Nestled in the middle of the holy city of Vrindavan, Nidhivan forest is teeming with divine mysteries. The god of compassion, love, and tenderness Lord Krishna is believed to visit this place everyday after sundown. But he doesn’t just visit the place for the heck of it, he visits the place with his lady love Radha for Rasleela. In Sanskrit, ‘ras’ means aesthetics and ‘leela’ means play or act. Together, the word means ‘Dance of divine love’.
In ancient Indian scriptures, it is said that Lord Krishna was once playing his flute on the banks of the river Yamuna in Vrindavan. As soon as the sweet divine music spread quietly through the air, Radha along with her friends (called gopis meaning cow-herding women) came running to the source and started dancing around the lord. This act of divine love and devotion is called Rasleela. And apparently, this has been happening everyday in Nidhivan. Let’s dive into the mystery.
The Mystery of the Forest
There is a temple within the grounds of the woods. Everyday after the evening rituals are completed, the entrance to Nidhivan is shut down. Not a single soul is allowed to enter the area. It is even believed that birds and animals who usually inhabit the place (since it’s a forest) during the day, cannot be seen after 7 pm. How they know the time, is beyond me.
There are houses surrounding the area (since the forest literally sits in the middle of a freaking city). Every evening all the doors and windows looking out towards the forest are shut and not opened until sunrise. So, everyone gives the lord and his troupe privacy for late night extravaganza (unlike some people who just can’t keep their noses off your business).
Inside the divine grounds is a palace called Rang Mahal (in Hindi ‘rang’ means color and ‘mahal’ means palace). Every evening, the temple administration prepares the bed for Lord Krishna. The bed is made out of solid sandalwood. On the bedside, a jar filled with water is kept along with a Neem twig (in ancient India people brushed their teeth with neem tree twig, don’t ask) and ‘pan’ (a betel leaf filled with areca nuts).
Each morning when the attendants open the door, the bed appears slept in, the water drank, the neem twig used, and the pan consumed. It seems like the lord was engaged in passionate and divine lovemaking after sunset. It is speculated that some prying individuals decided to stay behind and witness the mystery unfold. Apparently, some lost their vision, and some approached insanity. The same happens to those with houses surrounding the area deciding to open doors and windows.
There is something interesting about the trees in the woods here too. They are all short in height and twisted around the trunks. None of the branches shoot upwards but somehow get entangled around the tree’s trunk.
All the tulsi (basil; the plant is considered holy and worshiped) plants in the area grow in pairs. It is believed that the gopis who are part of the nightly Rasleela are shape-shifters. Every morning, after sunrise they shift into these twisted trees and once the sun sets, they turn back to their true avatar as beautiful women ready to shower their lord with unconditional love and devotion.