Radha Kund, 2017.03.04 (Vishakha Dasi for VT): Last week we made a trip to the famous Sheetla Mata mandir in Gurgaon. The goddess is the kuldevi (family goddess) of the Radharaman Temple’s Goswamis, and her connection to Vrindavan goes back almost five hundred years.
Our little group was hosted by Ramavatar Garg, a long-time devotee of Radharamanji and member of the Sheetla Mata temple’s trustee board. He made sure we got a close-up, VIP darshan.
I am not aware of any written accounts of the deity’s origins. However, the oral history of the Radharaman Temple portrays Sheetla Mata as Radharamanji’s younger sister.
Originally, the very old deities of Vrindavan like Govind Dev, Gopinath and Madanmohan stood alone, without their consort. But, after the establishment of the Gaudiya Sampradaya, the wife of Nityananda Prabhu, Jahnava Mata, brought deities of Radha from Bengal to Braj. She brought Radha deities to pair with Govind Dev, Gopinath and Madanmohan amongst others.
The story goes that Jahnava Mata also brought a beautiful deity of Radha for Radharamanji. The temple’s founder, Shri Gopal Bhatt Goswami, did not wish to establish a separate deity of Radha in the temple. He felt that Radharaman was Radha and Raman (Krishna) in a single form. But he could not say no to Jahnava Mata.
And so the new deity of Radha was established by Radharamanji’s side in a grand ceremony.
The next morning, when the Goswamis came to awaken the divine couple, they were shocked to find that the Radha deity had vanished. A search was made throughout the temple premises. At last, the deity was found in some dark corner of the property.
Confused, but also relieved to have found the deity, the Goswamis took her back to the altar and placed next to Radharamanji again.
But the strange happenings continued. Every day the new deity of Radha would disappear, and after much effort, she would again be found in some lonely corner of the temple compound. The Goswamis were baffled and asked Shri Gopal Bhatt Goswami for guidance.
Shri Gopal Bhatt Goswami prayed to Radharamanji and asked him to reveal the reason why the deity kept disappearing.
Radharamanji then appeared to Gopal Bhatt Goswami in a vision and said, “This deity is not Radha. She is my sister, Yogmaya. Every night you put me in bed with her, and ask me to perform my lilas, and every night I am forced to throw her out of my room!”
The Goswamis then arranged for the deity to be taken out of Vrindavan to Gurgaon, where she became known as Sheetla Mata.
The Sheetla Mata temple is extremely popular. Ramavatarji estimated that almost ten lakh (one million) people visited last weekend, as the Navaratri festivities continue. Throughout the month of Chaitra, devotees throng the temple, many coming the night before to do jagran and have her darshan the next morning.
The people of Gurgaon have their own local legends about the goddess’ origin. They call her “Kripi” – the wife of Sage Drona who used to serve sick and suffering children. It is believed that if a child gets measles or chicken pox, the goddess will cure them. Couples take her darshan with the hope that she will bless them with a child.
But for the devotees of Radharamanji, she is our Brajwasi Devi and always will be.