Thanks to Bodhinath Shandilya for this exquisite monograph which describes the Rama-Krishna dharma continuum celebrating setubandhanakunda in Vrajbhumi as pilgrimage. This clearly demonstrates the meaning of the word, ‘setu’ which means ‘man-made bund, man-made bandha’. Hence, the phrase: setubandha rames’waram.
Dharma Mandala Sri Vrindavana-Dhama is one of the most significant pilgrim center for Hindus. It consists of twelve forests on the banks of the holy river Yamuna. Of these, there are five forests on the eastern bank of the Yamuna: Bhadravana, Bilvavana, Lauhavana, Bhandiravana and Mahavana, while the other seven are on the western bank: Madhuvana, Talavana, Kumudavana, Bahulavana, Kamyavana, Khadiravana and Vrndavana.
Amongst these, Kamyavan forest is considered singularly important by the devotees, related with the famous pastimes of Lord Sri Krishna in His childhood.
Kamyavana forest is spread over a periphery of roughly 22km, surrounding the town of Kaman on the Rajasthan – Uttar Pradesh border.
Kama means desires. In Purana-s it is described that it was here that Sri Krishna fulfilled the desires of the demigods and devotees by performing various Lila-s of yore. Sri Varaha Purana states, “In this Kamyavana, Krishna performed enchanting pastimes. Here you will be able to take darshana of many ponds and other transcendental spots.” Sri Skanda Purana, Mathura-khanda, describes this teertha in detail, saying: “O king, next is Kamyavana, where Lord Hari stayed in His childhood. Simply by bathing here, any person will attain all his desires. Krisna performed many wonderful pastimes here. Just see all the many kundas. O Srinivasa, see Vishnu-simhasana and Sri Charana-kunda where Krishna washed His feet. How can I describe the glories of these places when even Lord Brahma cannot understand their unlimited glories. See the most powerful Siva vigraha known as Kamesvara and the most beautiful sitting place of Garuda. This is Dharma-kunda where Narayana in the form of Dharma performs indescribably pastimes. Just see here this platform known as Visoka. And see here is Panca-pandava-kunda. Everyone calls this place Mani-karnika, as Visvanatha (Lord Siva) has invested this place with his many various potencies. Look at Vimala-kunda. By taking bath here all one’s sins are destroyed. One who leaves his body here goes to Visnuloka.”
Here, in this holy forest of Kamyavana, is this beautiful place known as Setubandha Kunda. The tradition is that once in His childhood, upon being requested by His darling Gopa-Gopikas, Krishna had reenacted the wondrous deed of Setu Bandhan of his previous incarnation: Sri-Rama-avatara.
The tradition holds that once in His boyhood, Krishna with a party of his gopa-gopi friends wandered about this place. The area was filled with water up to a village on the hill, where they wanted to go. Being tired, not wanting to walk the long way around the water, the gopis said to Krishna that it is said that he was none other than Rama himself. Also well known was the saga of Lord Rama having built a stone bridge across the ocean to Lanka. So if that was true, gopi-s teased, and he was actually Rama Himself, then he should be able to call the monkeys to build a bridge across that water.
To fulill this desire of Gopi-s too, like all others, Krishna performed yet another leela. He played on His flute, it is said, and some monkeys gathered around Him. Krishna requested the monkeys to build a bridge across the water, so the party could walk across it. The monkeys quickly built a bridge across the water.
There indeed is a row of stones across a beautiful lake. This place is known as Setu-Bandhana-Kunda. Also at this place, just like at Rameshwaram, is worshipped a sacred Shiva Linga in the Sankara Mahadeva temple. There also is a Ashokavana nearby, representing the Ashoka Vatika of Lanka. There is also a mound here that represents the Trikuta parvat of Lanka.
In the village are some other important temples too.
Aurangzeb was undertaking the campaign of ransacking the Mathura-Vrindavan area to destroy the important temples of the region to crush the spirit of the Hindus. It was then that some Rajput nobilities were trying to help smuggle away the important vigraha of the original deities of Vrindavana to Rajputana, to avoid destruction. Three of these: Radha-Madana-Mohana, Radha-Govinda and Radha-Gopinatha were being taken from Vrindavana to Jaipur, and on the way they were hidden in Kamyavana for a few days. Since these Deities stayed here, three temples have been established dedicated to Radha-Govinda, Radha-Madana-Mohana and Radha-Gopinatha.
How To Get There?
The town of Kaman in Rajasthan, is 55 km (33 miles) from Vrindavan. Kamyavana is on the western edge of Braja, 10km southwest of Nandagram and 23km from Dig. The best way to reach there is by taxi, which takes about two hours from Vrindavana. The road is very bumpy in the last 10km before the town of Kaman.
The Setu-Bandhana-Kunda can be reached by taking the path that leads away from Gaya Kunda. This path is often flooded by water and it is not always possible to get here by this path. This place can also be reached by taking the parikrama path that goes around Kamyavana.