Lord Krishna is at once historical and mythological. He is the awesome architect of His age and he illuminating mentor whose discourse, the Bhagavad Gita, is regarded as a light unto all ages. The book Krishna: A Journey through the Lands & Legends of Krishna describes well known tourist places and narrates he famous legends associated with them. It also presents places that may not be known to a common man but have witnessed the glorious pastimes of Lord Krishna and associated legends. It is an innovative book that has a happy blending of a travelogue with mythological reminiscences.
M.R. Dev Prasad is an IT professional residing in Bangalore. He secured his degree in Electronics & Communication Engineering from R.E.C. Trichy. Though an engineer y profession, he has a wide range of interests. These include reading, travelling, photography and the study of mythology. He devotes his spare time to writing poems and informative and reflective articles. He is passionate about serving society and has been associated with some NGOs working for underprivileged children.
I have great pleasure in writing this Foreword to Krishna: A Journey through the Lands & Legends of Krishna because it is a special book. It is a travelogue, but a travelogue with a difference. The reader dwells simultaneously in two periods — the present as well as the distant times of Krishna and Radha. We are in the present as we accompany the author on his travels and visits to holy places that have witnessed Lord Krishna’s appearance on Earth. But the story of Lord Krishna and Radha, takes us back centuries — probably more than 25 centuries.
The traveller’s journey is vividly presented. We learn about the approach to every spot and building he visits. We see the palace, temple, and holy buildings as he sees it; we enter the structure and see the idols and pictures on the walls. Dev Prasad has an eye for detail and can simultaneously and accurately convey even the ambience of the place. Thus, we see the very colours of the idols, their height, the material the idols are made of, and he even tells us on which side of Lord Krishna’s idol Radha’s idol is placed! He is right by our side, giving us historical details of the places we see. Throughout the book, the passages in italics are those that present legendary lore as it took place.
Embedded in history and legend is a moving love story at the centre of it all is Lord Krishna, one of the most fascinating figures in world mythology. With Him is His Divine Consort, Radha, Herself an elusive figure. Whose daughter was She? Was Her father a king? Was She older than Lord Krishna? What was the nature of Her relationship with Krishna — entirely platonic, or more intimate? Why did She not go to Mathura even after Krishna had killed Kansa? Did She meet Krishna again after He left Brij Bhoomi? If yes, where? None of these, or other similar questions can be answered with any degree of finality But here She is in Dev Prasad’s book, the Beloved of the Lord. We see Her with the Lord again and again, singing and dancing devotedly, a gopi who has come to pervade Krishna’s world as no one else ever had. They are a Divine Couple, but Their love is strikingly human, with petty lover’s quarrels and pleasant reconciliations.
The climax is reached in the Radha-Krishna baithak, when Krishna offers to make her the Queen of Mathura. Until this episode, she has been more or less a gopi loved by Krishna, just a presence in Brij Bhoomi. But here, she becomes an individual, gentle but firm, with remarkable insight into her own character; she knows where She will fit in and where She will be an unhappy stranger. This last meeting is human, deeply moving, and dignified. How insightful and moving are her words “I am an innocent and uneducated milk maid. What will I do in Mathura... I have been brought up in the open spaces of Barsana. I like to run and play around in the open fields. I would not like to be confined to the walls of a palace. I want to be a free bird and not live in a golden cage.”
Uddhav’s visit to the gopis is singularly appropriate as the conclusion of the Krishna-Radha love story, for the two lovers are divine yet human. The Krishna-Radha story provokes delight and mild regret — even the Divine Couple could not influence events so as to enable them to be happy. The story humanises the work.
The book has much to offer different types of readers — even to one who is not a tourist, or is only an armchair tourist. The tourist gets all the information he needs to make the best of his journey. On the one hand it is a professional tourist guidebook offering details about the approach to a temple, sarovar (lake), or other holy places, what to see, the facilities available and what to guard against. It is also a journey to an enchanting past. History or legend, the verifiable details and stories of Krishna and Radha’s love are blended here, so the thoughtful visitor has much to ponder about. The book gains authenticity by the fact that it is written by an engineer who has himself visited each one of the temples, sarovars, and other places mentioned in the book. The language is simple and lucid. The author seems to be chatting with the reader, sharing his own experiences, as a friend might do.
I congratulate De Prasad on the excellent book he has written. This is his first book and I hope he will write more books to delight the reader.
India. A land of Gods and Goddesses. There are hundreds of Gods and Goddesses worshipped in India everyday by a billion people. If you count the different incarnations and forms that each God and Goddess takes, then their number may cross a thousand! The most colourful personality among Them all is Lord Krishna. As kids, we all read all about Lord Krishna. Some of the most popular stories are those about Krishna breaking pots and stealing butter and curds from His neighbourhood, showing the entire cosmos to His foster mother Yashoda in His tiny mouth, hiding the gopis’ clothes while they were bathing, killing numerous demons during His childhood and showing His Viraat Swaroop to Arjuna. Each time I read these stories, I was fascinated. I had heard and read so much about Brij Bhoomi, the land where Krishna was born and had spent His childhood. Mathura, the holy city where Krishna was born and the grounding towns of Vrindavan, Gokul, Mahavan, Baledo, Raval, Barsana, Nandagaon and Madhuvan were all my favourite daydream haunts. I longed to visit these places. My heart also longed to visit Dwarka, the only city in India which is a part of the Char Dham and also a Sapta Pun. This was the city where Krishna had spent the major part of His life as Dwarkadheesh, the Emperor of Dwarka, not to forget the holy town of Kurukshetra where the famous battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas took place, and the spot where Lord Krishna unveiled His pearls of wisdom in the form of the holy Bhagavad Gita and showed His Original Form to Arjuna. I also wanted to visit the places near Somnath where Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama shed Their mortal bodies and proceeded towards Their Holy Abode, Vaikunta.
My original intention was to just visit the holy places in Brij Bhoomi. Writing a book had never crossed my mind. However, during my first trip to Brij Bhoomi, I was enchanted by what I saw The forests where He, Lord Balarama, and Their cowherd friends, had played everyday. The houses in Gokul and Vrindavan that Krishna used to stealthily enter to steal butter and curds. The sarovars (lakes) beside which Krishna spent His time in the company of His divine consort Radha. The countless ghats, bordering the Yamuna, each carrying a fascinating tale. The Goverdhan Hill that Lord Krishna had lifted with His tiny finger to humble the ego of Lord Indra, the King of the Gods. The holy river Yamuna, where Lord Krishna battled with the poisonous serpent Kaliya and danced on him. The holy Yamuna which was blessed by the touch of Lord Krishna’s lotus feet. I automatically began to take notes of whatever I saw. I also spoke to many people to understand the legends and stories associated with each place.
After my return, I decided to pen my experiences in the form of a travelogue. I realised that though most of the people know about quite a few incidents that had happened during Krishna’s lifetime, there were numerous stories that hardly anyone was aware of. Most of the people are aware of the Krishna Janmasthami (birthplace of Lord Krishna) in Mathura, the ISKCON Temple at Vrindavan and the sacred hill at Goverdhan. The more discerning tourist is probably aware of a few more famous Vrindavan temples like Rangaji, Banke Bihari, and Govind Dev temples. However, the many stories associated with Lord Krishna take you on a fascinating journey of Goloka on earth. More than the places themselves, it is the legend surrounding each place that is fascinating. For example, how many people are aware that there are two towns claiming to be the real Gokul? How many are aware of the captivating story of Radha Kund where Radha and Krishna competed with each other to create sacred tanks? Or the Brahmanda Ghat at Mahavan where Lord Krishna, as an Infant, showed the entire cosmos to His mother Yashoda? Or the heart-breaking incident at Mor Kutir in Barsana where Radha leaves Krishna? Or Kusum Sarovar where Uddhav was given a lesson in true devotion by the illiterate gopis and led to his being born again as a creeper? Or Akroor Ghat where Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama showed Their original forms as Lord Vishnu and Lord Sheshanag to a confused Akroor? Or the fascinating stories at Irnli Tala, Kesi Ghat, Manasi Ganga, Brahma Kund, the various temples and kundi of Brij Bhoomi?
I had the good fortune to visit all these places. I realised that because of very little awareness the tourists would visit only the famous places like Krishna Janmasthan and other such places. I hardly saw any tourists at places like Man Sarovar, Akroor Ghat, Brahmanda Ghat, and other such places where astonishing events had taken place 5000 years ago. I thought to myself, why restrict my book to a mere travelogue? Why not add the legends too? With this I began to conceptualise the form the book would ultimately take.
I had started to pen my experiences in all these places, along with the legends associated with them. This is when I realised that Brij Bhoomi played host to only a small portion of Lord Krishna’s life. Lord Krishna was on this planet for 125 years and He stayed in Brij Bhoomi for only 28 years. He spent the rest of His life in Dwarka. I had also read that He left this material world and went back to His Holy Abode Vaikunta after witnessing His Yadava clan annihilate themselves in a midnight carnage at a place located near Somnath in Gujarat. So Dwarka and Somnath were added to my itinerary When people heard of my plans, they advised me, “A book on Lord Krishna without narrating the famous incident at Kurukshetra where the Lord narrates the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna? You should write about Kurukshetra too!” So the book takes the reader through a journey that starts in the dusty towns and forests of Brij Bhoomi (Uttar Pradesh), then proceeds to the coastal town of Dwarka (Gujarat), traverses to Kurukshetra (Haryana), and finally culminates in Somnath (Gujarat).
The first challenge in writing this was the question that kept cropping up in my mind, should I order the places according to the sequence of events during the lifetime of Lord Krishna, or should it be ordered as a travel itinerary? After considerable debate, I decided that it would be best to have a combination of both and try to keep both orders intact. The only places where I had to compromise were Mathura and Kusum Sarovar. Since Krishna was born in Mathura but grew up in Gokul, Vrindavan, and Nandagaon, only to return later to Mathura to slay His maternal uncle Kansa, I too had to follow the same path and ended up describing various temples in Mathura in two places in the book. Similarly, I have described the Uddhav incident at Kusum Sarovar along with other divine spots of Goverdhan because of its proximity to Goverdhan town. However, in keeping with the flow of Lord Krishna’s story, it should have come after Krishna’s return to Mathura. Except for these departures, I have tried my best to retain the sequence of places the same as they figure during the lifetime of Lord Krishna.
The next challenge was how to narrate the story and also talk about the history of these places. After a lot of thought, I decided to interweave the two. I have described each place that I visited and also blended it with the legends. I wanted to give readers a visual treat so that they would experience the legends and feel that they were witnessing it. I have made a conscious effort to write all the legends in italics and have used the present tense. I have also written these passages using only the first person or the second person in an effort to make the readers feel as if they are witnessing what happened thousands of years ago.
The narration of each town starts off with a verse from the Bhagavad Gita, which is appropriate to the events surrounding that town.
Writing a biography of a living person is relatively simple. You meet many persons and conduct numerous interviews and record the conversations which you can capture in the form of a book. But, how do you write the story of a personality born 5000 years ago? Someone whose exact date and place of birth are not known. A person whose departure from the planet is equally mysterious. A person whom you have never seen in flesh and blood. A person about whom you can never veri1r facts. A person who also happens to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu
and revered as the Supreme Lord by a billion people! Someone who is known by a thousand names in different parts of India — Krishna, Kanha, Kanhaiya, Govinda, Gopala, Parthasarathy, Visudeva, Murlidhara, Madhusudhana, and Keshava, to name a few.
I gathered information for my book by reading various reference books, browsing websites, personally visiting all the places described in the book and talking to many knowledgeable people including a few local guides. Though I managed to collect a plethora of information, the flip side was that I got multiple Versions of stories and sometimes, even contradictory stories. It has been my endeavour to present the different versions and leave II CI the reader to decide which one is authentic. There were a few places like Indra Kund and Airavata Kund where even the locals were either not aware of its exact location, or the legend associated with it. In such cases, authentication becomes a major challenge.
Since I decided to write about only those towns that were directly witness to the pastimes of Lord Krishna and the places whose sands were sanctified by the touch of His lotus feet, I have not mentioned three famous pilgrimage places that are dear to His devotees, namely Udupi, Guruvayoor, and Jagannath Puri since, as
m my understanding, Lord Krishna never visited them. This
omission should not be seen as belittling the greatness of these three places.
I hope this book helps you become aware of the various places and legends associated with Lord Krishna and also
appreciate the glories of the Supreme Lord better.
I am grateful to Prof. L.S. Seshagiri Rao who went through the script and offered valuable suggestions. His guidance throughout the execution of the project has been invaluable to me.
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