In Varah Purana and Naradiya Purana, 12 forests or vanas have been mentioned near Mathura- Madhuvan, Talvan, Kumudavan, Bahulavan, Bhadravan, Khadirvan, Mahavan, Lojanghvan, Bilva, Bhandeervan, and Vrindavan;
24 upvans or gardens also find mention in Vedic literature of later ages.
Madhuvan was the place where Lord Krishna had once slain a daitya called Madhu and hence, was called Madhusudan. This is also the place where bal yogi Dhruv did tapasya and attained the status of ‘star’. Govinda used to herd cows and perform raaslilas with the gopis here. The forest also has a Madhukund, which is said to be one of the favourite places of Madhav.
Taalvan was always quite beautiful. Aroma of its fruits and fragrance and beauty of its flowers were divine. Hence, Raja Kansa had declared it as his private property. It was guarded by a Rakshasha called Dhenakasura. It was only when Krishna and Baldeo killed Dhenakasura, Taalvana became accessible to the common people of Braj.
Kumudavan, now known as Kudurvan, was another gorgeous forest with a stunning lake called Vihar Kund, where Shri Krishna used to do jal vihar with Baldeo, His friends, and sometimes with Radha rani and Her friends.
Kaamyavan had dazzling ponds, wells, vines, and trees full of lovely flowers and delicious fruits. It is said that the pure divine love of Shri Yugal Sarkar (Radha and Krishna as one deity) and Gopis found its expression here. It is still considered one of the best forests of the Brij Mandal region.
Bahulavan is one of the most beautiful forests near Mathura which features Radha Kund and Shyam Kund. It is said that once Radha hid herself near a garden near Radha Kund and refused to meet Kunjbihari, who found His way to Her with the help of Radha’s friends. Bahulavan includes Vihar van, where Radhika Rani taught Krishna how to dance.
Bhadravan is named after Krishna’s elder brother – Balbhadra. There is a Bhadra Sarovar here, which is a popular pilgrimage place for the devotees of Krishna. This forest is said to be the place where Krishna used to herd cows with His brother Balbhadra.
Khadirvan, also known as Khayra, was a preferred place for Krishna, his brother Baldeo and his cowherd friends, when it was time for dates to ripen. It was the place where Bakasura (a Rakshasha who took the form of a giant bird) tried to eat Krishna and his friends ran away shouting, “Khayo re! Khayo re!&'?. But Krishna tore the Rakshasha apart and killed him.
Mahavan or Brihadvan was once the biggest forest in the 84 forests of the Brij region. Also known as Old Gokul, this lush green area was the place where Krishna slew Putana, Trinavarta and Shakatasur. This was the place where Krishna showed His mother Yashoda a glimpse of the Universe in his mouth. It also had several lush green pastures for cows and astounding scenery.
Lohjanghvan was the forest where Krishna had slain Lohjanghasura (Rakshasha that had thighs of iron) who used to kill people by squeezing them between his thighs. It was also the place where Krishna used to take Gopis on a boat ride in Yamuna and used to play pranks with them.
Bilva van is the forest where Goddess Lakshmi is still meditating to get a chance to take part in the Raas Lila, in which only Krishna, Radha, and Gopis can participate. It has been named after ‘Bel’ fruits that grew here in abundance.
Bhandeervan was the forest which had a huge banyan tree. The tree was so huge that it housed peacocks, koels, doves and several other birds and animals. River Yamuna used to gurgle nearby. Krishna and his cowherd friends used to come and go across the river – just by jumping on the branches of this tree. It is said that under this tree, Krishna and Radhika were married to each other in a gandharva vivaha conducted by Brahma Himself.
Vrindavan, especially, finds mention in Harivansh Purana, Srimad Bhagavat, and Vishnu Purana. Its scenery is picture-worthy. Surrounded by River Yamuna from three sides, it still has small concentrated forests blossoming with beautiful flowers.
Someone has rightly said:
Vrindaavan so van nahin, Nandgaon so gaon;
Vanshivat so vat nahin, Krishna naam so naam.
Meaning: Vrindavan is the best of all forests, Nandgaon is the best village. Vanshivat is the best banyan tree in the world, and Krishna is the best name.
The forests and gardens of Mathura form the setting of several scenes from the childhood of Madan Mohan. Unfortunately, these forests and gardens have gradually been lost to the vagaries of time.
Shri Group, the best known real estate developer of Mathura, has committed itself to revitalize the green cover of the region and revive the natural beauty of the place, which has been so intrinsic to the pious and divine birthplace of Kanha.
From 22nd July to 27th July, 2013, it is organizing its annual corporate event – Sankalp Diwas – to plant trees at all its project estates spread across Mathura, Vrindava, Govardhan and even the upcoming Noida in the National Capital Region (NCR)