Vrindavan 2016.07.02 (VT): Vrindavan, the holy city of Radha Rani and Krishna is merely two hours ride from the National capital of India, New Delhi. People from the NCR and other areas on the country throng this place in search of peace, tranquillity and spirituality here while exploring more than 5,000 temples here. However, expectation took the first beating when devotees stuck in heavy traffic at Mathura. The honking from every corner disturbs the very essence of early morning when people are trying to offer morning prayers to the Lords. Then when the devotees visiting the holy city sees the hoarding reading “Live with God, buy a cheap home in Vrindavan Town” shows the commercialisation of Vrindavan, as it is slowly turning to be a concrete jungle.
Past-times of Radha and Krishna
Legend has it that Mathura and Vrindavan are the places where Lord Radha and Krishna were born and spent their childhood. The forests here are mentioned in several scriptures and epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana and Bhagvat Purana. However, now the region is called Braj, divided into two distinct units – the eastern part has places like Gokul, Mahavan and Bajna in trans Yamuna and the western side of the Yamuna has Mathura region, including Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Barsana and Nandgaon. Braj expands itself in three states on India viz. Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
As devotees enter in the city, they start looking for all those places that marked Krishna’s pranks with Gopis, places associated with tales of Radha and Krishna. However, all they see are houses, roads and buildings under construction.
The holy city
The name Vrindavan is derived from Vrinda, another name for the sacred tulsi (basil) plant. But the holiness of the city is slowly losing its touch, as every other township is coming up in the city. Vrindavan, now more developed than Mathura, has constructions going around in every corner disappointing the devotees coming here in search of spirituality.
Once an abode of Gods, Vrindavan’s forests and river, made famous by Krishna’s miracles, are no longer seen. In fact, spirituality itself seems missing. Though the city has more than 5,000 temples in and around it, but they are slightly hiding themselves behind the man-made concrete jungle. Some of these temples are centuries old depicting the past times of Radha and Krishna, while others belong to prominent spiritual leaders and organisations.
After crossing a small congested street, which was full of shopkeepers selling sweets, parsad, clothes and other items, devotees reach Thakur Bankey Bihari temple, the most prominent temple of Vrindavan. Built by Indian music Guru Swami Haridas in 1862, the Bankey Bihari Temple houses a sacred image of Krishna known as Thakur Ji, which shows Krishna in blackened body. It is one of the most visited temples in Vrindavan.
Some spirituality can also be felt in other seven main temples of Vrindavan viz. Radha Damodar, Radha Shyam Sundar, Radha Raman, Radha Gopinath, Radha Madan Mohan, Radha Govind and Radha Gokulanand. Most of these temples are not visited much, offering peace to the devotees, for their meditation. It feels like the Lords have saved some spirituality for their devotees in these temples.
A couple kilometres from Bankey Bihari temple, is the Iskcon temple, another most visited temple of Vrindavan. Though it gives a good experience to devotees, but spirituality seems to be missing from here too. The same was true of Prem Mandir, another Krishna temple. More than spirituality, the lightings and architecture can impress a visitor.
However, this is just a beginning for any devotee. Akshay Patra, a prominent NGO in India, is also constructing the tallest temple – Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir at a cost of Rs 300 crore. The temple will have a helipad, indoor Radha Krishna recreational park, theme park and much more. Like this, there are many such temples in the pipeline that would be equipped with latest technology and facilities. The idea behind building modern temples is to transform the city into a touristic hub rather than temple tourism, killing spirituality from the holy town.
Around 20 kilometres from Vrindavan, is the sacred hill of Govardhan, which Krishna lifted to save the Brajwasis from the fury of Lord Indra, in Dwapar yug. Unlike its name, the “hill” is no more than a little mound. The Goverdhan Parbat is also surrounded by many famous temples and Kund . Usually people do Parikrama on foot. But these days, doing Parkirama in a car is more popular and convenient for people who give more importance to their tight schedule, rather than spirituality. After spending some time in Brajbhoomi, one could only say the day is not far when people would come here as tourists not for spiritual purpose.