In the Period of Vedas : Vras was Yagna Bhoomi and TapoBhoomi.
Vedic period was a time when people performed Yagnas and Tapas. People who have settled in this part performed many yagnas as per Vedic scriptures. Many Rishies also performed violent penanaces on the banks of Sri Yamunaji. Maharishi Parasara the father of Sri Veda Vyasa, belonged to Vraj area. In those days a stream of Sri Yamunaji used to flow through the base (Taleti) of Sri Girirajaji. This used to go and mix in the main streams of Yamunaji near Agra. A place between two riverfronts is called an island. Now what are known as Chandra Sarovar and Parasali were recognized as Sri Yamuna Dvipa (Island). It was the TapoBhoomi of Maharishi Parasera. He had his ashram there. Here his son Veda Vyasa was born. Since he was born in a "Dvipa" he was called "Dvaipayana". Since he was the son of Parasara he was also called "Parasarya". This place was then called "Parasoli" in remembrance of Vyasa. He was born on the full moon day of the month Ashads - a Guru purnima day. Even today a great mela is conducted in the village. In a small village called Maharnadpur near Parasoli, there stands a Sarswati Mandir in memory of Vyasji.
Gangacharya and Maharishi Shandilya also lived in Vraj. It was their Tapobhoomi.
In those days the main stream of Sri Yamunaji passed through Mathura and spread upto Madhuvan. The child prince Dhruva had performed violent penance on the banks of Sri Yamunaji, near Madhuvan. He had pleased the divine being by his penance and obtained the kingdom of Dhruva lok. It is said that Sri Yamunaji has fulfilled the desires of Dhruva and Parasara.
Vraj Bhakti Bhoomi in the age of Puranas :
After the manifestation of Sri Krishna this land was freed from the evil influence of evil-minded people called "Asuras". Vraj once again turned into "Dhrarma Bhoomi". The people of Vraj have chosen "Prem Lakshana Bhakti" - a kind of devotion in which attachment (Prem) towards Krishna is a special characteristic). Three divisions of this "Prema Lakshana Bhakti" have developed here : 1. Sentiment of deep attachment in the elderly people like Nandaraiji and Sri Yasodamai - this is known as "Vastalya Bhava". 2. A sentiment of sweet relationship developed in Gopikas the maidens of Vraj - this is known as "Madhurya Bhava". 3. A sentiment of companionship - called "Sakhya Bhava" has come into existence in the Gopa boys. (The citizens of Vraj are called Gopas as their chief profession was cattle feeding).
Vraj is even now the centre of the Bhakti called "Prema Lakshana Bhakti"
This episode is taken from "Padma Purana". According to it : the queen of Bhakti has turned prematurely old as she entered Gujarat. So she took her two sons Jnana and Vairagya and came to the banks of Sri Yamunaji near Brindavan. Of the sorrowing old mother and her two sons (who too turned old before age), Bhakti turned young but her two sons remained old; because Vraj is the land of Bhakti. It never remained a land of penances (Tapobhoomi).
Jain and Buddha Dharma in Vraj :
Mathura has become a great centre for Jain Dharma, which has been come into existance in the first century after the advent of Christ. Of the 84 tirthas - i.e., Holy places - Mathura was counted one of the holiest places. The reading of the Agama Sastras (Philosophical works) of Jainism - (a kind of resurrection) - took place in Mathura.
After Jainism, Buddha Dharma started to spread in this area. Buddha had himself visited Mathura. The king of Mathura - Avanti Putra - had accepted Buddha dharma. The buddha sadhus - monks of buddha order - used to come and stay in the viharas of Mathura - places constricted for the comforts of wandering monks are called "Viharas" - Archeological department had taken out many statues of Buddha period from this place. While digging in the area.
Siva and Sakta Dharma in Vraj :
With the advent of Adi Shankaracharya Buddha Dharma has come to a decline. Which this decline came the propaganda for Siva and Sakta Dharmas. Many statues of Siva were dug out from this place. Even today there are number of Siva temples and the worship of Siva is carried out widely.
From the times of Sri Krishna worshipping of idols has increased. We find many temples of Devi in and around Mathura.
Tradition of Vaishnavism in Vraj :
The transition started from 14th century A.D. The acharyas of Vaishneva Tradition (Sampradaya) like Sri Nimbarka Acharya, Sri Vallabhacharya and Sri Krishna Chaitanya have left them impressions here. All of them have endorsed "Shelter of Dharma" i.e., "Dharmasraya" to Vraj. so Vraj has turned into a centre of Vaishnav Dharma and Culture.
There is a great emacipation in Sri Vaishnava traditions in Vraj. 1. Vallabha. 2. Nimbarja. 3. Gandiya. 4. Radha Vallabhi. 5. Haridasi. 6. Suka.
We also can see a prepomderent influence of Ramanandi tradition in the lives of people of Vraj. Many people take to the "Upasana" - a kind of worship - of Rama. They consider Sri Krishna as a companion of theirs.
Re-Upliftment of Vraj :
Sri Krishna lived on this earth for one hundred and twenty five years. When he returned to his heavenly abode. The whole of Dwaraka Nagari was drowned in the sea. Even the dynasty of Yadavas came to an end that remained in the end was the grand-grand son of Sri Krishna - Vajranabha. The king of Pandavas - Udhishilia - had handed over the throne of Hastinapur to the grandson of Arjun. The throne of Mathura Mandal was given to Vajranabha.
When Vajranabha visited Mathura he found the place completely uprooted. There was no one to rule. The whole area remained a kind of forest. Monkeys had a hold throughout the place. he became disappointed. Praiskshit had come to see him. Parikshit took him to the Ashram of Shandilya Rishi. Shandilya was the Purohit of Nanda. The former had taken the latter to all the places of Lila of Sri Krishna under the guidance of the Rishi he had built appropriate lakes called "Kunda", temples, chatries (Monuments) etc. Slowly the kingdom of Mathura came back to its Old Glory.
In fifteenth century A.D. Sri Mahaprabhuji had gone to Vraj for the first time. Then also Vraj was an extension of forests and there was sparse inhabitation. Sri Gosainji had developed Gokul in 16th century. The disciples of Sri Krishna Chaitanya had developed Brindavan.
During this period the Rajput king Raja Jawahara Singh of Bharatpur had defeated the Muslim armies and looked the wealths of then Badshah and brought back to his kingdom unlimited wealths. His mother was a staunch follower of dharma. She heard about the news of loot. She had sent her son a message : "Return all the money earned through "Adharma", utilize the wealth in acts of dharma". On this advice Raja Jawahar Singh had utilized the whole wealth in developing all the places of Lila in Vraj. New tanks were built. Palaces were constructed. Mandirs were erected. Chatris were revitalized. He had brought a complete change in the life of people. Vraj was once again resplendent with beauty.
Raja Mana Singh of Amer and Jaipur, Raja Vir Singh of Orcha, the Maratha leader Jiyaji Rao, Raja Nagaridas of Kisangadh and most of other rulers had contributed in a great way in the expansion of this area.
There was a large contribution in over all development of Vraj from various traditional institutions of Vaishnavas.