All references to Braj – the land of Lord Krishna – in Hindu Epics and mythology are vivid descriptions of lush forests, full of tress laden with fruits and flowers, and hovering bees, birds and bountiful nature. There are chirping birds and clear water lakes with waters that could relieve one of all fatigues. Sweet flavoured breeze blew always, refreshing the mind and body.
Braj comprises of over forty eight sacred groves mentioned in the mythology and folklore built around Lord Krishna's life and times. Each garden-grove has a Krishna related narrative attached to it. The narrative is a mythical rationale for the significance of the location and makes the abstract structure more concrete and alive and the experience more ethereal.
In fact the names of a large number of villages in Braj, for example, Belvana, Mahavana, Vrindavana, etc, carry the suffix 'vana', which in local language means forest. This indicates that in the past they must have been, or were surrounded with dense forest cover.
Vrindavan, today one of the 'popular' towns of Braj, was in those times, the forest overseen by the devi Vrinda, (which is how it gets the name). Vrinda is the Goddess or personification of nature in Braj, who extends the bounty of her beauty to accommodate and delight her Creator, Krishna. In addition to providing the most ideal landscapes and natural conditions at all times, she was the harbourer of his nightly trysts with the gopis. At select places on the banks of the Yamuna, Krishna would dance with the gopis in the privacy of the groves of Vrinda-devi, Vrindavan.
Historical accounts depict that the township of Vrindavan grew around the temples built by the first six saints who arrived here. The lanes were purposefully made narrow to keep the distances between dwellings at a minimum, as all around were forests where until only fifty years ago tigers and other wild animals roamed.
In Braj, groves are significant sites of religious and devotional practice. The city of Mathura too was designated a 'grove'. At one time the focus of pilgrimage shifted from temples as sites of ritual practice, to the natural landscape.