The town of Vrindavan is where the young Krishna is said to have grown up. Pilgrims flock here from all over India and, as it’s the centre of the Hare Krishna community, from all over the world. Dozens of temples, old and modern, dot the interesting backstreets and come in all shapes and sizes, making a visit here more than just your average temple hop.
But the town has an altogether different vibe during the Holi week. Celebrations are held like in no other place and many tourists flock here with cameras to capture the perfect Holi shot.
In proper consciousness, one can perceive that everything about Mathura and Vrindavan is spiritual. Visit Shri Bankey Bihari Temple, the holiest and most famous temple of Lord Krishna. This temple houses a sacred image of Lord Krishna known as Thakur Ji. Take part in Shringar Aarti at Bankey Bihari Temple. You can offer flower garlands and sweets to Lord Krishna and also meditate for some time in the temple complex.
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The other temples to be visited are:
Krishna Balaram Temple Complex- The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also known as the Hare Krishnas, is based at the Krishna Balaram temple complex. Accessed through a beautiful, white marble gate, the temple houses the tomb of Swami Prabhupada (1896–1977), the founder of the Hare Krishna organisation.
Rangaji Temple- The largest temple in Vrindavan, this is dedicated to the god Vishnu (of whom Krishna was an avatar). It’s built in a South Indian Dravidian style, and from the outside looks more like a fortress than a temple. In summer, a half-hour aarti (prayer ceremony) is performed at 5.30am and 6.30pm; in winter, aarti timings are 6am and 6pm.
Nidhivan Temple- Surrounded by an orchard filled with twisted tulsi (holy basil) trees that are decorated with votive threads and red powder; it’s believed that Krishna visits this temple every night to perform a sacred dance.
Govind Dev Temple- This cavernous, red-sandstone temple, built in 1590 by Raja Man Singh of Amber, has ‘bells’ carved on its pillars. The resident monkeys here are particularly cheeky, so stay alert!
Later, relish local food from the streets.
Keep the second day free for a short trip to Agra. About 2 hours away from Vrindavan, stands one of the seven Wonders of the World- Taj Mahal. Every year, tourists numbering more than twice the population of Agra pass through Taj Mahal’s gates to catch a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of what is widely considered the most beautiful building in the world. The Taj is arguably at its most atmospheric during sunrise. This is certainly the most comfortable time to visit, with far fewer crowds. Sunset is another magical viewing time. Other than the Taj, there are a few other highlights in Agra for tourists.
Agra Fort- This is one of the finest Mughal forts in India. Walking through courtyard after courtyard of this palatial red-sandstone and marble fortress, your amazement grows as the scale of what was built here begins to sink in. The fort was built primarily as a military structure, but Shah Jahan transformed it into a palace.
Itimad-Ud-Daulah- Nicknamed the Baby Taj, the exquisite tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg should not be missed. Nur Jahan, who married Jahangir, built the tomb between 1622 and 1628, in a style similar to the tomb she built for Jahangir near Lahore in Pakistan. It doesn’t have the same awesome beauty as the Taj, but it’s arguably more delicate in appearance.
Akbar’s Mausoleum- This outstanding sandstone and marble tomb commemorates the greatest of the Mughal emperors. The huge courtyard is entered through a stunning gateway. It has three-storey minarets at each corner and is built of red sandstone strikingly inlaid with white-marble geometric patterns.