Braj Bhumi is the geographical area where Krishna was born in, played with all His childhood friends, the Gopa – Gopi and also performed many of His incredible deeds. This was the area where He enjoyed first 12 years of His life. This area, from His times, till date, has been called Braj Bhumi.
The people who lived in this area are the Brajwasi, wasi meaning “those who reside in”. Brajwasi are those who reside in the Braj Bhumi area.
This is similar to Balaji, Lord Venkateshwara, the lord of the Tirumala hills, Tirupati also being called as “Srinivasa”, which has become a popular name among the people of this land.
Vas means “to stay”. Nivas means “a place of residence”. Srinivasa is One who has Sri, i.e., Goddess Lakshmi residing in His heart.
Braj is known for Krishna. Braj is known for its delicious milk sweets. Braj is also known for its sweet, lyrical language – Braj Bhasha, bhasha meaning “language”.
Braj Bhasha, language of Braj, is a parent of the Hindi language as it is spoken today and is the language of many a lyrical poems on Krishna.
Spread of Braj Bhumi
Braj Bhumi or Vraj as it is also popularly called, extends over an area of 3800 square km covering several important pilgrimage cities, such as Vrindavan, Barsana and Mathura as well as places along the Yamuna River, forests, ponds, groves, hills and other locations where Krishna spent His early years.
In present day geography, it covers parts of the states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Twelve Principal Forests
According to the Padma Purana, there were twelve principal forests, vana, in the heartland of this region.
24 fruit groves
Braj Bhumi had 24 fruit groves apart from these forests. It also covered numerous villages.
It is in these fruit yielding groves that Krishna played with the cows, His friends and the Gopi of that region. It is in these forests and groves that Krishna vanquished many an Asura, like,
- Dhenukasura, associated with the form of an ass, who was preventing the people of Braj from entering the groves
- Bakasura, associated with the form of a Baka meaning “crane”, who was a friend to Krishna’s maternal uncle, Kamsa and was sent by Kamsa to kill Krishna. This is different from the Bakasura that Bhima had to encounter in the forest
- Aghasura, associated with the form of a huge snake, who was a friend of Bakasura and Putana and was despatched by Kamsa to poison and kill Krishna when He was a baby
- Aristasura, associated with the form of a bull, who dug up the riverside and came charging into Braj with a deafening sound
- Kaliya, the fierce, venomous snake, which was poisoning the waters of the Yamuna.
Same then and Now
Many areas still bear the same names as narrated in the tales of Krishna such as:
- Phisalini Shila – natural slides on which Krishna and his friends used to play
- Bhojan Thali – natural stone formation in the shape of a plate on which Krishna and His friends used to have lunch together while grazing their herds
- Jadkhor Caves – where Krishna and His cowherd friends used to take shelter
- Saugandhini Shila – a stone that Krishna touched and vowed never to leave Braj Bhumi.
It is not that we have suddenly identified these places today and are placing before all. These places that were witness to Krishna’s pranks and antics as a child, still bear the same names as in the legends. Local traditions in these places too, over the last thousands of years, have connected these places continuously with these acts of Krishna.
(The above is an extract from our book Historical Krishna. More on Krishna and Krishna’s historicity in our book series “Historical Krishna”, which can be purchased at https://www.sattvastore.com)