Bankey Bihari Temple was established by Swami Haridas (Lalita Sakhi in Dvapara Yuga), a guru of the famous singer Tansen. Once on the request of his disciples Swami Haridas ji sang the following verse in Nidhivan in Vrindavan “Mai ri sahaj jori pragat bhai ju rang ki gaur syam ghan damini jaisen. Pratham hun ahuti ab hun aagen hun rahihai na tarihai taisain.. Ang ang ki ujraii sugharaii chaturaii sunderta aisain.. Shri Haridas ke swami syama kunjbihari sam vais vaisain..” On singing the verse, the Celestial couple Shyama-Shyam (Radha Krishna) appeared in front of him and his devotees. On the request of Shri Swami ji the couple merged into one and the idol of Banke bihari appeared there (the same idol seen in the temple). The idol was established in Nidhivan.
The image of Bihariji installed in Shri Bankey Bihari Mandir, is the one granted to Swami Haridas by the celestial couple Shyama-Shyam themselves. Submitting to the desire of devotees, The Lord appeared in person with his divine consort and left back a black charming image before disappearing.
Swami Haridas was born to Shri Ashudhir and his wife Srimati Gangadevi on the day of Radha Ashtami i.e. eighth day of second (bright) fortnight of Bhadrapad month of the year 1535 Vikrami(1478 A.D.). He was born in a small village, now known as Haridaspur, near Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. The lineage of the family can be traced back to Shri Gargacharya. Shri Gargachrya was the Kulaguru (family guru) of Yadavas and visited Brij secretly for conducting the Namakarana Samskara (naming ceremony) of young Krishna and Balarama on request of Sri Vasudeva. A branch of the family migrated to Multan (now in Pakistan), but some of them returned after a long time. Sri Ashudhir was one such migrant who after returning from Multan settled at the outskirts of Brij, near Aligarh.
Swami Haridas was the reincarnation of Lalita ‘sakhi’ (female friend), of the inner consortium of Lord Krishna. This easily explains the fact that even in his childhood, he was more into meditation and scriptures, while other children of his age were busy playing. He was married at the suitable age according to the time to Harimati. Even after his marriage, young Haridas stayed away from worldly pleasures and concentrated on meditation. Harimatiji was such a saintly soul herself that on realizing the inclination of her husband, she prayed intensely and was bodily transported to the heavenly abode of Lord by entering the flame of a small lamp in the presence of Haridas. No physical remains were left behind.
Soon after that Haridas left his village for Vrindavan, which was a dense forest at that time and chose a secluded spot, which is now known as Nidhivan, to practice his music and to enjoy eternal bliss of meditation. He constantly and continuously meditated on Nitya Ras and Nitya Bihar of Lord at Nitya Vrindavan. His way of Sadhna was to compose and sing songs in the praise of Lord. While on earth, living in a mortal state, he facilitated his regular unobstructed entry in the Nitya Bihar and always enjoyed the pleasure of closeness of Lord. He chose a secluded and densely forested area, Kunj, in Nidhivan as his gateway to the nirvana and was mostly sitting there, singing, meditating and surfing in the ocean of eternal bliss.
His disciples were curious about this place and one day with permission of Swamiji, they all entered the kunj. But instead of seeing anything they were almost blinded by bright, intense light, which seemed to fill the whole place. On knowing of their plight Swamiji himself went there, and then after his requests, the lord appeared in person with his divine consort, pleasantly smiling and in a playful mood and casting a spell of charm on every living being present there. Those who witnessed this, were so spell bounded by the beauty of the Lord and his consort, that they couldn’t even blink their eyes; it seemed that all of them had turned into stone statues.
The legend as handed down to the generations of Goswamis, says that the beauty of the divine couple was such that no one wanted to lose the sight and proximity of divinity, but then what kind of divinity is it, which cannot make a mere mortal swoon and charmed enough to forget and give up the world and its luxuries? The beauty of the divine couple was so much that lesser mortals, like you and me, won’t be able to bear such a heavenly beauty. Sensing this Swami Haridasji requested both of them to take a single form, as the world won’t be able to bear their image. He requested them to take a single form like Ghan (cloud) and Damini (lightning), thus giving a perfect metaphor to the combined beauty of dark Lord and his fair consort, Radhaji.
Also he wanted his beloved lord to be in front of his eyes always. Granting him his both wishes, the couple turned itself into one single black charming idol, the same one that you see in the temple today. The charm and beauty of Shri Bankey Bihariji is the only reason why the ‘darshan’ in the temple is never continuous but is broken by thel curtain drawn on him regularly. It is also said that if one stares long enough into the eyes of Shri Bankey Bihariji, the person would lose his self-consciousness.
Thus came into existence the physical form of Lord Bankey Bihari, popularly known as Bihariji. The responsibility of Sewa of Bihariji was handed over to Goswami Jagannath by Swamiji himself. Goswami Jagannath was one of the principal disciple and younger brother of Swamiji. By tradition, the Sewa is performed by descendents of Jagannath Goswami till day.
Initially, the deity was installed in a temple close to the first appearance in Nidhivan. A new temple befitting the glory of Bihariji was constructed in 1862 AD. Goswamis themselves mobilized resources for the construction. The temple is an architectural beauty in itself and follows the contemporary Rajasthani style.
The sewa of the Bihariji is unique in its own way. It is performed in three parts every day i.e. Shringar, Rajbhog and Shayan. While shringar (which includes bath, dressing and adornment with jewellery like crown and necklaces) and Rajbhog(feast) is offered in the forenoon, Shayan Sewa (shayan means sleep) is offered in the evening. The temple doesn’t have a tradition of Mangala (early morning) sewa. Swami Haridas did not favour Mangla Sewa as he wanted his child like Lord to take complete rest and did not want to disturb him out of deep slumber so early in the morning.
So, the temple today stands with its full glory, inside which the Lord himself resides. It is thronged by thousands of visitors everyday. Many of saints visits the temple. Sadguru Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi(AMMA) from Kerala visited the temple on 2016. Amma’s entire tour group(more than 3000 people) joined Amma for the visit to the always-crowded temple. The already sanctified space reverberated and pulsed with devotion as Amma entered the temple and gazed at the murti of Sri Krishna. Before leaving, Amma participated in a ceremonial worship of the Lord. The temple’s priest welcomed Amma as an honored guest and presented her with ceremonial shawls, garlands and the same type of flute that was played by Sri Krishna.