Once while in deep meditation on Mount Kailash, Lord Siva heard the sweet vibration of Krsna playing His divine flute. Mesmerized, He entered samadhi. He followed that transcendental sound until He came to Vrindavan, where Lord Gopinath was getting ready to start the Maha raas with His gopis.
Desiring intensely to join the maha-rasa, when He came to the entrance of the rasa-sthali, He was stopped by Yogamaya, who told him, "No males except Krsna are allowed entry. First you must have gopi-rupa, the form of a Vraja milkmaid, a gopi, only then can you enter."
Lord Bholanath asked "How can I get gopi-rupa?" Yogamaya replied, "Seek the shelter of Vrinda Devi. She will grant you the form of a gopi."
Vrinda devi asked Lord Siva to take a dip in the waters of Manasarovara. After bathing there, Lord Siva emerged from the lake with the form of a beautiful gopi.
Vrinda devi then took Lord Siva in her gopi form to one corner of the rasa sthali. Lord Siva stood there and prayed to Sri Sri Radha Krsna for getting prema-bhakti.
Then the rasa started. Lord Krsna danced with all the gopis. He also danced very elegantly with Lord Siva disguised as a gopi.
Then after some time, when they rested, the Lord said ‘I’m not getting the usual pleasure from our rasa. Something is not right. I think there is another man in our midst." Then He asked Lalita devi to check all the gopis and make sure no man was lurking amongst them dressed as one of them.
Lalita devi went around and lifted the veils of all the hundreds of gopis but couldn’t find any man disguised as a woman. She came and reported to Krishna, "I have not found any man, but there is one gopi with three eyes." she said puzzled.
Lord Krsna asked her to bring her to Him. When the Lord saw the Siva gopi, He laughed heartily and addressed him, "O Gopisvara, I am very pleased to see you in the form of a gopi. But you know that this rasa is not for grhastas (householders). Therefore, since you have already participated and fulfilled your desire, now I offer you the post of rasa dwara pala (gatekeeper of the rasa). I also give you the blessing that henceforth, all the gopis will offer respect to you and seek your blessing to get gopi bhava."
From that time, Gopisvara Mahadeva has been worshipped in Vrindavan in the form of a Siva linga in the mornings. In the evenings, the siva-linga is decorated beautifully as a gopi.
Srila Sanatana Gosvami, who resided in Vrndavana near the old Sri Madana-Mohana temple, would go daily to see Sri Gopisvara Mahadeva at his temple.
Vajranabha, the great grandson of Krsna, installed the Siva-linga in this important temple about 4,900 years ago. There is a deity of Lord Siva, as a gopi, in this temple.
Gopisvara means Lord Siva as the controller (isvara) of the gopis. One time Lord Siva tried to enter into the rasa dance. Because he is a male he was told he could not enter. He then bathed in Mana Sarovara and took the form of a female. Mana Sarovara is across the Yamuna, about 3km from Vrindavan. When he returned to the rasa dance, Krishna told him to guard the entrance of the rasa dance and that no one would be allowed to enter the rasa-mandala (place of the rasa dance) without his permission. This pastime is described in the Garga Samhita.
Every morning, from 4:00 am to noon, thousands of people pour Yamuna water over the linga. It is said that the big pipal tree here is a kalpa-vriksya tree and will fulfill all desires. It is traditional to go around the tree and embrace it. The Maharaja of Gwalior built the present temple here
The biggest festival of the year here is Siva Ratri, which falls during Phalguna (Feb-March). During Jhulana Purnima there are realistic silver images of Gopisvara and the Yogisvara aspects of Lord Siva. In front of this temple is another temple dedicated to Parvati or Annapurna, the consort of Lord Siva and the mother of Ganesh.
“The gopis worshiped Lord Siva in Vrindavan, and the lord is still staying there as Gopisvara. The gopis, however, prayed that Lord Siva bless them by giving them Lord Krsna as their husband. There is no harm in worshipping demigods, provided one’s aim is to return home, back to Godhead.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.38 purport)
“A Vaishnava’s visit to the temple of Lord Siva is different from a non devotee’s visit. A Vaishnava sees Lord Siva as being simultaneously one with and different from the Supreme Lord, like yogurt and milk. The Absolute Truth, God, is everything, but this does not mean that everything is God. For this reason Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers visited temples of all the demigods, but they did not see them in the way an impersonalist sees them. Everyone should follow in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and visit all temples.” (Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 9.360 purport). It is said, vaishnavanam yatha shambhu, or that “Lord Siva is the highest Vaishnava.”
This temple is in the Vamsivata area and most rickshaw drivers know how to get to it. Although it is not too large, it is a famous temple. From the outside it is obvious that it is a temple. If you are going to visit various tirthas in this area, this temple is a good place to use as a landmark.
Temple Timings: Summer Darshan is from 5:00 am to 12 noon and 4:00 to 9:00pm. In the winter: 5:30 am to 12 noon and 4:00 to 9:00 pm.