The most popular place for sightseeing in Vrindavan is the popular Banke Bihari Temple, built in 1864. There are curtains in front of the richly decorated idol. After the main prayers, the curtains are drawn apart to give darshan (viewing) to a long line of devotees. The idol was said to have been discovered by the musician-saint Swami Hari Das in Nidhi Van, a kadamb grove.
One of the foremost Krishna sects in modern times, the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), has a prominent temple complex at Raman Reti, 3 kms from Vrindavan. The society has been responsible for popularising Krishna’s philosophy in the West, popularising the chant “hare rama, hare krishna”. The samadhi (cenotaph) of its founder, Swami Prabhupada is within the complex. The swami died in 1977, and his private chambers have been converted into a museum. The temple is built in the Bengal Renaissance style with bright frescoes on Krishna’s life.
The Madan Mohan Temple on the riverside is the oldest structure in Vrindavan. The temple is associated with Sri Chaitanya, the Vaishnavite saint. Due to the fear of Muslim onslaughts on the temple, the original idol was shifted to Rajasthan, western India. A replica is now worshipped in the temple.
At the Nidhi Van , Krishna rested with his beloved Radha. The shrine inside has a bed, which is decorated with flowers by the priest every evening. According to popular belief, no one is allowed to stay inside after dusk because the Lord visits the spot with Radha. The samadhi (memorial) of Swami Hari Das is also within this complex. The groves of Vrindavan are notorious for monkeys that have a special fascination for cameras and spectacles.
The Govinda Dev Temple was a grand seven-storied structure built by Raja Man Singh in 1590. It was said to have cost ten million rupees and the Mughal emperor Akbar had donated the red sandstone for its construction. During the rule of a later Mughal king, Aurangzeb, it was plundered and destroyed leaving only three storeys of the original temple.
Opposite the Govinda Dev Temple is anothing sightseeing option, Shri Ranganatha or Rangaji Temple a south-Indian temple. It is 30 metres high with three gopurams (gateways), a tall shikhara (crown) and gold-plated decorations. At the entrance, there is an electronic puppet show on stories of Krishna, and a small museum.
The kadamb groves of Vrindavan, which are severely depleted, are believed to be the spots where Krishna played his erotic love games. At the Seva Kunj, Krishna danced the Raaslila with the gopis. Through his divine powers, Krishna would create an optical illusion which made it seem like he was the dancing partner of every gopi.