Banke Bihari mandir is the most visited and devoted Shrine in Vrindavan. ’Banke’ means bent and ‘Bihari’ means enjoyer and that’s why Krishna who is bent in three places is called as Banke Bihari.
Banke Bihari can also be defined the other way, where Banke (Ban-ke) means of the forest and Bihari or Vihari means one who dwells thus, one who dwells around the forest is Banke Bihari.
The original deity of Banke Bihari was actually found and worshipped at Nidhivan by Swami Haridas who was the guru of famous singer Tansen (Hindu singer in the Mughal emperor Akbar’s reign). The legend behind the deity is that, years ago there was a Hindu priest who was having the black marble deity of Krishna. Being scared, with the intention of its destruction by Muslim rulers he buried it at a certain place in Nidhivan. Few days later, swami Haridas who was the great devotee of lord Krishna was passing the same way where the idol was buried. Being tired of the long journey, he decided to rest at that place and soon he fell asleep. In his dream lord Krishna told him about his idol which was buried near the place he was sleeping. After waking up he started digging up the nearby place and got the said idol. Initially this Banke Bihari idol was installed in the small temple close to its appearance place in Nidhivan. Later on a large temple matching the glory of Bihariji was constructed by Goswamis in 1862 AD. The temple in itself is a magnificent piece of architectural beauty built in modern Rajasthani style.
There is a belief about the idol that the sparkling eyes of Banke Bihari will hypnotize and make the person unconscious if stared at for a long stretch of time, so the curtains of the deity are not left open as in other temples and are shut and open again and again . The Mangla (early morning) aarti is also not performed at this temple as it’s believed improper to wake up child like God and disturb him early morning by the bells of aarti. Many celebrations are held in the temple premises every year, alluring thousands of pilgrims from different parts of country and world, the major among those is the swing festival in Shravan (July-August) month and the Janmashtami festival celebrating the birth of divine god Sri Krishna. During the swing festival the idol is seated in gold and silver swings also called as hindola. Janmashtami is the only festival when the Mangla (early morning) aarti is performed in the temple. On the third day of full moon part of Vaishaka (April-May) month or Akshaya Tritiya only the pilgrims can have the view of the lotus feet (charankamal) of Banke Bihari. The deity can be viewed holding the flute and adorned with a special mukut (crown) on the autumn full moon day. A complete image of Banke Bihari can be seen on the last five days of Phalguna month during holi festivities.