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Some of the most popular definitons of the Word Braj:


Introduction


Braj, though never a clearly defined political region in India but is very well demarcated region culturally, is considered to be the land of Krishna and is derived from the Sanskrit word Vraja. If Bhagavat Gita can be summarized in one word as Nishkaam Karmayoga, Braj can be summarized in one word as: Simplification of Divine.

1. vraja a fold , stall , cow-pen , cattle-shed , enclosure or station of herdsmen ; of the district around Agra and Mathura (the abode of Nand, of Krishna's foster-father, and scene of Krishna's juvenile adventures ; commonly called Braj ; a herd , flock , swarm , troop , host , multitude "a fight with many" giri-vraja, ; a cloud : of a son of Havir-dhalna Hariv. Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon:

1.a multitude; 2.a station of cowherds; 3.a cow-pen; 4.an abode; 5.a road; 6.a cloud; 7. "vraja" {a-stem} 1.wandering: Ranga Bhoomi, Natya shala -Apte Sanskrit Dictionary


Braj or Braj Bhasha, with their native tongue in everyday colloquial usage is widespread over a vast area of Punjab to Maharashtra and Rajasthan to Bihar. Lord Krishna is a universal deity very much associated with Braj, it becomes difficult to delineate the physical boundaries of Braj. Though the delineation is done to an extent it is imperative to delve into the history and origin of the word Braj. The present Mathura and its nearby regions, also popularly known as Braj, in the past janapada days was known as 'Shursen'. Aurangzeb has noted that in the 6th century BCE Mathura was the capital of the Shursen republic and comprised an area of 5000 li [Chinese distance measure; approximately 0.5 kilometers per li]. We can safely deduce that the border of Mathura in the south-east was touching the western border of Jejak Bhukthi (jijhauthi) and the South-west was conjunct by the northern part of Malav kingdom. In the present times Braj is strongly associated with the areas located 50 km north of Agra, and south of Delhi.
The word Braj itself doesn't seem to be of very distant origin, though the area of the Shursen republic has been constantly evolving. Mathura itself down the line got strongly affiliated with ‘Janapada’. During the ancient period, this was an important economic hub, located at the junction of some relatively important caravan routes. Braj right through Vedic literature is very intimately connected with herds, cows, Grazing fields so much so that even Ramayan and Mahabharat also passes references to Braj as associated with cows, cowherds, cattle, etc. Various puranas also refers to this association.
Braj as bhasha (Brajbhasha language) and Mathura (Shursen janpada) as a republic evolves much later and the impact when it happened was felt even by the common man when the bhakthi movement more so krishna-bhakthi reached a crescendo. It appears during the evolution of Mathura as a janapada that various vana's, upavana's which served as huge grazing grounds that braj took a definitive form. Braj pradesh which has made a huge contribution to Indian in particular Hindi literature that words alone cannot describe fully the depth of impact. The new language known as Braj Bhasha with its poetic and melodic modulations has been an influential factor on the literature and art of the region. Mathura republic after the 6th century onwards seems to be spread across the current Mathura-Agra to Bharatpur-Dholpur district and to central India. Unfortunately from the ancient times to Xuanzang in 634 BC much appears to be lost in as much as recorded evidence is concerned. 7th century onwards the area of Mathura (Shursen janapada) appears to have shrunk mainly due to emergence of the Kannauj kingdom.


The ancient literature refers to Shursen or Mathura republic as Kurudesh with its capital as Indraprastha or Hastinapur the present day Delhi with the kingdom of panchal's in the east which was eventually carved out as North panchal and South panchal. North Panchal had as its capital the Ahichatra (present day Ramnagar in Bareilly district and South Panchal had as its capital Kampilya (present day Kapil of Farukhabad district). Shursen on its west shared boundaries with the Kingdom of Matsya (present day Alwar, west of Jaipur in Rajasthan) had as its capital Virat Nagar (present day Jaipur).
Dictionaries have more or less defined the word Braj into: - Where cattle grazed pathway or a kund cowshed. Primarily Braj or Vraj is very strongly associated with cows, cowsheds and Sanskrit Vraj seems to be the origin of the word Braj. Similar is the case with the Puranic texts afflicted by cold the cows to attain heat enters these sheds even Yajurved also asscoiates Braj with grazing of cows and cowshed. Shukla Yajurveda goes even further. Atharvaveda, one of the four Vedas composed by Atharvanas and Angiras also refers to

vraje vasan kim akaron
madhupuryam cha keshavah
bhrataram cavadhit kamsam
mathur addhatad-arhanam

Residing in Vraja and the city of Mathura, what did He do and why did He, the killer of Keshi, kill Kansa the brother of His mother, which is something against the scriptures!? –Shrimad Bhagavat 10-1-10

Gautam Buddha reportedly visited a place called veranja near Mathura on an invitation from scholars of the place. This apparently has over the period has become Veraj or Vraja.

Yamuna is also known as Virija hence the city on the banks of Yamuna, Mathura might have got the name Virija and subsequently Vraja.

Krishna's Great Grandson Vajranabh who was anointed as king of Mathura by Arjuna the then king of Indraprastha hence the name Vajraparadesh and Vraja pradesh. Skanda Purana makes vast mention of this. Cow as a recurring motif associated with Mathura and Braj is well documented fact, be it the Vedic literature, Puranas, or mythology. Its association with word veraj, virija or vraja doesn't sound apt, even bhagavat, poets like Surdas have always referred to as Braj. Mathura and its surroundings have a strong link with Beautiful Vana's (ban's), cows, cowsheds, cowherds and resting places. Lord Krishna was born here but due to political machinations he was sent across Yamuna secretly to Gokul the place of Gopa and Gopi's. He spent his entire childhood and adolescence under the care of Gopa king Nand and his Yashoda and amidst the gopa's, gopi's and cows. Vraj, Braj has always been know as the place of cows, where cows were housed in sheds and where they were herded for grazing right from the times of Ved, Purana's and mythology. Braj to that extent is almost a synonym with Cattle Field, cowshed, the land of Gopa's and Cows.

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