On my recent visit to Vrindavan I came to realise that Lord Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava. This is said in the Bhagavatam — vaiṣṇavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ. So it is no surprise that wherever Krishna is present, Lord Shiva should be there to accompany and serve him. We see a proof of this in Braja Mandala and Vrindavan where Lord Shiva appears in many forms as Mahadev, the Kshetrapal or “Protector of the Dham.”
It is said that anyone visiting Braj requires to take the permission of Mahadev to enter the abode of the Lord. The photo on the left is taken from the entrance of the most famous Shivji temple in Vrindavan, called Gopeshwar or Gopishwar Mahadev, where Lord Shiva is dressed as a gopi.
The story goes that once upon a time Lord Shiva, along with Mother Parvati visited Vrindavan during the pastimes of Lord Krishna and wanted to participate in the Rasa Lila dance of Krishna with the gopis.
Lord Shiva was stopped by Lalita Sakhi, a confidential sakhi of Radharani, and told that in Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes, there is only one Purusha or enjoyer and everyone else is Prakriti or the enjoyed, existing purely to serve the Lord.
Lalita Sakhi took Lord Shiva to a kund (pond) and ordered him to take a dip. Once he came out of the kund, Mahadeva had been transformed into a beautiful gopi and so was able to watch Krishna’s dance with the gopis.
And there are so many other temples of Lord Shiva like, Chakleshwar Mahadeva near Manasi Ganga at Govardhan, Nandishwar Mahadeva in Nandgaon and Bankhandi Mahadev in Vrindavan, Kundeshwar Mahadev in Radha Kund, Kedareshwar Mahadev, the Kedarnath temple located in a remote corner in the Braj Mandala parikrama marg, Kameshwar Mahadev and many others.
Even in Mathura Lord Shiva’s temples surround the town in all the four corners. There are four Shiva lingas located in the four corners to protect the city, called the dik-pala of Mathura. They are namely, Gokarnesvara Mahadeva in the north, Pippalesvara Mahadeva in the east, Rangesvara Mahadeva in the south and Bhutesvara Mahadeva in the west.
The Aasheshwar Mahadev temple near Nandgaon is where Lord Shiva sat down in meditation with the asha – a hope or desire to get a darshan of baby Krishna.
The story goes that once Lord Shiva visited Nandgaon disguised as a yogi babaji covered in ashes and with snakes hanging around his neck and knocked the door of Nanda Baba. Mother Yashodha was shocked to see the form of yogi and feared that her little baby Krishna would be scared to see him, so she refused to let him in.
So Mahadev left and sat down under a tree some distance away and started meditating on the form of baby Krishna, in the hope of getting his darshan.
Meanwhile, Lord Krishna who is the Supersoul and Paramatma understood the desire of Shiva and suddenly started crying incessantly. The womenfolk of the village explained to Yashoda Mataji that she had in all likelihood offended the yogi by not letting him have look at baby Krishna, and this was now affecting the baby’s wellbeing.
Mother Yashoda took baby Krishna to the place where the yogi baba was meditating and, immediately upon seeing him, Krishna started smiling happily.
Mother Yashoda requested the Shiva in the form of the yogi baba to live permanently in Nandgaon so that Krishna would always be happy seeing him. Shiva agreed to stay on the one condition that Krishna’s remnants or prasadam be given to him every day. This custom is followed to this day at the Nandgaon temple.
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