Madan Mohan Temple: A beacon calling to the world
Shri Radha Madan Mohan Temple stands majestically on a small hill (tila), with its iconic elongated temple dome standing above all the other historical temples of Vrindavan. The simple worship of the Deities in Vrindavan’s Madan Mohan and the more elaborate worship of Madan Mohan in Jaipur, pays tribute to the extreme dedication and renunciation of Shri Sanatan Goswami, who is considered by many to be the greatest saint who ever walked in the dust of Shri Dham.
Sanatan Goswami: From office holder to most senior goswami
Shri Sanatan Goswami was born in Jessore, now in Bangladesh, in around 1488 as the son of Mukunda, the private secretary of the Sultan of Bengal. When his father died, Sanatan was forced to take up the post of treasurer to the new ruler of Bengal, while his younger brother, Rupa, was given the post of private secretary.
The first time Rupa and Sanatan met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they became determined to renounce materialistic life. Rupa resigned from his post but the emperor refused to allow Sanatan to leave peacefully and threw him in jail. Rupa sent some money, which Sanatan used to bribe the jailor and escape. He then made his way towards Vrindavan, making a stop in Varanasi to receive further instructions from Shri Chaitanya.
Shri Madan Mohan arranges for Sanatan Goswamipada to serve Him
Every day, Sanatan Goswami used to go for madhukari (collecting alms) from house to house. One day he came to the house of a Chaube (Chaturvedi Brahmin) in Mathura. Chaube had an extremely attractive Deity of Shri Krishna named Madan Mohan. Sanatan Goswami was entranced by His beauty but he was sad to see that the children of the Chaube family were playing with Madan Mohan just like a doll. Then he noticed that their mother was making khichdi for Madan Mohan while brushing her teeth with a daatun (Neem twig).
Sanatan Goswami became very upset, and had a word with Chaube, who felt very embarrassed and said, “Please excuse us. We do not know how to love Madan Mohan. Madan Mohan is an ancient Deity, installed five thousand years ago by Shri Krishna’s grandson Vajranabh. How can we possibly worship him properly?”
“You should worship him according to the rules and regulations laid out in the scriptures.” said Sanatan Goswami.
So the Chaube family became very strict with Madan Mohan. He was awakened, fed, and so forth at all the right times and with all the rules of cleanliness. Fearful of making a mistake, all the family members kept a respectful distance.
That night, Madan Mohan appeared in Sanatan Goswami’s dream and said, “Why did you ruin everything? These people treated me like their own family. The children were my real brothers and sisters. I loved so much to play with them! And Maiya used to brush her teeth while cooking, because she knows I am very hungry in the morning. She would do many things at once, just so that I wouldn’t have to bear the pain of hunger for one more moment. But now I have to wait forever for my breakfast. Look, rules and regulations have their place, but these are not ordinary people. They are Brajwasis and they truly love me. You only have to look into their hearts.”
“O Lala, I am very sorry,” said Sanatan Goswami, wiping away his tears. “What should I do?”
Madan Mohan smiled and replied. “Come tomorrow and take me away from here. Now I want to enjoy that kind of love from you.”
Sanatan Goswami smiled too and said, “If that is what you want, I accept. But I have to warn you: I am a renounced man. I don’t have any possessions. The only home I have to offer you are the trees of Vrindavan, and the only feast I can give you is the bread I get from begging and the water of the Yamuna River.”
“That sounds like a wonderful feast!” said Madan Mohan.
“For me it is,” said Sanatan Goswami. “But you are used to the finer things in life. I wonder if you will be able to manage.”
“I will manage,” said Madan Mohan.
And so Madan Mohan came to Sanatan Goswami.
The first day, Sanatan Goswami went for madhukari as usual, and received just a little bit of wheat flour (atta). He mixed the flour with water from the Yamuna and made a dish called baati,by forming the dough into balls and cooking them in the coals of a fire. He served the baati to Madan Mohan with Yamuna water in an earthen pot. Madan Mohan took it and smiled.
Madan Mohan eats Sanatan Goswami’s baati
Usually, Sanatan Goswami got only wheat flour for madhukari and made baati with it. After a few days of this diet, Madan Mohan very sweetly said, “May I please have some salt? I am finding it difficult to swallow your dry chunks of bread.”
“That’s impossible” said Sanatan Goswami. “If I give you salt one day, the next day you will ask for ghee. And if I give you ghee, you will ask for rabri (sweets). And if I give you rabri, you will ask for a whole feast. Your desires will be the end of me. I will have to give up the mission Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given me, leave my renounced life and get a job to buy whatever you wish. I want you to be happy, my darling, but I cannot do this for you. If you want salt, you will have to get it yourself.”
Madan Mohan was speechless. He smiled and the wheels of his naughty mind started turning.
Soon after, a ship washed ashore on the riverbank near Sanatan Goswami’s camp. Back then, the Yamuna River flowed right next to where the Madan Mohan Temple stands today – just at the foot of the hill, where the Parikrama Marg is now.
The captain of the ship was a Punjabi merchant named Ramdas Kapoor. He was very upset, because he could not get his ship unstuck. No matter how he tried, there was no movement at all. The Brajwasis noticed, and some came to help. But even the strong young farmers and cowherd boys could not free the boat. The Brajwasis advised Kapoor to visit Sanatan Goswami and ask for his blessings. Surely the great saint’s blessings could free his boat!
Ramdas bowed to Sanatan Goswami and told him the problem,
“My boat is carrying an important shipment bound for Agra,” he said, “And if I cannot deliver, I am financially dead! Please give me your blessings, o Sage!”
Sanatan Goswami was silent. He did not like to get involved in worldly affairs. But something in his heart made him inquire further.
“What exactly is inside your boat?” asked Sanatan Goswami.
“The entire boat is packed with salt,” replied Ramdas.
Sanatan Goswami smiled and said, “I think I know how we can free your boat.”
Ramdas was overjoyed to hear this news. Sanatan Goswami instructed him to offer a little salt to Madan Mohan with his evening meal. He did so, and immediately, at the moment the bhog (meal) was offered, the boat came unstuck.
Ramdas Kapoor was so overwhelmed by the grace of Sanatan Goswami and Shri Madan Mohan, that he donated a huge sum of money to build a temple for Madan Mohan.
The temple of Madan Mohan remains today as one of the most iconic landmarks of Vrindavan. It is one of the famous ‘Sapta Devalaya’ temples and is fully protected by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Madan Mohan temple is among the earliest of Vrindavan’s grandly constructed temples. In the 16th Century, when it was constructed, the temple and ghat below it served as one of the places where the Yamuna met with the town.
Describing the events in the lead up to the construction of this grand temple, in his 1883 Memoire, F.S. Growse says:
“The story of its foundation is given as follows in the Bhakt Sindhu of Lachman Das, which is a modernized version of the Bhakt Mala. In this poem it is stated that the image of Gobind Ji was found by Rupa and Sanatan at Nand-gaow, where they had dug it up in a cattle-shed (Go-khirk men se nikar dye, tote Gobind nam dharaye), thence they brought it to Brinda-ban and erected it on the site of the present temple near the Brahm kund. They went daily to the neighbouring villages (Brinda-ban being at that time an uninhabited forest) and to Mathura to beg; and one day a man in the city gave Sanatan an image of Madan Mohan, which he took and set up near the Kali-dah Ghat on the Duhsasan hill.
One day a merchant from Multan in the Panjab, a khattri by caste, named Ram Das, but more familiarly known as Kapuri, came down the river with a boat-load of merchandise bound for Agra, but stuck on a sand-bank near the Kali-dah Ghat. After trying in vain for three days to get off, he determined to discover the local divinity and implore his assistance. So he came on shore, climbed up the hill, and there found Sanatan, who told him to address his prayer to Madan Mohan. He did so, and his boat immediately began to float. When he had sold all his goods at Agra he came and brought the price to Sanatan, who told him to build a temple with it. This he did and added the Ghat also, all of red stone.”
Madan Mohan in Jaipur
Along with many of Vrindavan’s Deities, Shri Radha Madan Mohan was shifted to the Rajput stronghold when the attacks of Aurangzeb made worship in Vrindavan precarious.
Madan Mohan ji was taken to Amer in Jaipur to the protection of Raja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur. From there was brought to Karauli in Rajasthan by Maharaj Gopal Singh in 1600 CE, after his victory in the battle of Daulatabad.
Madan Mohan Vrindavan temple today
After we reach the top of the stairs, an elderly devotee instructs us to remove our shoes and do Parikrama. Parikrama takes us to the back of the temple; to the ashram where a few simple rooms surround Sanatan Goswami’s bhajan kutir. We then walk past a small hall that seems to be under renovation, before reaching the Deities.
The Pujari is Bengali and speaks to visitors very sparingly, however invites everyone to take Charan Amrit. There is a sign on the wooden door saying ‘No Photography’.
The Deities are kept at a distance from visitors, in the traditional style. Their mood seems subdued and elusive, especially in comparison to the glamour of Madan Mohan in Jaipur, whose daily Darshan can be seen on Facebook.
In the ashram too, there is an atmosphere of simplicity and humility. Women can be seen washing dishes in the traditional way, using water from the well and dirt. These woman are not residents of the ashram but simply come here to do seva. Most are disciples of Shri Dina Bandhu Maharaj and feel grateful to be doing service in the vicinity of Shri Sanatan Goswami’s bhajan kutir.
While busily engaged in many tasks, they also keep an eye on visitor activities, directing people to have Darshan of Sanatan Goswami’s Kutir and warning against offenses like walking through with shoes on.
Amid several Tulsi plants and a large Govardhan Shila, the ashram is populated by half a dozen male sevaiyats. One informs us that the temple opens at 7am but this changes a little according to season. There is Bhog Aarti at 12pm, Sandya Aarti at 7.30pm and Shayan Aarti at 8.30pm.
During Kartik, there will be Mangal Aarti at 4.30 am. The temple is one of the best places for Yamuna Darshan. Sunrise Darshan of Shri Madan Mohan and the Yamuna during Kartik will be a special treat.
Jai Shri Sanatan Goswami!
Jai Shri Madan Mohan!