Shri Gopinath Lal Dev Goswami of the Shri Radha-Gopinath Temple says that previously, the Deities of Vrindavan used to stay in their respective bagichas (gardens) throughout Jhulan Yatra. Thus at the end of Jhulan, it was very difficult for them to transition back to their normal surroundings and schedule inside the temple. And so the sevayats of the temple found a new way of celebration in the form of these special darshans.
Some of the special darshans on this day include: Sri Radha-Govind Dev’s Subal Vesh Lila, Shri Radha-Gopinath’s Van Vihar, Shri Radha-Madanmohan’s Rai Raja Lila, Shri Radha-Shyamsundar’s Nauka Vilas, Shri Gokulananda’s Raval Raja Lila, Shri Radha-Damodar’s Shyama Sakhi Lila, Shri Amiya Nimai Mahaprabhu’s Nagari Bhav Darshan and Shri Shadbhuj Mahaprabhu’s Nagar Bhav Darshan. On this day, the congregational singing leading up to Janmastami begins at the Shri Radharaman Temple.
The Story Behind Each Darshan
Shri Radha-Govind Dev Temple: Subal Vesh
Subal Sakha is one of Shri Krishna’s very close cowherd boy friends who looks very much like Shri Radharani. One day Shri Radha’s mother-in-law stopped Radharani from leaving the house to meet Krishna. So Krishna sent Subal to her house under the pretext of looking for a lost calf. Subal then exchanged clothes with Radharani, and Radharani left the house wearing Subal vesh (the clothes of Subal), holding a calf in her arms to conceal her figure. Thus she was able to meet Krishna. This lila is depicted at the Shri Radha-Govind Dev temple on this day every year. It is also the only day when devotees are able to have Radharani’s charan darshan – the holy sight of her lotus feet.
Shri Radha-Gopinath Temple: Van Vihar
From Hariyali Teej to Shravan Purnima, Shri Radha-Gopinathju enjoyed their swing festival. Now the sakhis feel it is time for Shri Radha and Krishna to return to their normal schedule and bring the swing festival to a close. So they dress Radharani as Shri Krishna and ask him to play his flute. Shri Krishna in turn puts on Radharani’s clothes and they enjoy playing together in these reversed roles. Shri Radha’s younger sister Shri Anang Manjari and all her sakhis dress as cowherd boys. This lila is called Van Vihar or playing in the forest of Vrindavan. It is a celebration of nature, the explosion of greenery that fills the forest of Vrindavan during this monsoon season. Devotees can have the darshan of Shri Radharani’s lotus feet on this day.
Shri Radha-Madanmohan Temple: Rai Raja
In the Shri Radha-Madanmohan Temple, Shri Radharani dresses as a handsome young King, complete with a fine silver sword. As she takes her seat on the high throne, Shri Madanmohan Lal becomes her bodyguard or kotwal, holding a sword and shield in his hand. Devotees can have the darshan of Shri Radharani’s lotus feet on this day.
Shri Radha-Shyamsundar Temple: Nauka Vilas
The jagmohan of Shri-Radha Shyamsundar’s temple is filled with water, which is decorated with flowers and greenery and filled with real fish! Shri Radha-Shyamsundar’s altar is converted to a boat. Shri Ladli-Lalju invite hundreds of green parrots (symbolised by toy parrots) to sit on the boat with them as they enjoy their sweet and blissful lilas on the Yamuna River.
Shri Gokulananda Temple: Raval Raja Lila
At the Shri Gokulananda temple, Shri Radharani is dressed as the King of Raval village, her birthplace. Shri Vijay Govinda, the darling Lord of Shri Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur, becomes her guard. Devotees can have the darshan of Shri Radharani’s lotus feet on this day.
Shri Radha-Damodar Temple: Shyama Sakhi Lila
To meet secretly with Radharani, Shri Krishna often wears different disguises. On this day in the Shri Radha-Damodar Temple, Shri Krishna dresses as a female musician named “Shyama Sakhi” in order to get close to her without the knowledge of her family members and her sakhis.
Shri Amiya Nimai Temple: Nagari Bhav
Once in a year, Shri Amiya Nimai Mahaprabhu dresses as Radharani. Shri Mahaprabhu is known as “Radha-Krishna milit tanu”, the combined form of Shri Radha and Krishna. The vesh on this day is an external expression of his inner Radha bhav.
Shri Radharaman Temple: Janmastami congregational singing begins
Shri Radharaman Lal’s darshan is always infinitely special; there is no other “special darshan” on this day. Congregational singing for Janmastami begins on this day and continues until ashtami, which is on August 15, 2017.