Mahavan is the forest of Vraja situated 6 miles east of Mathura. It is also called Brihadvan as it is largest amongst all the forests of Vraja. Mahavan is also known as Gokul or sometimes Gokul Mahavan because this is the land of the Go (cows), the Gopas and the Gopis. The original house of Nanda Maharaj, Nanda Bhawan is still there in Mahavan. One can take the darshan of Krishna and Yogamaya in the temple in Nanda Bhawan. There were 84 pillars in this house and some of the original pillars it is said are still there. It is in this house that Krishna-Balaram performed so many childhood pastimes: Their name giving ceremony in the cowshed nearby, killing of Putana, Shakatasura, Trinavarta and deliverance of Nalakuvera and Manigriva. It is at this house that Krishna-Balaram started to crawl on their knees and that Krishna was bound up with ropes by Yashoda Mayi. One mile east of Nanda Bhawan is the Brahmanda Ghat i.e. the place where Bal Gopal gave darshan of the entire universe to Yashoda Mayi within His little mouth. Krishna stayed here in Gokula Mahavan for three years and four months before going to Vrindavan forest.
Radhanath Swami often describes the entire family lineage of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna in his lectures at Mahavan because this is the place where both Lord Krishna and Balaramji appeared. There was a great Yadu king, Devamidha. He had a son Surasena from his Kshatriya wife and another son, Parjanya from his Vaishya wife. Parjanya was given the charge of Mahavan while Surasena became the king of Mathura. Surasena gave birth to Vasudeva while Parjanya had five sons: Upanand, Abhinand, Nanda, Sunand, and Nandan. Nanda Maharaj was chosen the king of the land of Vraja by all his brothers and thus he is known as Vrajendra.
It is widely known that Kamsa was tormenting Devaki and Vasudeva in Mathura and killing their children one after the other out of fear of death at the hands of the eighth son of Devaki. Vasudeva sent his other wife, Rohini to stay with Yashoda and Nanda in Mahavan. On Lord Vishnu’s order, Yogamaya transferred the seventh child of Devaki from her womb to the womb of Rohini. This child was none other than the first expansion of Shri Krishna i.e. Lord Balaram. Thus Balaramji appeared in this world in this holy land of Mahavan. Meanwhile Nanda Maharaj and Yashoda Mayi were performing a Dvadashi Vrata to get a son and Lord Narayan appeared to them and revealed that He would personally appear as their son. Soon Yashoda became pregnant. What happened is this? Krishna entered into Yashoda’s heart while Yogmaya entered into her womb. And at midnight at the time that we celebrate “Janmashtami”, Krishna appeared simultaneously in two places, in Mathura as Vasudeva Krishna in His Narayan form and in Mahavan in His original Shyamsundar form. Krishna appeared from the womb of Devaki as her eighth child at the prison cell of Kamsa in Mathura in a majestic form with a crown and Kaustubha Mani and holding a conch shell, lotus flower, disc and club. While right here in Mahavan, Yashodamayi gave birth to a son and a daughter. The son was the Original Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna appearing in His sweet Gopal form and the daughter was Yogamaya. Vasudeva Krishna born of Vasudeva was brought by Vasudeva across the Yamuna to Mahavan and then He merged into the body of Gopal Krishna born of Yashoda. Vasudeva brought Yogamaya back to Mathura. Radhanath Swami thus explains that according to all the Gaudiya Vaishnava acharyas, Krishna appeared in this material world right here in Mahavan.
Prayer: Speaking on the prayer that we should make in this forest of Mahavan, Radhanath Swami said that here we should pray to be able to become attached to hearing and chanting Krishna’s names, teachings, pastimes and glories and thus remain absorbed in Krishna consciousness. Satyavrata Muni prays in his Damodarshtakam that I do not want liberation, mystic powers or even elevation to Vaikuntha, my only prayer is that the childhood pastimes of Lord Krishna be forever manifest in my heart, no other benediction is of any use to me. Radhanath Swami says that we can make this our prayer also in Lord Damodar’s abode, Mahavan.
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