Vrindâvana was both the mythical land of Krishna’s youth and an actual geographic area between modern Delhi and Agra. Vrindâvana’s meaning of “sacred basil grove” referred to the ancient forest that once graced that region. The modern town lies on the western bank of the Yamunâ River. (See main entry under Kâlindî.)
It was to Vrindâvana that the cowherds of Gokula retreated when King Kamsa’s violence toward Krishna became too much for them to bear. It was in Vrindâvana the Krishna and his older brother Balarâma grew, played, teased, and generally lived an idyllic life—with only an occasional interruption from a demon or demoness bent on killing them.
This region (Vraja, or Braj) became self-aware in the sixteenth century when the Krishna cult of Bengal connected myth and devotion by pilgrimage to the very places mentioned in the stories and established actual sites for devotees to visit.
Caitanya directed his disciples, the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, to purify long forgotten sites and renew worship there. The six great Gosvamis (cow monks— referring to the cowherd period of the Krishna myth) did just that and had mahârâjas of Râjesthan build splendid temples to Krishna.
Now this entire region is rich with pilgrimage sites, and during the months of the monsoon pilgrims walk and play where Krishna and Râdhâ did, hear the many dramas and performances, and worship in the many temples along the route.