Braj Bhoomi - the Holy Land of Braj
Braj or Braj Bhoomi or Vraj in Northern India is considered sacred because it is here that Shri Krishna and Shri Radha descended and performed Their pastimes or leelas 5,000 years ago.
Braj covers an area of 1453 square miles (2325 square km) surrounding several important pilgrimage cities, such as Vrindavana, Barsana and Mathura, home to hundreds of temples. In addition there are hundreds of leela sthali in Braj, sites such as the Yamuna River, ponds, groves, forests, hills and other locations where leelas or divine pastimes related to Radha Krishna are commemorated.
More specifically, the district of Braj extends from Agra in the southeast to Banchari in the north. It is about 150 km (84 miles) from end to end. Using Mathura as its nucleus, from this point it extends 75 km (42 miles) in each direction.
Braj was a political state in the era of the Mahabharata war (over 5,000 years ago). Its existence was described in ancient Hindu scriptural books such as the Bhagwatam, which mentions the kingdom of King Kans extending through Braj (Vraj in Sanskrit). The word Braj is also used to describe the abode of Lord Krishna, and these references can be found in scriptural books such as the Skanda Purana, Brahma Samhita, Rig Veda, and in the writings of Rasik Saints such as Brihad Bhagwatamrita by Sanatana Goswami, and Chaitanya Charitamrita by Kaviraj Goswami.
According to the Padma Purana, there were twelve principal forests or 'van' situated in this region. They are (1) Mahavan, (2), Kamyavan, (3) Madhuvan, (4) Talavan, (5) Kumudavan, (6) Bhandiravan, (7) Vrindaban, (8) Khadiravan, (9) Lohavan, (10) Bhadravan, (11) Bahulavan, (12) Baelvan. Seven of these forests lie on the western side of the Yamuna River - Madhuvan, Talavan, Kumudavan, Bahulavan, Kamyavan, Khadiravan, and Vrindavan. The remaining five are situated on the east side of the Yamuna river: Bhadravan, Bhandirvan, Baelvan, Lohavan and Mahavan.
Braj Bhasha - Dialect of Braj
Braj Bhasha, a dialect of Hindi, is a living language spoken by thousands of residents (called Brajwasis) in the region of Braj. It has great cultural and religious significance. Much of Hindi poetry, especially that of bhakti or devotional poetry composed by Rasik Saints is written in Braj Basha.