This is a continuing series on Vrindavan Parikrama. The previous installment took us to Govinda Ghat and Hit Harivansh’s Raas Mandal. Now we continue down the path to Cheer Ghat.
Vrindavan, 2017.12.07 (VT): After passing Govinda Ghat we come to another beautiful ghat, with a large kadamb tree tied with colourful, sparkly women’s shawls. This place is commonly known as Cheer Ghat, the place where Shri Krishna famously stole the clothes of the gopis while they were bathing in the Yamuna River.
However in Mathura: A District Memoir, F.S. Growse gives two names for this ghat: Cheer Ghat or Chain Ghat. It may be that Chain Ghat is the original name of this Ghat, as another Cheer Ghat is located near Shergarh, a good distance from Vrindavan town. Whatever its original name may be, we can be fairly sure that the current ghat was constructed by Malhar Rao Holkar in the 18th Century.
Behind Cheer Ghat or Chain Ghat is the temple of Chain Bihari, which was constructed by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, Malhar Holkar’s daughter-in-law. The caretakers of the temple explain, “Bihari means Krishna and chain means rest. Krishna rested here after killing the demon Keshi. That’s why our deity’s name is Chain Bihari.”
After her husband died in a battle, Queen Ahilyabai was supposed to commit sati according to the family customs. But her father-in-law Malhar Rao Holkar forbid her from doing so, and later she was crowned Queen of the kingdom. She was a fierce warrior but also very spiritual, and she gave generously of her private wealth in charity. She also built and renovated many temples all over India.
According to the Chain Bihari temple caretakers, once Queen Ahilyabai was sailing up the Yamuna river towards Delhi. She had several tumors on her back which she wished to have treated. On the way, she and her party stopped in Vrindavan to take the blessings of the holy
land. There she met a Brahmin named Maya Ramji. When she told him about her ailment, Maya Ramji gave the Queen some ashes from his sacred fire. After smearing the ashes on her back, the tumors disappeared. The Queen was so thankful that she had the a temple built for Maya Ramji’s deity, Chain Bihari.
According to the Vrindavan Prakash Mala, about two hundred years ago women used to bathe in the Yamuna here and offer colourful shawls to the deity of Cheer Bihari at the ghat. Although the Yamuna River no longer touches the ghats, it still flowed by until recently. Unfortunately, the government’s ongoing construction on the riverfront is causing the river to recede further. But people still come to offer pooja and remember Shri Krishna’s beautiful lilas here. (V)
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