Understanding Lord Shiva’s service in Vraja
Bhuteshvara Mahadeva at Mathura
Four ancient deities of Lord Shiva residing at Mathura are known as dik-palas, “protectors of the directions.” They stay in Mathura to protect the dhama. Bhuteshvara Mahadeva protects from the western side.
The tradition amongst the vaishnavas is that when coming to Vraja one must first go to Mathura to take permission from him to enter the dhama. The reasons for this are described by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Mathura-Mahatmya (texts 234-238), wherein he has quoted the following verses from the Adi-varaha Purana recounting Krishna’s words about Bhuteshvara Mahadeva:
mathurayam ca deva tvam ksetra-palo bhavisyasi
tvayi drste maha-deva mama ksetra-phalam labhet
“O deva! You will be the protector of Mathura. O gretest of the gods! Whoever sees you will attain My abode.”
drstva bhuta-patim devam varadam papa-nasanam
tena drstena vasudhe mathuram phalam apnuyat
“By seeing Bhuteshvara Mahadeva, all sins are destroyed. O Vasudha, one who sees him, achieves the land of Mathura.”
yatra bhutesvaro devo moksadah papinam api
mama priyatamo nityam deva bhuteshvarah parah
“In Mathura is the deity Lord Bhuteshvara, who grants liberation even to the sinful. This Bhuteshvara deity is very dear to Me.”
katham va mayi bhaktim sa labhate papa-purusah
yo madiyam param bhaktam shivam sampujayen na hi
“How is it possible for a sinful person who tries to worship Me but will not worship Bhutesvara shiva, to attain devotion to Me?”
man-maya-mohita-dhiyh prayas te manavadhamah
bhuteshvaram na smaranti na namanti stuvanti va
“Those who are bewildered by My maya, who are the lowest of men, will not meditate on, bow down before, or offer prayers to Lord Bhuteshvara.”
Also, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta (Madhya 17.191) by Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami describes how Lord Caitanya visited Bhuteshvara Mahadeva in the following way:
svayambhu, vishrama, dirgha-vishnu, bhuteshvara
mahavidya, gokarnadi dekhila vistara
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited all the holy places on the banks of the Yamuna, including Svayambhu, Vishrama-ghata, Dirgha Vishnu, Bhuteshvara, Mahavidya and Gokarna.
Gopishvara Mahadeva at Vrindavana
Gopishvara Mahadeva is one of the most prominent deities in the Gaudiya-sampradaya and is mentioned in many Gaudiya literatures, being a very ancient protector of Sri Vrindavana Dhama. It is said that one cannot enter Vrindavana without his permission. His glories are sung throughout the Gosvami literatures:
srimad –gopishvaram vande sankaram karuna-mayam
sarva-klesa-haram devam vrndaranya-rati-pradam
– Sri Bhakti Ratnakara 5.3741
I offer my respectful obeisances to Sri Gopishvara, who is merciful Lord shiva himself. He removes troubles and grants spiritual love in Vrindavana.
In the song Vraja-dhama-mahimamrta, the following line is sung
jaya jaya gopishvara vrindavana-majh
“All glories, all glories to Gopishvara shiva, who resides in the holy dhama of Vrindavana.”
For more information, please refer to the article “The Merciful Lord shiva” by His Holiness Giriraja Swami on page 18.
Kameshvara Mahadeva at Kamyavana
Kama means “desire”. It is said that Kameshvara Mahadeva is the fulfiller of one’s desires.
Srila Narahari Cakravarti has described Kameshvara Mahadeva in his Bhakti-ratnakara (5.841): See here the most powerful Shiva as Kameshvara.
Kameshvara Mahadeva resides in Kamyavan in the western part of Vraja-mandala. According to the tradition in Vraja, Vrishabhanu Maharaja worshipped Kameshvara to get a daughter. He already had a son, Sridama but no, he wanted a daughter. Kameshvara granted his desire and he obtained Srimati Radharani as is daughter.
Chakaleshvara Mahadeva at Govardhana Hill
On the northern bank of Manasi Ganga, by Govardhana hill is a group of five Shiva-lingas that are famous by the name Chakaleshvara Mahadeva. These five Shiva-lingas are considered to be Lord Shiva’s five faces. They protect the area of Govardhan. This part of Manasi Ganga is known as Chakra-tirtha and because he stays at this place, this shiva-linga was originally known as Chakareshvara, but now he is known as Chakaleshvara. It is said that this place is called Chakra-tirtha because when Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill, He requested the Sudarshana Chakra to appear above the mountain to dry up all the rain coming down on Govardhana so that the Vrajavasis standing underneath would not drown. After Indra withdrew the Samvartaka clouds that he had sent to destroy Vraja and the danger was over, Sudarshana requested Krishna to give him a place to rest. Krishna gave him this place on the northern bank of Manasi Ganga.
The present temple of Chakaleshvara Mahadeva is recent; the original one was destroyed by the Muslims. However, the deities here are very old and are said to have been installed by Krishna’s great-grandson Vajranabha.
Nandeshvara Mahadeva at Nandagaon
The palace of Nanda Maharaja is situated atop Nandeshvara hill in Nandagaon. This hill is a form of Lord Shiva, who performed tapasya for several thousands of years to enter into the Lord Krishna’s pastimes in Vraja. When the Lord was pleased with him Shiva asked for a boon of getting a chance to witness the Vraja pastimes of Lord Krishna by becoming a hill or a stone. Reciprocating with this desire, Lord Krishna granted him this form in Nandagaon.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes in Vraja-riti-cintamani (1.15):
nandisvaram sadhu-gana vadanti
nandisvaram tam ca yadiya-rupam
The devotees declare that Nandisvara hill, the form of Lord Shiva now shining as Nanda Maharaja’s capital, is an endlessly beautiful crown decorating Vrindavana.
When Lord Krishna appeared in Nandagaon, Lord Shiva decided to take his darsana. When he reached Nanda Maharaja’s home, Yasoda Mai was fearful of his strange appearance. There was a small drum tied to Lord Shiva’s waist, he had ashes from the crematorium smeared all over his body, and snakes around his neck. Yasoda Mai shut the doors of her home. Her fear was that baby Krishna would become terrified to see such a ghastly appearance. Finally, Lord Shiva left in disappointment.
During this time, Krishna began to cry loudly. Alongwith Yasoda, all the other elderly gopis tried to pacify Him, but in vain. One elderly gopi said, “Maybe someone has put an evil eye on Krishna. Who has come to meet Krishna since the morning?” Yasoda remembered the strange-looking person and sent some gopis searching out for him. They found him at Aseshvara-vana and got him to remove the evil eye put on the baby. As soon as baby Krishna saw Shiva, He began to smile. Yasoda then shut the door again. Again, Krishna began to cry. So, they gave darshana of Lord Shiva to Krishna again. He smiled. Lord Shiva then requested Yasoda Mai to keep Krishna’s foot on his head. Scared of the snakes and scorpions, mother Yasoda denied. However, the elderly gopis persisted and finally Lord Shiva received the divine lotus feet of Lord Krishna on his head. His happiness knew no bounds. He began his ecstatic dance as Nataraja, playing his drum. Krishna became very joyous to see Lord Shiva’s wonderful dance. Yasoda quickly requested Lord Shiva to stay in Nandagaon permanently so that Krishna would always be happy.
Seizing the opportunity, Lord Shiva asked, “Whenever you bathe Krishna, if you sprinkle that carnamrta on me and whenever you feed Krishna, if you bring me His remnants, then I will stay here.” Yasoda gladly accepted the offer. Since then, Lord Shiva has stayed at Nandagaon in the form of Nandeshvara Mahadeva and even today, the carnamrta and maha-prasada of Lord Krishna is first offered to him.