the dark waters of Yamuna. By the day it offers a sight of all 24 ghats and places of historic interest. Vallabhacharya, one of the revivers of Braj, first visited Mathura in a boat at age 13. On beholding Vishram Ghat, he spontaneously sang a paean in praise. This song, Yamunashtakam in Sanskrit, is still well preserved in the oral tradition of the land, as are many more songs which have been handed down by great saints such as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Rupa Goswami, Mirabai, Surdas, Raskhan and Jayadeva. Innumerable poets are born daily in Braj, as devotees are stirred to sing praises of the Lord as they experience him in Brajbhoomi.
Goloka (Gokul) And Braj
Shri Chaitanya Charitamrit (Adi-Lila 5.17) states:
Thus, these names are all considered synonymous. Shri Rupa Goswami, an intimate associate of Shriman Mahaprabhu, resolves any confusion about Gokul and Goloka in his book Shri Laghubhagavatamrit:
He states here that the glory of Gokul is identical with the glory of Goloka. In fact, Goloka is merely the glory of Gokul. Similarly, Vrindavan and Gokul are simply different names for Braj.
The second verse of Brahma Sanhita describes this Gokul dham:
Shri Bhakti Vinod Thakur has explained the meaning of this verse as follows: "Maha-Vaikunth, or Paravyoma-dhama, is eternally situated beyond the Viraja River. This holy abode is the embodiment of three divine opulences: being imperishable, free from sorrow and free from all types of fear. The extremely sweet Gokul, otherwise known as Goloka, which is full of unlimited transcendental opulence, is situated beyond that Paravyoma-dhama. Sometimes Goloka is also called Gokula, but Goloka is actually the opulence or manifestation of Gokul, the abode of all sweet pastimes. This holy abode, radiant as Goloka or Gokul, appears in the form of Gokul below Vaikunth on the Earth planet."
In Shri Brhad Bhagavatamirta (2.5.168), the quintessence of all scriptures, Shri Sanatan Goswami writes: "Krishna's pastimes in Gokul, which is situated on the material plane, are the same as those in Goloka. The only difference between Goloka and Gokul is that Goloka is situated in the highest region and Gokul manifests on the Earth planet." In Krishna Sandarbha, Shri Jiv Goswami has accepted Goloka as the manifestation of Vrindavan.
Mood of Unwedded Amorous Love
Braj Related Links
In Shri Chaitanya Charitamirt (Adi-lila 4.47) Shri Kaviraj Goswami states:
Shri Bhaktivinod Thakur comments in his Amrita Pravaha Bhasya on this verse: "Many people think that Shri Krishna is performing His pastimes eternally in Goloka and appears in Braj for a short time just to perform His pastimes in parakiya-bhava, the mood of unwedded amorous love. This, however, is not the opinion of our Gaudiya gosvamis, who accept also the pastimes in Braj as eternal. Braj is the name of the absolute inner chamber of the transcendental and eternal Goloka-dhama. The same pastimes Shri Krishna performs in Vrindavan on Earth, including those of parakhiya-rasa, transpire eternally in the supremely situated, eternal Braj Dhama."
Shri Kaviraj Goswami states in Shri Chaitanya Charitamrit (Adi Lila 110): Here the words vrajera sanhita, "along with Braj", clarify that also existing in transcendental Goloka Dhama is one inconceivably sweet abode named Braj. Shri Krishna appeared on Earth along with this very abode, with the help of His inconceivable potency. Parakiya-rasa is permanently present only in this eternal Braj, which lies within the inner chambers of Goloka. This is because the supreme mellow, parakiya-rasa, is present there with qualities unlimitedly superior to those found anywhere else in Goloka. Even in the Braj manifest on this Earth planet, living entities have been able to directly witness the variegated nature of the unmanifest Braj in the transcendental realm. Besides prakata prakasha (the manifest appearance) and aprakata-prakasha (the unmanifest appearance) the only remaining mystery is that on Earth there is also a drishyaman-prakash, which is the vision ordinary people have of Vrindavan and other holy abodes when the pastimes are no longer manifest there.
Land of Enchanting Beauty And Sweetness
Brahma Sanhita (5.56) describes Vrindavan Dham, or Goloka, in this way:
"I worship that supreme abode of Svetadvipa, where the Supreme Personality Brajendra-nandan Shri Krishna is the only lover; where His svarupabhuta Braj Gopis, the embodiment of all Lakshmis, are the beloveds; where every tree and creeper is a transcendental desire-tree; where the earth is made of spiritual touchstone and the water is nectar; where speech is like melodious song and movements are like dance; where the flute is the dear female companion; where light is full of knowledge and bliss; where each and every supreme, transcendental object is all tasty and delectable; where great divine oceans of milk continually flow from the udders of uncountable surbhi cows; and where transcendental time is eternal, and without past and future, so that even half a moment never slips away. In this material world, only rare, saintly personalities behold this abode as Goloka, and only those who are the objects of Gokulapati Shri Krishna's mercy can understand the nature of this abode."
The Rigveda (1st mandal, sukta 154) also describes Braj Dham:
"Braj-Vrindavan is the Lord's topmost dhama, or sacred abode. There, the Supreme Personality Shri Krishna, the object of the Vedas, sweetly plays His flute and protects the roaming cows, who have many good qualities and beautiful horns."
In Shrimad-Bhagavata (10.21.10), the gopis themselves sing the glories of Vrindavan: "O sakhi, the fame of the Earth is enhanced, having been splendidly decorated with the marks of Shri Krishna's lotus feet. Upon hearing Krishna's flute song, the peacocks take it to be the thunder of the clouds and, becoming intoxicated, begin to dance. When the other animals in the meadows of Govardhan see this, they also feel pleasure and become stunned. Thus, the presence of Shri Vrindavan on the Earth makes this planet even more glorious than Vaikuntha."
The gopis also say, O sakhi, all of the six seasons' many flowers, such as beli, juhi, chameli, champaka and kadamba, bloom all over Vrindavan. Their fragrance reaches far and wide, inviting bees to partake of their honey. They come in swarms to drink this honey and, becoming intoxicated, start humming. This sound seems to come from Vana-devi, the goddess of the forest, who, having anticipated the arrival of Madhupati Krishna, now welcomes Him. When birds with sweet and melodious voices like the shuka, pika and papiha, hear the humming of the bees, how can they remain silent? They are also immersed in bliss, and fly from one tree to another and from one branch to the next. Vrindavan resonates with their harmonious singing, that echoes all over the hills and across rivers and ponds.
"Aha, Vrindavan is such an extraordinary and astonishing sacred abode. In this Vrindavan, the sweet splendour of spring, the king of all seasons, is ever present, and a green velvety carpet covers the surface of the earth. Lotuses of many colours bloom in the ponds and rivers, and the branches of the trees are well adorned with fully-bloomed champa, chameli, beli, juhi and other delightfully fragrant flowers, whose nectar is relished by intoxicated bees. The entire atmosphere is pervaded with both transcendental bliss and the intoxication of youth. These combine to create a kingdom of ever-increasing joy that captivates the body and mind."
Playing sweetly on His flute, Brajendra nandan Shri Krishna roams throughout this land of Braj along with His elder brother, Balram, and Their innumerable cowherd boy friends and cows. This land of Braj is blessed; where the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma, dwells in the form of a mountain range in Barsana, to have the dust of the Divine Couple Shri Radha-Krishna's lotus feet on his head; where the maintainer, Lord Vishnu, has assumed the forms of Govardhan and Vishnu-parvat; where the moon-crested Mahadev (Lord Shiva) has taken up residence as Nandishwar Hill in Nandagram; and where Uddhav, the best of Shri Hari's servants, lives as a blade of grass, a small shrub and a creeper on the bank of Kusum-sarovar.
Here in Braj, the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna becomes the calves and relishes the tender and delicious grass. Here the young girls of Braj go daily to wells and other sources of water on the pretext of filling their water-pots, but in fact they go only to fill the pots of their hearts with the rasa of Krishna-prem. "Panaghat Jana dai ri, panaghata jata hai – My friend, please let me go to the pana-ghata, otherwise the resolve (pana) to meet my beloved will diminish (ghata jaega)." To protect this resolve, the young girls of Braj would crowd the pana-ghata, carrying their clay pots.
At this place, which is filled with rasa, the Braj girls begin to dip their pots in the water on the pretext of filling them. Then, the rasila flute of the crown jewel of all rasikas fills the air with rasa. Who even notices whether these girls of Braj fill their pots or bring them back empty? 0 my friend, this is all the wonder of that pana-ghata.
The topmost relisher of transcendental mellows, Brajendra nandan, repeatedly drowns in rasa – in the sweet groves that echo with the rippling sounds of the Kalindi River, and in the twisted and narrow rasila lanes. He drowns in the rasila teasing of the rasili girls of Braj – in the heated disputes He has with them; in their crooked, sweet glances; in the sweet conversations and water-sports He enjoys with them. Who can describe the glories of such a place as Braj?
Shri Sanatan Goswami has explained the meaning of Vrindavan in the following way, "vrindasya samuhasya, avanam raksanam palanam yasmat tat vrindavanam – that place which maintains, nourishes and protects everyone is called Vrindavan." This land of Vrindavan conceals its godly nature and lovingly maintains the herds of cows and calves, and the society of gopas and gopis. The Supreme Lord Shri Krishna, being controlled by their love, does not leave Vrindavan even for a moment: vrindavanam parityajya sa kvachin naiva gachchhati (Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya-lila 1.67; quoted in Laghu-bhagavatamrita 1.5.461).
Shri Narayan Bhatt describes the land of Braj as enchanting, and expresses this with exquisite feelings:
"Braj Bhumi is enchanting — the groves are enchanting, Vrindavan is enchanting and the waters of the Yamuna are enchanting. All the women in every part of Gokul are enchantresses who speak in an enchanting way. Shri Bhatta's master and mistress are Mohan Nagar and Mohini Radharani."
- punya bata Braj-bhuvo yad ayam nr-linga, gudhah purana-puruso vana-chitra-malyah
gah palayan saha-balah kvanayams ca venum ,vikridaydncati giritra-ramarchitarighrih
- gunatitam param brahma vyapakam Braj uchyate
sadanandam param jyoti muktanam padavyayam
- sarvopari Gokul — Brajloka-dhama
Shri-goloka, svetadvipa, Vrindavan nama
- yat tu goloka-nama syat tac ca gokula-vaibhavam;
tad atmya-vaibhavatvan ca tasya tan-mahimonnateh.
- sahasra-patra-kamalam gokulakhyam mahat-padam
tat karnikara-tad-dhama tad-anantamsa-sambhavam
- yatha kridati tadbhumau goloke pi tathaiva sah
adha urdhvataya bhedo 'nayoh kalpyeta kevalam
- shri-vrindavanasya prakasa-viseso golokatvam tatra
manah prakaso goloka iti samarthaniyam
- parakhiya-bhave ati rasera ullasa , Braj bina ihara anyatra nahi vasa
- astavimsa chatur-yuge dvaparera sese, vrajera sahita haya krsnera prakashe
- Shriyah kantah kantah parama-purusah kalpa-taravo, druma bhumis chintamani-gana-mayi toyam amritam
katha ganam natyam gamanam api vansi priya-sakhi, chid-anandam jyotih param api tad asvadyam api cha
sa yatra kshirabdhih shravati surabhibhyas cha su-mahan, nimesardhakhyo va Brajti na hi yatrapi samayah
bhaje svetadvipam tam aham iha golokam iti yam, vidantas te santah kshiti-virala-charah katipaye
- ta vam vastunyushmasi gamadhyai yatra gavo bhurishringa ayasah
atraha tadurugayasya vrsnah paramam padamavabhati bhuri
- vrindavanam sakhi bhuvo vitanoti kirtim,yad devaki-suta-padambuja-labdha-lakshmi
govinda-venum anu matta-mayura-nrtyarn, preksyadri-sanv-avaratanya-samasta-sattvam
- During Brahma-vimohana-lila(the bewilderment of Lord Brahma) Shri Krishna assumed the form of all the calves and cowherd boys for one full year, thereby bewildering the four-headed Lord Brahma.
- brajbhumi mohini main jani, mohini kunj, mohan Shri-brindavan mohan jamuna pani
mohini nari sakal gokul ki bolti mohini bani, Shri-bhatt ke prabhu mohan nagar mohini radha rani