Banke Bihari Ji
The image of Bihariji installed in the Shri Banke Bihari Mandir, is the one granted to Swami Haridas by the celestial couple Shyama-Shyam themselves. Submitting to the desire of devotees The Lord appeared in person with his divine consort and left back a black charming image before disappearing.
Swami Haridas ji was born to Shri Ashudhir and his wife Smt Gangadevi on the day of Radha Ashtami i.e. eighth day of second (bright) fortnight of Bhadrapad month of the year 1535 Vikrami(1478 A.D.). He was born in a small village, now known as Haridaspur, near Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. The linage of the family can be traced back to Shri Gargacharya. Shri Gargachrya was the kulguru (family guru) of Yadavs and visited Brij secretly for conducting the Namkaran Samskar (naming ceremony) of young Krishna and Balram on request of Sri Vasudev. A branch of the family migrated to Multan (now in Pakistan), but some of them returned after a long time. Sri Ashudhir was one such migrant who after returning from Multan settled at the outskirts of Brij, near Aligarh.
Swami Haridas was the reincarnation of Lalita ‘sakhi’ (female friend), of the inner consortium of Lord Krishna. This easily explains the fact that even in his childhood; he was more into meditation and scriptures, while other children of his age were busy playing. He was married at the suitable age according to the time to Harimati. Even after his marriage, young Haridas stayed away from worldly pleasures and concentrated on meditation. Harimatiji was such a saintly soul herself that on realizing the inclination of her husband, she prayed intensely and was bodily transported to the heavenly abode of Lord by entering the flame of a small lamp in the presence of Haridas. No physical remains were left behind!
Soon after that Haridas left his village for Vrindavan, which was a dense forest at that time and chose a secluded spot, which is now known as Nidhivan, to practice his music and to enjoy eternal bliss of meditation. He constantly and continuously meditated on Nitya Ras and Nitya Bihar of Lord at Nitya Vrindavan. His way of Sadhna was to compose and sing songs in the praise of Lord. While on earth, living in a mortal state, he facilitated his regular unobstructed entry in the Nitya Bihar and always enjoyed the pleasure of closeness of Lord. He chose a secluded and densely forested area, Kunj, in Nidhivan as his gateway to the nirvana and was mostly sitting there, singing, meditating and surfing in the ocean of eternal bliss.
His disciples were curious about this place and one day with permission of Swamiji, they all entered the kunj. But instead of seeing anything they were almost blinded by bright, intense light, which seemed to fill the whole place. On knowing of their plight Swamiji himself went there, and then after his requests, lord appeared in person with his divine consort, pleasantly smiling and in a playful mood and casting a spell of charm on every living being present there. Those who witnessed this, were so spell bounded by the beauty of the Lord and his consort, that they couldn’t even blink their eyes, it seemed that all of them had turned into stone statues.
The legend as handed down to the generations of Goswamis, says that the beauty of the divine couple was such that no one wanted to loose the sight and proximity of divinity, but then what kind of divinity is it, which cannot make a mere mortal swoon and charmed enough to forget and give up the world and its luxuries? The beauty of the divine couple was so much that lesser mortals, like you and me, won’t be able to bear such a heavenly beauty. Sensing this Swami Haridasji requested both of them to take a single form, as the world won’t be able to bear their image. He requested them to take a single form like Ghan(cloud) and Damini(lightning) thus giving a perfect metaphor to the combined beauty of dark Lord and his fair consort, Radhaji.
Also he wanted his beloved lord to be in front of his eyes always. Granting him his both wishes, the couple turned itself into one single black charming idol, the same one that you see in the temple today. The charm and beauty of Shri Banke Bihariji is the only reason why the ‘darshan’ in the temple is never continuous but is broken by the curtain drawn on him regularly. It is also said that if one stares long enough into the eyes of Shri Banke Bihariji, the person would lose his self consciousness.
The sewa of the Bihariji is unique in its own way. It is performed in three parts every day ie Shringar, Rajbhog and Shayan. While shringar (which includes bath, dressing and adornment with jewellery like crown and necklaces) and Rajbhog(feast) is offered in the forenoon, Shayan Sewa (shayan means sleep) is offered in the evening. The temple doesn’t have a tradition of Mangala (early morning) sewa. Swami Haridas did not favour Mangla Sewa as he wanted his child like Lord to take complete rest and did not want to disturb him out of deep slumber so early in the morning.
So, the temple today stands with its full glory, inside which the Lord himself resides. It is thronged by thousands of visitor’s everyday.