Madhuvana is one of the twelve sacred forests of Vraja. At the present time Madhuvana is known as Maholi and a large village now stands where the sacred forest once stood. The forest of Madhuvana has an individual parikrama of around five kilometers that passes through all the important places of interest including Krishna-kunda and Dhruva Tila. Madhuvana is one of the most famous amongst the twelve sacred forests of Vrindavana and gains mention in many ancient Puranas. Unfortunately at the present time, this forest like many others in Vrindavana has almost totally disappeared and only a few trees remain of what was once a vast and verdant forest. It is said that Madhuvana is the only sacred forest of Vrindavana where the Supreme Personality of Godhead performed transcendental pastimes in all the four yugas. In the Satya-yuga, He appeared here as Lord Madhusudana and slew a great demon named Madhu who had taken control of the sacred forest. He also appeared in the same Satya-yuga as Lord Prishnigarbha to give His blessings to Dhruva Maharaja, who was performing severe austerities here in the Madhuvana forest. In the Treta-yuga, He appeared here as Lord Shatrughna, the younger brother of Lord Ramacandra and slew the demon Lavanasura, the evil son of Madhudaitya. Then in the Dwarapa-yuga, the Lord appeared here in His original form as Lord Shri Krishna and performed many wonderful pastimes with the cowherd girls and boys of Vraja. In the Kali-yuga, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited the sacred forest of Madhuvana during His Vraja Mandala Parikrama in the year 1515, and took His bath in the sacred Krishna-kunda.
How To Get There: From Vrindavana one has to proceed 6km to Chhatikara and then turn south-bound on the Delhi to Agra road. (National Highway No.2) and proceed 11km to the Maholi junction, where one can see on the right the large white marble temple of Jai-gurudev (resembling the Taj Mahal). At this junction turn right down this road for 2km until you reach Maholi village. Proceed straight through the village to the other side where one can see Krishna-kunda on the left. This kunda is considered to be the centre of Madhuvana.
How Madhuvana Forest Got Its Name
There are many references in the Vedic scriptures regarding Madhuvana and according to the Puranas the forest was so named when Lord Madhusudana, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, slew the great demon Madhudaitya at this place. In the Skanda Purana it say’s. “Who can find the limits to the glories of Madhuvana, the forest which contains Mathura Puri. Here the Lord killed the demon Madhu, hence it is known in Mathura as Madhuvana. The word ‘madhu’ also means nectar, and because Lord Krishna engaged in many nectarine pastimes with the gopi’s here, the forest became known as Madhuvana, In this transcendental forest, Lord Madhusudana Shri Krishna, expertly captured the hearts of the gopi’s of Vraja and during the autumn season they enjoyed ecstatic rasa-lila pastimes on the banks of Krishna-kunda. Elsewhere it says that the forest got its name because large quantities of honey could be found here. The word ‘madhu’ also means honey, and this was the forest where Krishna and Balarama would regularly come with their friends to enjoy their madhupan-lila of drinking honey liquor. After feeling intoxicated from drinking honey, Krishna and Balarama would dance and sing in transcendental ecstasy along with their
The Madhu Demon Killed at Madhuvana
According to the Puranas, in the Satya-yuga a very powerful demon named Madhu established his kingdom in the Madhuvana forest. The fact that the demon Madhu lived here in this forest is also confirmed in the Gopala-tapani Upanishad. Some have said that in his youth Madhu had been a royal prince but became degraded and turned into a very cruel and evil-hearted person, hence his father seeing his son’s demoniac qualities was forced to banish him from his kingdom. The demon Madhu began roaming here and there until he eventually arrived at Madhuvana and decided he would establish his kingdom at this place. Madhu, like other powerful demons, was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. After performing many severe penances in order to propitiate Lord Shiva, the merciful Shiva eventually
appeared before the demon and awarded him with an infallible trishul, a three pronged spear, saying that as long as Madhu held this weapon in his hand, he could never be defeated in battle by any demigod or human being. Due to the uncommon power derived from the infallible trishul, the Madhu demon became completely fearless and was undefeatable in battle. It is said that he terrorized the entire area around Madhuvana and also persecuted the rishis and brahmanas. According to the Puranas, Madhu married one of Ravana’s sisters and consequently formed a military alliance with him. The son born to Madhu from the womb of Ravan’s sister was called Lavanasura. In due course of time, Lord Vishnu appeared in the Madhuvana forest and slew the Madhu demon. Because of His slaying this demon, the Lord became celebrated by the name of ‘Madhusudana’, which means ‘Killer of the demon Madhu’.
Lord Ramachandra Sends Shatrughna to Madhuvana
After the death of the demon Madhu at the hands of Lord Vishnu, his demonic son named Lavanasura took over his father’s kingdom and also inherited the infallible trishul weapon. It is also said that the great Surya-vamsa Emperor, Mandhata Maharaja, was killed in a fierce battle with the demon Lavanasura, who slew him with the very same infallible trishul. The demon Lavanasura let loose a reign of terror throughout the region and was particularly inimical towards the rishis, brahmanas and Vaishnavas. Lord Ramacandra, after hearing the earnest petitions of the sages headed by Bhagava Rishi and Chayavana Muni, He ordered His younger brother Shatrughna to accompany the sages to Madhuvana and slay the evil demon Lavanasura. Before sending him on his journey, Lord Rama ordered Shatrughna to establish his kingdom there at Madhuvana and crowned him as the King of Mathura Puri in an elaborate ceremony at Ayodhya performed by Vashista Muni. Lord Rama also presented Shatrughna with an infallible quiver of arrows with which to kill Lavanasura. It is said that the celestial arrows had belonged to Lord Vishnu, and were used to kill the two demon brothers Madhu and Kaitabha at the beginning of the creation. Lord Rama also presented Shatrughna with an ancient deity of Lord Adi-varaha that was to be installed in the new city. This particular deity was retrieved from the island of Lanka after the demon Ravana had been slain by Lord Rama. Ravana had taken the deity from Lord Indra after defeating him in battle and conquering the heavenly planets. According to the Padma Purana, Lord Varaha the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is the original presiding deity of
the Mathura Mandala, and is eternally situated on the southern petal of the lotus of Vraja, at a place known as Saukari-vateshwara (Batasar). According to the Puranas, whenever Lord Varaha advents Himself in order to save the world, He appears from His transcendental abode at Saukari-vateshwara.
Lord Shatrughna Vanquishes the Demon Lavanasura
It was in the Treta-yuga when Lord Vishnu incarnated on earth in the form of Lord Ramacandra and His three brothers namely; Bharata, Lakshmana, and Shatrughna, whose mission was to destroy all the demons and rakshasas that were overburdening the world at that time. Lord Ramachandra and His three brothers represent the Chatur-vyuha, or four original forms of Lord Vishnu namely; Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Anirudha. On the ardent plea of the great sages, rishis and brahmanas, Lord Rama sent His brother Shatrughna to Madhuvanan in order to kill the demon Lavanasura and establish a kingdom there. Prior to his departure, after having been informed by Bhagava Rishi, Lord Rama warned Shatrughna about Lavanasura’s infallible trishul weapon, saying that he should only challenge Lavanasura at the time when he went out hunting and did not carry the trishul. Waiting patiently for the most opportune moment to launch his attack on the powerful demon, Shatrughna heard that Lavanasura had gone into the forest to hunt, and as foretold, the demon did not take the infallible trishul, Shatrughna had his soldiers immediately block all the entrances to the demon’s residence, which some say was located in a huge underground cave, so that on his return he could not run inside the cave to get the trishul weapon. In the Ramayana, it mentions that Shatrugha waited at the eastern gate of Lavanasura’s city. After waiting for some time, Shatrughna suddenly saw a ferocious looking giant coming out from the dense forest carrying under his arms a number of dead animals including two tigers, a water buffalo, a huge snake, a crocodile and a baby elephant. Realizing that this was the great demon Lavanasura returning from his hunting trip, Shatrughna came forward and challenged him to fight. In the fierce battle that took place, Shatrughna was ultimately able to sever the head of Lavanasura with a volley of celestial arrows. After killing the demon Lavanasura, Shatrughna established the city of Mathura on the banks of the Yamuna at Madhuvana. In the Vishnu Purana it is said. “Shatrughna founded Mathura after killing the powerful demon Lavanasura.” After his great victory, Shatrughna installed the deity of Lord Adi-varaha given to him by Lord Rama, and even today this ancient deity of Lord Varahadeva is still being worshiped in Mathura, at the temple of Adi-varaha in the vicinity of the old city.
—Adapted from the book ‘ Vrajmandal Parikrama’ by Sri Rajshekhar das Brahmachari