Gambhira -
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Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana

On the bank of the Yamuna river, where Gambhira now stands, Sri Radha and Sri Krishna used to arrive by boat and meet for their nightly trysts. Some time later when Sri Krishna had gone to Mathura, leaving Sri Radha and her companions, the gopis, forever, the inconsolable women were sitting here one day remembering their beloved Sri Krishna, Uddhava, Sri Krishna’s trusted friend, arrived from Mathura to comfort them. His message was that they should know that Sri Krishna is the fundamental essence of everything in the world, and could in no way be separated from them. So why should they grieve?

In reply, the women spoke eloquently of their love for Sri Krishna in his physical presence, of their delight in caring for him, serving him, and embracing him. So great was their feeling that Uddhava was convinced that devotion like theirs was a more direct path to realization of Sri Krishna than all his knowledge and ritual practice. Just then a Bhramara (large bee) landed on the ground near Sri Radha’s lotus feet and approached to touch them. But Sri Radha pulled back saying “go away! You are fickle, like him, and flit from flower to flower. Your moustaches, like him, are yellow with the pollen of garlands pressed to the breasts of the women at the court of Mathura. Go away!”

Some say that the Bhramara was the embodiment of Uddhava’s newfound devotion. Others say that the Bhramara was Sri Krishna himself, who could not bear the separation from his beloved Sri Radha. From this event the place is known as Bhramaraghat.

Then, in AD 1515, when Vrindavan was still a forest, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came here and identified this among many other sites of Sri Krishna’s pastimes. He used to sit on this roverbank for his spiritual exercises. When Sri Caitanya left Vrindavan, he charged six of his most able followers, the six Goswamis, to establish Vrindavan as a pilgrimage centre where the pastimes of Sri Radha, Sri Krishna and their companions could be enjoyed. To his devotees, Sri Krishna has never left Vrindavan. He and Sri Radha play there still, for those who have eyes to see.

About 200 years later, Raja Savai Jai Singh of Amber, the most powerful minister of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, and a devout worshipper of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna, established a retreat for himself at this spot. He acquired about two and a half acres of land where he constructed a house for himself; a pavilion on the riverfront, where Sri Caitanya had sat; behind it, a shrine to the river at Sri Krishna’s and Sri Radha’s landing places, and a temple for his personal deity, Sri Nrtya Gopala ji. Here he established a spiritual and cultural centre that attracted notable philosophers, artists and scholars. He sponsored within his compound a Rasalila mela, and built in front of his house a large platform where these musical dance dramas depicting the pastimes of Sri Krishna were performed for the first time outside a temple.

Over the next two centuries the site fell into ruin, although Jai Singh’s buildings were still standing. In 1961 Jai Singh Ghera was bought by Paramapujya Jagadguru Sri Caitanya Sampradaya Acharya Sri Purushottam Goswami ji Maharaj, a leading priest of the Sri Radharaman temple lineage of Goswamis, who trace their ancestry to Sri Gopala Bhatta, a close disciple of Sri Caitanya. An energetic leader, Maharaj ji and his family and followers have established an Ashram which is again a thriving spiritual and cultural centre.
In 1972 the cultural and religious activities of the centre were formally launched with the founding of the Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana (SCPS).

Over the years since, a major building has been constructed abutting and complimenting Jai Singh’s pavilion, which houses:

o guest rooms for those who come to study the culture of Vraja
o a theatre large enough to seat many hundred people (on the site of the old Rasalila platform)
o conference facilities
o an extensive library and archive specializing in the culture of Vraja
o audio-visual facilities to record the artistic events of the region

The Samsthana patronises music and the arts, scholarship on Vrindavan and its region and on Vaisnava history and philosophy. It especially supports the Rasalila and the arts associated with them.