presthalibhih sevyamanau smarami
In a temple of jewels in Vrndavana, underneath a desire tree, Sri Sri Radha Govinda, served by Their most confidential associates, sit upon an effulgent throne. I offer my humble obeisances unto Them. [Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Adi 1.16]
The Radha Govinda Temple is seen as one of the most impressive examples of North Indian architecture. It sits in the middle of the Yogapitha, the sacred place where Radha and Krishna would meet.
The deity of Govinda, believed to have been established thousands of years ago by Krishna’s grandson Vajranaba, was rediscovered by Srila Rupa Goswami in the 16th century. The construction of the temple was begun under the direction of Raghunath Bhatta Goswami and his disciples, headed by Raja Man Singh (a general in the Army of Emperor Akbar) and was completed in 1590. Jiva Goswami praised Emperor Akbar in his Govindam Mandir Astakam (Eight Prayers in Glorification of the Govinda Temple), which is carved into the temple’s stone. The inscription reads “Emperor Akbar is a very kind-hearted person and a Vaishnava. I give my blessings to Emperor Akbar. In his kingdom all the Vaishnavas are living very peacefully.”
Less than 100 years later Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the temple’s destruction. Before his soldiers arrived the deities of Radha and Govinda were moved. They now reside in the grand Govindaji temple in Jaipur.
Before its destruction the temple stood seven stories high. Just two stories remain. Still, the Radha Govinda Temple remains a towering monument to Lord Govinda and a place where one can feel a connection to the great saints of the past and the history of Krishna devotion in Vrindavan.
Robert Stoetzel is a New York based photographer traveling and photographing in India trough March 2009.