Vrindavan, 2017.12.03 (VT): After passing Shringar Vat we come to a place called Govinda Ghat. This Ghat is sometimes wrongly called Kaliya Ghat. The original Kaliya Ghat is located toward the Raman Reti side of the parikrama; however, the deity of Shri Krishna dancing on Kaliya Naag here at Govinda Ghat is extremely charming.
Unfortunately the Yamuna River no longer flows at Govinda Ghat, and only three steps of the ghat are still above ground. The area in front of the ghat is being used as a makeshift parking area.
Two “Nanda Mahals”
Near Govinda Ghat are two temples, both of which are called Nanda Mahal – in other words, Shri Krishna’s house. The original Nanda Mahal is, of course, in Nandgaon, which is about fifty kilometers from Vrindavan. Vrindavan’s numerous Nanda Mahals are all “extras”, so to speak. However, the two Nand Mahals at Govinda Ghat are still worth a visit as they offer beautiful and unique darshans.
The first “Nand Mahal” adjoins Govinda Ghat itself, and has a beautiful and well-pampered Deity of Shri Vrindavan Bihari with Nanda and Yashoda, as well as a captivating deity of Dauji (Balaram).
Himmat Bahadur’s Kunj
On the opposite side of the alleyway is another so-called “Nanda Mahal”, which is historically known as Himmat Bahadur Kunj. This fascinating temple is made of red sandstone in a style similar to Vrindavan’s oldest structures. It was constructed by an ascetic Shaivite warlord named Gosain Anupgiri aka. Himmat Bahadur of Bundelkhand, probably sometime in the late 18th century. Bahadur’s samadhi is also on the premises. In Vrindavan: A District Memoir, the British Magistrate F.S. Growse refers to the ghat adjoining this temple as “Himmat Bahadur’s Ghat.”
Behind Govinda Ghat is the famous Raas Mandal. It is said to have been established by Shri Hit Harivansh himself. Some believe this was the first ever Raas Mandal in existence, although there are other sites claiming the same title. Raas Lila Anukaran, or the sacred plays depicting the lilas of Shri Krishna, have been performed here for centuries as an act of faith.
In ancient times, this Raas Mandal was in the open air, but now a concrete building has been constructed around it. However, no trees were cut down to make the building. Even today, two large trees can be seen growing out of the Raas Mandal’s sides and roof. These trees are said to be the final resting places of Shri Hit Harivansh’s followers Shri Damodar Das “Sevak” and Shri Dhruvdas Ji. The Raas Mandal also has a small shrine to Radharani in the form of her Holy Name.
The Raas Mandal is sometimes referred to in literature as “Mahat Sabha”, because many holy men have gathered there to share Harikatha and to watch the Raslila plays. Shri Hit Harivansh, Swami Haridas and Hariram Vyas are some of the personalities who are said to have spent time here.
Legend has it that once, during the course of a sacred play at the Raas Mandal, Shri Radharani’s anklet broke whilst she was dancing. Shri Hariram Vyas immediately broke his sacred thread (yagyopavit) and used the string to repair the broken anklet, which he then placed back on her lotus foot. This created quite a stir. But for Hariram Vyas, Radharani’s comfort was more important than anything else, including social and religious propriety. (V)
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