The Twelve Forests of Mathura-mandala
"Raghava Pandita, feeling excessive joy, spoke softly to Shrinivasa, "This Mathura Puri is surrounded by twelve sacred forests which deliver one from sins. Keshava's beautiful dvadashavanas are auspicious and bestow virtues."
On the western side of the Yamuna are: Madhu, Tala, Kumuda, Bahula, Kamya, Khadira, and Vrindavana. On the eastern side of the Yamuna are: Bhadra, Bhandira, Bilva, or Shri, Lauha, and Mahavana (Padma Purana and Skanda Purana)
"O Shrinivasa, this is Madhuvana. Its darshana will satisfy all desires. In this forest there is a kunda full of transparent water and blue lotuses. If anyone bathes in that water and gives in charity he will achieve the fulfillment of his desires."
It is stated in the Skanda Purana: "For the benefit of the Yadavas and for His own pleasure Krishna killed the demon who was the protector of the tala fruit."
In the Adi-varaha Purana it is stated: "Hey Devi, this third forest, Kumudavana, is supreme. One who visits this place becomes worshipable in My abode."
"O Shrinivasa, see this place on the west of Mathura where Krishna killed Dantavakra. Vajranabha named this place Datiha. In the Padma Purana it is known as Dati-upavana. I will tell you now one story related with Dantavakra. Hearing this narration frees one from all miseries.
"Once, the residents of Vrindavana headed by Nanda Maharaja went to see Krishna at Kurukshetra. Krishna met them and satisfied each person in every way. Krishna assured them that He would meet them in Vrindavana in a very short time. Fully satisfied hearing Krishna's nectarean words, they left there and came to the bank of the Yamuna waiting for His arrival. Everyone thought they would take Krishna home when He arrived.
"After seeing off the Vraja-vasis from Kurukshetra, Krishna felt great eagerness to return to Vrindavana. He went to Dvaraka to kill Shishupala and then went to Mathura on the pretext of killing Dantavakra. After that work was completed, He crossed the Yamuna River and quickly went to meet Nanda Maharaja and the others. On seeing Krishna, the cowherds ran forward shouting, `Welcome! Welcome!' Krishna returned to His own house in Vraja and enjoyed Himself with the gopis and gopas as He always had before. Because the villagers shouted, "Ayore! Ayore!" [Welcome! Welcome!], the village is now known as Ayore."
There is another village called Gauravai and Shri Raghava also told the story of that village. "There was a large village called Shhana wherein lived a distinguished Zamindara [landowner] who had a good friendship with Shri Nanda Maharaja. When Nanda returned from Kurukshetra, the Zamindara welcomed him in great joy. There was no limit to the honor, or gaurav, given by that landowner to Nanda as he arranged his stay. Therefore this village was named Gauravai, but presently it is known as Gaurai. It is nearby the villages of Shhana and Ayore."
In Gopala-campu the story is told in this way: "Coming from Syamanta-pancaka in Kurukshetra, Vrajeshvara Shri Nanda and the cowherd men were returning to their houses in Gokula. When they arrived in Mathura, they felt no desire to return to their homes. They crossed the Yamuna and came to this famous place named Gaurai some distance from Gokula. That place, called `Gokulapati' in Sanskrit, is traditionally known as Gaurava, however the local people called it Gaurai. Just as the abode of Purushottama has become famous by the name Purushottama, so also the place of Gokulapati was named Gokulapati."
"All these villages where Krishna performed His transcendental pastimes are seen in ecstasy by those people who are fortunate." After narrating these topics, Raghava happily continued along the parikrama path as they wandered through Vraja. Raghava explained that the path they would follow was not exactly as prescribed in the Adi-varaha Purana.
For some time they followed the parikrama route, then Raghava decided to see the place named Shashthikaratavi. They left the parikrama path for another path and Raghava told Shrinivasa, "We have entered the place called Shashthikara. Although previously this was known as Shashthikaratavi, presently people call it by the name Shashthighara."
"See here Shrinivasa, the place called Shakata Rohana. It is a beautiful pleasant place and very dear to Krishna. Bumblebees are always humming in the forest of flowers. By bathing in this kunda one will get supreme bliss."
Shakata Rohana is described in the Adi-varaha Purana thus: "One half yojana [four miles] on the west side of Mathura is My supreme abode named Shakata Rohana. Many thousands of bumblebees live there. Whoever fasts for one night and then takes bath there is certain to attain the happiness of Vidyadharaloka."
Raghava also pointed out a place known as Garuda-Govinda. Once, just in play, Shridhama transformed himself into Garuda, and Shri Krishna as four-armed Govinda mounted the shoulders of His bird-carrier. This place was thus named Garuda-Govinda after this most beautiful pastime. The same story is also given in Shri Laghu Bhagavatamrita.
As Raghava continued to describe the holy places, they returned to the parikrama path and walked until they reached a place called Gandheshvara-sthana. At this place Krishna applied scented oil, therefore this name was given. [gandha means scent or aroma]
Satona-grama is where Shantanu Muni performed austerity. The kunda here is full of clear water. As they left Satona, Raghava led Shrinivasa and Narottama on to various other beautiful places.
When they arrived in Bahulavana, Raghava Pandita told them that Shri Chaitanya had come here absorbed in transcendental love while on pilgrimage of the Vrindavana forests. Seeing Him, millions of cows surrounded Him and looked at Him lovingly. Then Gaura touched each one of them as He had touched them when He was in Vrindavana as Krishna. Various animals such as dear, peacocks, and cuckoos expressed their joy by flying over His head and running around Him. People were overwhelmed to see that even the trees showered flowers on Shri Mahaprabhu's head. All of them said, "He must be Shri Krishna assuming this form of a sannyasi. He has covered His beautiful dark complexion with a golden one in order to deceive people." People spoke with agitated hearts while Gaura Raya fulfilled everyone's desires.
The Pandita then showed Shrinivasa and Narottama a beautiful lotus-filled pond named Sankarshana-kunda and one lake known as Mana-sarasi. According to the Puranas, seeing and bathing in these places gives many fruits such as the darshana of Lakshmi with Krishna.
According to the Adi-varaha Purana, Bahula is the best of all forests. Whoever enters this forest attains Agniloka after death. In the Skanda Purana, Mathura-khanda, it is also stated, "Bahula, the wife of Shri Hari always lives in this holy forest. O king, this place is auspicious because Shri Vishnu and Lakshmi reside here always. In Bahulavana there is Sankarshana-kunda and Mana-sarovara. By seeing the forest of lotuses here one obtains pious results. Whoever takes a bath here in the month of Caitra [March-April] is able to have darshana of Shri Hari with Lakshmi."
The next place they visited was Mayura-grama where Krishna watched the dancing of the peacocks with His beloveds. It was an amazing sight to see thousands and thousands of dancing peacocks expand their plumage for Radha and Krishna. What wonderful happiness arose when Radha and Krishna also began dancing with the peacocks. The sakhis stood all around and clapped as they watched the wonderful scene which enchanted the world.
Raghava Pandita pointed out to Narottama and Shrinivasa the place called Dakshina-grama. Throughout this whole area Krishna enjoyed His amorous sports. In Dakshina-grama the mood of a dakshina nayika is very prominently manifest. [dakshina nayika is described in the Ujjvala-nilamani as follows: "A gopi who cannot tolerate womanly anger, who speaks suitable words to the hero and who is satisfied by His sweet words is called a dakshina, or right-wing gopi."
There is another village called Vasati where King Vrishabhanu had once lived. Maharaja Nanda stayed up to the limits of Shashthighara and Raola. Presently Raola is called Ral. Thus, in great satisfaction near the town of Vasati, Krishna and Balarama passed Their lives in joyful play with Their friends."