Situated high on a hilltop that overlooks Varsana is the majestically beautiful temple known as the Sriji mandir. This is one of the most famous temple in Vraja, built on the spot where Radharani once lived in Her father’s place. The temple is also called the Ladliji mandir. The village of Varsana is the place where Radharani spent the early part of Her youth, prior to Her marriage with Abhimanyu. Although She was originally born at Raval near Gokula, when Krishna’s father moved His kingdom from Gokula to Nandagaon due to fear of demons, his close friend Vrishbhanu maharaja, Radharani’s father, also moved his kingdom from Raval to Varsana. Nanda maharaja and Vrishbhanu were both the kings and rulers of the cowherd men, and both were extremely wealthy because they possessed thousands of cows and maintained large stock of milk, butter, yogurt, ghee, as well as substantial stock of grains. They both built opulent and spacious palaces on the summit of hills and each palace was fully equipped with all the necessities and included many luxurious and palatial rooms where their respective family lived.
In the Bhakti-ratnakara it says, ”here is Vrishbhanupura, also known as Varsana. Close to this mountain is the residence of Vrishbhanu. On this wonderful mountain the prince of Vraja, Vrajendra-Kumar performs the dana-lila unseen by others. Here Radha’s proud pique was broken and where Krishna become intoxicated by performing so many wonderful pastimes. Between the two mountains is a narrow path known as Sankara-khora or ‘Danaghati’, and the fun that they had there is completely indescribable. The dana-lila, mana-lila and vilasa-lila, all took place on the ridges of these two mountains. Radharani played with her girlfriends here in Her childhood. In her adolescence beauty of her full youth-hood”.
This magnificent temple perched high on the hilltop is one of the most famous site in the whole Vraja. One has to walk up almost two hundred steps to reach the main gateway of the temple. Appearing more like a medieval palace with its high walls and elaborately designed ‘chatris’ and arches, the temple of Shriji is dedicated to Srimati Radharani, who is known locally by the pet name ‘Shri’. This famous temple is also known as Ladli-lal mandir, because it contains deities of Ladli and Lala, who are the childhood form of Radha and Krishna. The word ladli means ‘dearly beloved daughter’ and ‘lala’ means ‘dearly beloved son’, which is an affectionate way of addressing young boys and girls in Vraja. The deities were discovered here at Varsana by Srila Narayana Bhatta, who also built the original temple with the help of Raja Todarmal, his dedicated followers and important minister in the government of emperor Akbar. The temple is actually built on the site of maharaja Vrishbhanu’s palace where Radharani used to live. This temple was once known as the Radha-Ramana mandir. According to historical records, the temple seen today was built by the king of Orchha, Raja Bir Singh in 1675.
The hill on which the temple stands is stated in the sastras to be a manifestation of Lord Brahma, who after pleasing Lord Krishna, was given a boon to appear at this place in a form of a hill, so that he could witness the transcendental pastimes that would take place here. Lord brahma desired to perform some menial service for Radha and Krishna and therefore appeared as a hill on which the ‘divine couple’ could enact transcendental pastimes and he could also obtain the dust of Their lotus feet upon his head. It is mentioned in the puranas that Lord Brahma performed penance for sixty thousand years in order to achieve the divine darshan of Radha and Krishna. This hill which is known as Brahmagiri, or sometimes as Brahmachala Parvata, has four different peaks representing the four heads of Lord Brahma. There is a second hill situated right next to Brahmagiri known as Vilasgad, Vilas Parvat, or sometimes as Vishnu Parvat, and is considered to be a manifestation of Lord Vishnu.