The 19th-century Banke Bihari Temple (Banke Bihari Mandir)—one of India’s most famous temples—in Vrindavan houses an idol of Lord Krishna that devotees believe will cause them to faint if they look into its eyes. As such, the idol is kept behind a curtain that’s swiftly opened and closed, allowing worshipers to catch quick glimpses of the god safely.
Worship at this temple, founded by Shri Swami Haridas in 1846, is divided into three different acts of service (sewas) to the deity: Shringar (in which the idol is bathed and dressed); Rajbhog (the feeding of the idol); and Shayan (preparing the idol for sleep). Thousands of devotees visit Banke Bihari—one of many names for Lord Krishna—every day for worship. Most international visitors who come here do so as a stopover between Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) and Delhi, or during day tours from Delhi with stops in Vrindavan.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The temple is in a pedestrianized area with lots of little shops and narrow lanes, so be prepared to do some walking.
- Watch out for monkeys in the area; they’re known to steal glasses right off of the heads of unsuspecting visitors.
- Remember to wear modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
- You must remove your footwear before entering the temple.
- If you come during Holi, the annual festival of colors held throughout Northern India, be prepared to be covered with powdered colors by passing revelers—and wear clothes you don’t mind ruining.
How to Get There
The Banke Bihari Temple is located in the heart of the holy city of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, just off the road that runs between Delhi and Agra. It's about a 10-minute drive from Vrindavan’s other major temple attraction, the ISKCON (Hare Krishna) temple, and about a 25-minute drive from the town of Mathura, Vrindavan’s twin city. Many visitors come as part of an organized tour.
When to Get There
The Banke Bihari Temple is open throughout the year, though it's at its busiest around sunset. One of the most auspicious times to visit is for the special aarti (prayer ceremony) on Krishna Janmashtami, usually in September, which marks the birthday of Lord Krishna.
Lord Krishna is one of the most recognizable—and most loved—Hindu deities, and many believe that he once lived in the Vrindavan-Mathura area. An avatar of the preserver god Vishnu, Krishna is depicted in various forms. His skin is usually a light blue and he’s often depicted with playing a flute. He’s also sometimes shown as a plump baby with his hand in a butter jar (owing to a legend about him stealing butter).