Gokula

Mahavan is one of the twelve sacred forests of Vraja and although it was once a large and verdant forest with parikrama of around 12 km, there are hardly any trees remaining there today. Mahavan was the second largest forest after Kamyavan and the name Mahavan means ‘great forest’. Nevertheless, one can still see all the places where Krishna enjoyed His transcendental pastimes during His early childhood (Kumar-lila) at Gokula. The ancient village of Gokula, which is presently known as Mahavan, is the original village named Gokula where Nanda Maharaj and mother Yasoda had their residence and where Krishna spent the first three and half years of His childhood. The name ‘Gokula’ actually means the residential place of cows. the word ‘go’ means cow and ‘kula’ means residence or living place, or in other words Gokula was a village inhabited by cowherd men and their cows.

Krishna’s childhood pastimes at Gokula are in particular very sweet, and more easily understood by the ordinary people in general. Krishna’s pastimes of stealing butter and yogurt from the houses of the married gopis, and then feeding that same stolen butter and yogurt to His friends and monkeys, or His letting loose the gopis calves so they would drink all the milk, or His slaying so many demons, are just some of Krishna’s many childhood pastimes that can be appreciated by people of all ages. On the other hand, Krishna’s amorous pastimes with the young gopis of Vraja are not easily understood, even by greatly learned scholars, philosophers, and pious religionists.

Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also visited Mahavan while on His parikrama around the sacred forest of Vraja. It is said that He experienced great transcendental ecstasy seeing all the wonderful places in Gokula connected to Krishna’s pastimes. Lord Chaitanya visited the Chaurasi Khamba, also called Nanda Bhavan, where Krishna birth celebration took place. It is said that Lord Chaitanya’s ecstasy increased even more when He saw the twin arjuna trees broken by Krishna, which was the site of the Damnodara-lila, where mother Yasoda tied her naughty son Krishna to grinding mortar. During His Tour of Gokula, Lord Chaitanya chanted the holy names and danced in ecstasy wherever He went, people gathered from far and wide to get a glimpse of Lord Chaitanya, and all those who saw Him also experienced ecstatic and many also fainted on the ground. The local Vrajvasis were saying that Lord Krishna has again appeared in Vrindavan in the form of Sanyasi.

In the 11 years that followed, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours, bringing the teachings of Lord Krishna to thousands of people on 6 continents.  Men and women from all backgrounds and walks of life came forward to accept his message, and with their help, Srila Prabhupada established ISKCON centres and projects throughout the world.  Under his inspiration, Krishna devotees established temples, rural communities, and educational institutions and started what would become the world’s largest vegetarian food relief program. With the desire to nourish the roots of Krishna consciousness in its home, Srila Prabhupada returned to India several times, where he sparked a revival in the Vaishnava tradition. In India, he opened dozens of temples, including large centres in the holy towns of Vrindavan and Mayapur.

Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contributions, perhaps, are his books. He authored over 70 volumes on the Krishna tradition, which are highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, fidelity to the tradition and clarity. Several of his works are used as textbooks in university courses. His writings have been translated into 76 languages. His most prominent works include: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the multi-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam and the set of Sri Caitanya-caritamrita books.