Despite the cold and foggy conditions, a record number of devotees from across the country reached Vrindavan to celebrate the New Year. Yesterday, devotees jostled with each other to have darshan in the most popular temples on the first day of 2018. In their fervent devotion, many forgot the cold and tolerated the long lines in the spirit of religious austerity, however, some devotees found themselves without much needed facilities.
On New Year’s Eve, devotees were seen wandering from one hotel to another, trying to find a room, only to find that almost every hotel was fully booked. The lack of public toilet facilities in the town was another source of inconvenience, as were the traffic jams.
Despite efforts by the police to keep cars and auto rickshaws out of the bazaar, in an attempt to capture the tourist dollar, auto operators still tried to make runs on the most popular route – from Bihariji to Prem Mandir – even though it would have been quicker for people to walk.
Police attempts at creating a one way flow of tourists around Banke Bihari temple also failed as the forceful crowds pushed their way into all the entrances. Police have come under fire for not posting sufficient personnel in and around Bihariji temple. Fortunately, there were no major incidents, but thousands got stuck when trying to leave the temple and had to struggle their way through crowds of people trying to force their way into the exits.
The extreme cold and foggy conditions mean that road conditions are bad and people driving private vehicles are running a big risk. Trains and buses were delayed by up to 8 hours and many were cancelled. Despite the risks, and delays, many could not resist taking advantage of the winter school holidays to make a trip to Vrindavan. The fog has not yet lifted and, due to the cold and foggy conditions, the District Magistrate has ordered that all primary schools must remain closed until 4th January.
See here for a video of the crowds in Bihariji temple.