How did Svayam-Bhagavān Keśavadeva manifest in Vraja? Kṛṣṇa’s great grandson, Vajranābha, saw that no one in Dvārakā wants to listen to the Vrajavāsīs’ names chanted. If anyone from Dvārakā listens to the pastimes of Vraja, they become jealous.
Feeling greatly disappointed and dejected, Kṛṣṇa’s principle queens, Rukmiṇī and Satyabhāmā, confided in Mother Devakī, “Kṛṣṇa doesn’t sleep the whole night. Throughout the entire night He only cries, ‘Rādhe! Lalite! Viśākhe!’ What strength do these cowherd girls have that they are able to control Kṛṣṇa? Kṛṣṇa does not eat or sleep. He’s only crying and crying. He doesn’t even look at us. Not even once does He say, ‘O Rukmiṇī, O Satyabhāmā, how are you?’ He does not even ask about us. He only remembers the Vraja-devīs.”
Kṛṣṇa’s heart was aching in separation from His dearmost beloveds and companions of Vraja. In Dvārakā, Kṛṣṇa suffered in this separation for over 100 years. Morose, He thought, “I cannot change the heart of even one person here. Baladeva Prabhu embodies all guru-tattva; He is sandhinī-śakti, and non-different from My very Self. Yet I see that no one here even prays to Baladeva Prabhu to understand this vraja-rasa or to receive it in their hearts. Alas! No one here has any desire to deeply know why I am always remembering Vraja.
No one even asked Baladeva Prabhu this question, and He was constantly with me there in Vraja. They don’t want to know the glories of Vraja. One day, I saw that out of great difficulty the queens asked Rohiṇī Mātā, ‘Why is Kṛṣṇa always suffering in separation from the Vrajavāsīs?’ But they did not inquire from guru, from Baladeva Prabhu. They do not have faith in the Vrajavāsīs. They don’t want to listen. So how can they become dear to Me?”
Kṛṣṇa named His great grandson Vajranābha, as a token of His constant remembrance of Vraja and as a special blessing upon that grandson.
When the Yadu-vamsis of Dvārakā came to Prabhāsa, they all killed each other. Their entire dynasty was completely destroyed; no one remained. By Kṛṣṇa’s will, only Vajranābha and Uddhava were left alive after the battle. Kṛṣṇa then instructed Uddhava, and Vajranābha was also listening to Kṛṣṇa’s advice.
Kṛṣṇa told Uddhava, “Uddhava, if you want to attain Me, then you should know that I am always with the Vrajavāsīs. I always reside in Vraja. If anyone worships My Deity with love and becomes a follower of the Vrajavāsīs, then I will always stay with that person.” Therefore, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “Ramya kācid upāsanā vraja-vadhū-vargeṇā yā kalpitā…—The gopīs’ worship is topmost.”
Vajranābha heard Kṛṣṇa tell Uddhava that He wanted worship in the line of the vraja-gopīs to be established. Vajranābha heard all tattva-siddhānta that Kṛṣṇa spoke to Uddhava. Kṛṣṇa spoke to Uddhava; it is found in the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and is called Uddhava-gīta, Uddhava-sandeśa, or Uddhava-samvād.
After everyone in Dvārakā disappeared, Vajranābha met many sādhus while traveling to Hastināpura, and again more sādhus as he traveled to Badrikāśrama and later to Vraja. Eventually both Vajranābha and Uddhava came to Vraja, where they met with all the Vrajavāsīs. Vajranābha kept this knowledge from Uddhava-samvād in his heart.
When Vajranābha and Uddhava came to Vraja, they traveled extensively throughout Vraja-maṇḍala. At that time, they took shelter of Śrī Girirāja Govardhana. They prayed, “O Girirāja, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is in your heart. You are not separate from Him, and Kṛṣṇa is not separate from you.”
Where is the heart of the Vrajavāsīs? They are always near Śrī Girirāja Govardhana. Kṛṣṇa taught them that Girirāja Govardhana is the tilaka of Vraja, “Vraja-nava-tilkatve klṛpta! vedaiḥ sphuṭaṁ me,” as we sing in the Śrī Govardhana-vāsa-prārthanā-daśakam. He is the tilaka of Vraja and the heart of all the Vrajavāsīs. He fulfills all the desires of the Vrajavāsīs. The Vrajavāsīs do parikramā and offer bhoga to Girirāja; they ask him so many things and he fulfills all their desires.
Kṛṣṇa Himself taught them all how to worship Girirāja during the Annakūta Mahotsava Govardhana Pūjā. Mānasī-Gaṅgā is near Girirāja, as is Kusuma-sarovara, Govinda-kuṇḍa, Apsarā-kuṇḍa, Navala-kuṇḍa, Surabhi-kuṇḍa, Gulāla-kuṇḍa, Airāvat-kuṇḍa, Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Śyāma-kuṇḍa, and the kuṇḍas of the aṣṭa-sakhīs, like Lalitā-kuṇḍa and Viśākhā-kuṇḍa. Everything is present near Girirāja Govardhana.
So Vajranābha and Uddhava prayed to Girirāja. They did Govardhana parikramā and surrendered to Girirāja.
Seeing their sincere surrender, Girirāja first manifested the Deity of Śrī Dāujī, or Śrī Baladeva, for Vajranābha. Why? Without guru, you cannot do anything. Without guru, you cannot be enlightened. Without guru, you cannot enter onto the pure and proper path. Without guru, who will teach you and give you Kṛṣṇa’s darśana and sevā? Baladeva Prabhu was also with Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā, but who understood His tattva or would follow Baladeva’s desires? Who there would listen to what He said? None knew of His glorious position.
Thus Girirājajī first gave Baladeva Prabhu from his heart to Vajranābha, so that he could begin his stay in Vraja by taking shelter of him and serving Śrī Guru. Receiving Baladeva Prabhu’s grace, Vajranābha and Uddhava were so happy; they started serving Śrī Girirāja and Śrī Daujī with great love.
After some time, Girirāja also manifested the Deity of Harideva. Gaṅgā comes from the lotus feet of Harideva. In Vraja, she is present as Mānasī-Gaṅgā, serving all the Vrajavāsīs and giving everyone the strength to obtain vraja-bhakti and vraja-rasa. If you want to become a follower of Vraja, then you should bathe in Mānasī-Gaṅgā.
By faithfully bathing, drinking, remembering, praying, worshiping, and respecting Śrī Mānasī-Gaṅgā in Vraja, then your mind and heart will be cleansed, ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ. Then it will become possible to enter into mānasī-sevā of Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa and Their eternal associates. Without bathing in Mānasī-Gaṅgā, how will you become qualified to perform mānasī-sevā?
Śrīla Gurudeva would take us to Mānasī-Gaṅgā and offer ghee lamps and pūjā to her. We would bathe in her waters and then perform parikramā of Mānasī-Gaṅgā. Sanātana Gosvāmī is also present at Mānasī-Gaṅgā in his bhajana-sthalī near Cakleśvara Mahādeva.
Gaṅgā-devī will wash your mind and heart. She will make all unwanted obstacles dissolve, and she will give you adhikāra to engage in vraja-sevā. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa manifested this Mānasī-Gaṅgā. Mahārāja Bhagīratha called Gaṅgā to purify and liberate his ancestors. With her appearance on Pṛthivi-loka, any jīva can take the opportunity to immerse their body in her kind waters. But can your impurities go away just by bathing your body? How will the mind become clean?
Now each person’s mind has so many impurities. Who will cleanse the mind of everyone? Who will bestow this faith in vraja-rasa? Sakṣat Bhagavān Himself manifested Mānasī-Gaṅgā from His own mind and made everyone’s hearts full of vraja-rasa. He made all who touch her waters become eager to attain vraja-bhakti, vraja-vāsa, and vraja-sevā. By calling Mānasī-Gaṅgā, Kṛṣṇa made arrangements for how to bestow this kind of qualification upon the fallen jīvas.
Upon receiving darśana of the Deity of Harideva, Vajranābha and Uddhava began serving Harideva and slowly their sambandha with Him awakened. They realized what is Vraja, who are the Vrajavāsīs, what is the dust of Vraja. By the influence of Gaṅgā-devī and Harideva, Vajranābha’s heart overflowed with happiness and he started glorifying all the Vrajavāsīs. He prayed to serve them. “How can I serve the Vrajavāsīs? How can I become one of them?” He thought.
As long as this sevā-vṛtti is not present, this tendency to serve, then one’s sambandha will not become fixed. Naturally, we will serve those whom we love, in whom we have faith. We will worship them and strive to make them happy. The Vrajavāsīs continuously arrange to make Kṛṣṇa happy, and in order to make the Vrajavāsīs happy we ourselves need to serve.
As this realization awakened in Vajranābha’s heart, then Girirāja manifested the Deity of Govindadeva for him, because Govinda is the predominating Deity of abhideya, the process of serving with bhakti.
Gopa, gopī, go, Gokula—Govindadeva increases all their happiness. Vajranābha was astounded to see the attractive form of Govinda-deva. “Really, You are so beautiful!” Vajranābha told Govinda. “My heart is captured by this three-fold bending form of Yours holding the flute! You are so charming!” Vajranābha served Śrī Govindajī affectionately, and gradually when his relationship with the Vrajavāsīs was fixed and all types of service tendencies came in his heart, then Girirāja manifested for him the Deity of Śrī Keśavadeva.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote the Keśavāṣṭakam in his collection of prayers known as Stava-māla. Keśava is the avatārī —He is the source of all incarnations. Keśava! dhṛta-daśa-vidha-rūpa—Keśava is the source of all the ten incarnations, and 24 incarnations, guna-avatāras, manvavatars, and līlā-avatāras. All the avatāras have Keśava as the root source, or avatārī.
Although Keśavadeva currently resides in Mathurā and appears to have a four-handed form, He is indeed there in His form as Vrajendra-nandana Bāla-Gopāla. When Śrīla Gurudeva would go to the Keśavadeva temple in Mathurā, he saw the Deity in a dvibhuja-rūpa (two-handed-form), as Muralī-dhārī, Kṛṣṇa holding the flute, who is none other than the darling son of Nanda, who is always absorbed in rādhā-prema.
During Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s visit to Vraja-maṇḍala He danced at the temple of Keśavadeva in Mathurā and prayed, “He Nātha, He Ramaṇa, He Bhuvana eka-bandhu, He Kṛṣṇa, He Capala, He Karuṇaika-sindhu.”
Keśavadeva takes shelter of the sakhīs and mañjarīs and is Himself serving Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. By receiving this Deity, Vajranābha understood prayojana-tattva, the goal of all bhakti. He wanted to understand the glories of the Vraja-devīs and especially the glories of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, so to fulfill this desire of Vajranābha’s, Keśavadeva manifested. Vajranābha enthusiastically took full shelter of Śrī Keśavadeva.
āsām aho caraṇa-reṇu-juṣām ahaṁ syāṁ
vṛndāvane kim api gulma-latauṣadhīnām
yā dustyajaṁ sva-janam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā
bhejur mukunda-padavīṁ śrutibhir vimṛgyām
The Vraja-devīs gave up the company of their husbands and other family members, which is very hard to give up, and they abandoned the path of chastity to serve the lotus feet of Mukunda, who is searched for by the Śrutis themselves. Oh, may I be fortunate enough to become one of the bushes, creepers, or herbs in Vṛndāvana, because the gopīs step on them and bless them with the dust of their lotus feet.
“I want to become a blade of grass or a creeper in Vraja. I want to be a servant of the servant of the servant of one of Your servants, the gopīs, and I want to serve in Vraja eternally. I want to be a particle of dust on the lotus feet of one gopī.”
“I again and again glorify the dust from the feet of the women of Nanda Mahārāja’s cowherd village. When they loudly sing the glories of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the vibration purifies the three worlds.”
Keśavadeva Himself is rendering all forms of service to Vrajeśvarī, Prāṇeśvarī, Kriyeśvarī, the Goddess of all goddesses, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. From His service, Keśavadeva realized the glories of His Iṣṭadevī, Śrī Rādhā.
Receiving this very exalted Deity, Vajranābha prayed to Girirāja, “How can I serve this Keśava-deva? How can I make Him happy?”
irirāja said, “Go to ādi-guru Brahmā.”
“Where is Brahmā?” Vajranābha asked.
“Brahmā is present in Varsānā, as the hill Brahmā-parvata. Brahmā is there always praying for the foot dust of the Vraja-devīs.”
tad bhūri-bhāgyam iha janma kim apy aṭavyāṁ
yad gokule ’pi katamāṅghri-rajo-’bhiṣekam
yaj-jīvitaṁ tu nikhilaṁ bhagavān mukundas
tv adyāpi yat-pada-rajaḥ śruti-mṛgyam eva
It would be my topmost fortune to take birth as a blade of grass, a shrub, or any other species that may be bathed with the dust falling from the lotus feet of the Vrajavāsīs. Even the śrutis, who have been searching for ages, have not yet attained the dust of the lotus feet of Bhagavān Mukunda, who is the life and soul of these Vrajavāsīs. May I take birth even as a rock on the border of Nanda-Gokula, so that the ladies who sweep the streets will then clean their feet on me, and by this I will receive the good fortune of receiving the dust of their feet.
Brahmā does kīrtana of the Vraja-devīs.
Similarly, Śiva Ṭhākura, Bolanātha, is also present as the hill Nandiśvara-parvata in Nandagaon. His body has become this hill. There everything is being made ready for the Vraja-devīs to serve. Śiva Ṭhākura stays there and eternally prepares for all the sweet pastimes that take place. Brahmājī is offering so many prayers and considers himself so fortunate to attain this foot dust of the Vraja-devīs. Vajranābha, you go pray there also.”
Girirāja further instructed Vajranābha. “First of all go to the pond of Prema-sarovara, where prema is present in abundance. Go obtain this vraja-prema from there. Then you will know what Prema-sarovara really is.”
By the mercy of Girirāja, Vajranābha found the beautiful lake, Prema-sarovara and prayed there, “How can I please Keśava-deva? How can I serve Govinda? How can I serve Baladeva Prabhu and Harideva?” Through praying to Prema-sarovara, he learned how to serve. Then he came to Govardhana and discovered Kusuma-sarovara, where Kṛṣṇa would decorate the Vraja-devīs with beautiful kusuma flowers. There, Vajranābha learned this precious service of flower decoration.
Next he learned how to sing and dance at Candra-sarovara, which was revealed to him nearby. This is where the fortunate moon, Candra, remained full in the sky throughout one entire night of Lord Brahmā, while Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs sang and danced in the springtime vasanta-rāsa-līlā.
Later in his journey, Vajranābha revealed the pastime place of Māna-sarovara where, distressed in separation from Kṛṣṇa, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī came after leaving the Rāsa dance in a sulky mood (māna) and where Her tears collected to form this lake.
Although he learned about the services of Vraja, Vajranābha still had the desire to know how he could serve eternally in Vraja. He prayed to Śiva Ṭhākura, who then manifested his form as Cakleśvara Mahādeva in Govardhana, Kāmeśvara Mahādeva in Kāmyavana, Bhūteśvara Mahādeva in Mathurā, and Gopeśvara Mahādeva in Vṛndāvana.
Thus, Vajranābha revealed these four important Deities of Vraja-maṇḍala: Śrī Keśavadeva, who now resides in Mathurā; Śrī Govindadeva, who is present in Vṛndāvana, where Vajranābha first established Him; Śrī Harideva who continues to stay in Govardhana, and Śrī Baladeva Prabhu who is present in Dāujī in Vraja. Through the mercy of Śrī Girirāja Govardhana, Vajranābha also revealed these four prominent lakes of Vraja-maṇḍala where everyone can learn how to serve Kṛṣṇa and the Vraja-devīs: Prema-sarovara, Māna-sarovara, Candra-sarovara, and Kusuma-sarovara.
Vajranābha satisfied these Deities of Kṛṣṇa by offering them candana and prema-sevā. He learned the exalted processes of vraja-sevā. He also revealed four prominent forms of Śiva Ṭhākura within Vraja: Bhūteśvara Mahādeva, Gopeśvara Mahādeva, Cakaleśvara Mahādeva, and Kāmeśvara Mahādeva—who help the jīvas gain entrance into Vraja.
Training in service to the Vraja-devīs is the specialty of Keśava-vrata. Girirāja Govardhana gave this prema from his own heart. He is the greatest distributor of the transcendental wealth of Vraja.