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The temple of Govindadeva, which crowns the central hill of the pilgrimage town Vṛndāvana has dominated the town’s skyline for centuries. Built by Mānasiṃha, a prominent Kachavāhā king and general of emperor Akbar’s army, the temple has received much scholarly attention in recent years, mostly examining the political context of the temple and its relation to Kachavāhā rule and identity. As I demonstrate in this paper, however, the temple was already prominent before the Kachavāhā patronage. I argue that in order to understand the significance of the temple, we need to look not just to the political context of this red sandstone building, but also at the way the temple had been viewed in the religious imagination of its founder, priests, and devotees. I look at the temple from three different angles. In the first section, I look at the ways Rūpa Gosvāmī, the temple’s founder, connects this new temple to the distant past, by claiming this new centre of worship to be the re-establishing of an older temple known from Purāṇic texts. I then examine, in the second section, how the temple was connected to the mythic present – to the abiding līlā of Kṛṣṇa – by examining what Gauḍīya authors thought about Govindadeva’s location. The third and final section examines Govindadeva’s temple’s relation to the other (Gauḍīya) temples of Vṛndāvana, and demonstrates that legal battles over the temple and the increased involvement of Kachavāhā kings in the temple’s management in the seventeenth century represents but one facet of a protracted conflict over the “imagined” identity of Govindadeva and his temple.

In: The Building of Vṛndāvana
Architecture, Theology, and Practice in an Early Modern Pilgrimage Town
The small town of Vṛndāvana is today one of the most vibrant places of pilgrimage in northern India. Throngs of pilgrims travel there each year to honour the sacred land of Kṛṣṇa’s youth and to visit many of its temples.
The Building of Vṛndāvana explores the complex history of this town’s early modern origins. Bringing together scholars from various disciplines to examine history, architecture, art, ritual, theology, and literature in this pivotal period, the book examines how these various disciplines were used to create, develop, and map Vṛndāvana as the most prominent place of pilgrimage for devotees of Kṛṣṇa.
Contributors are: Guy L. Beck, Måns Broo, David Buchta, John Stratton Hawley, Barbara A. Holdrege, Rembert Lutjeharms, Cynthia D. Packert, and Heidi Pauwels.
In: The Building of Vṛndāvana