Shri Yamuna Devi at Keshi Ghat
Yesterday, 23rd March, Yamuna Jayanti, the appearance anniversary of the river Yamuna was celebrated across Vraja. The festival is also known as ‘Yamuna Chhath’ and is celebrated as Sashthi, the sixth day of Shukla Paksha in the month of Chaitra. The auspicious day commemorates the decent of Goddess Yamuna on Earth and therefore is celebrated with great pomp and show in the city of Mathura and Vrindavan.
On this occasion, Vrindavan Today interviewed His Holiness Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami ji about why Yamuna is more than a river for devotees of Shri Krishna and the Brajwasis.
VT: How did the Yamuna come to earth?
SVG: Indian spiritual wisdom has identified the ultimate reality as rasovaisa and that rasa (nectar) is manifest eternally in the Nitya Golok (realm of the Eternal), but the people of this world needed some way to make life rasa purna (full of nectar). In order for humans to get a glimpse of rasa, the rasa itself had to shower its grace upon human beings. For that purpose Rasa swarupa (the incarnation of pleasure) Shri Krishna, and His Aalhadini Shakti (pleasure potency) Shri Radha both decided to come down to this earth to give the message of Rasa aswadana (to relish the nectar). When they were thinking about descending on earth, they wondered how the rasa will flow without a channel – liquid always needs some channel to flow in.
There was a nectarine river called Virja in Nitya Golok, so Krishna requested Virja to go down to earth in the form of the river Yamuna. Before descending to earth, Virja had put a condition that she would only go the earth if Krishna graced her with his pastimes. The Lord readily accepted her condition and promised that He would begin his pastimes in Yamuna only and He would perform his pastime of ultimate ecstasy only on the banks of the Yamuna.
So, Yamuna came in the form of Kalindi or Yamuna and flowed from the Himalayas to Allahabad where she merges with the Ganges. When Shri Krishna came to the earth, He kept His promise. Krishna made his first journey through the Yamuna on the way to Gokul. This gave Yamuna the opportunity to touch and wash the Lord’s feet.
After touching the Lotus feet of the Lord, she was filled with happiness and danced in ecstasy.
VT: How do you connect Yamuna pollution with ‘Krishna Lila’?
SVG: After that most of the pastimes happened on the bank of Yamuna. The level of pollution in Yamuna even at that time gave tremendous pain to the Lord. He was determined to combat the pollution to save His patrani (beloved) Yamuna.
Yamuna was polluted due to Kaliya. Shri Krishna decided to eradicate the pollution in the river and serve Yamuna. Krishna eradicated the pollution of Kalia by sending him to the ocean.
Yamuna nirvisha bhavat – Yamuna became the sweet nectar of love again. One that thing must be noticed here is that Shri Krishna did not kill Kalia. He killed the other demons, whether they were in the form of bull, calf, horse or a crane.
Shri Krishna subduing the Kalia Serpent, P.C. Hindi-Web
He didn’t give respite to any evil except the Kalia Serpent. Through this action, Shri Krishna gives us the clear message that ‘Pollution cannot be completely eliminated’. Krishna, who is God Himself, showed that rather than trying to destroy pollution, we need to stop creating it. It is very difficult to eradicate pollution once it is created. To create pollution then try to eradicate it is a fool’s game.
By not killing Kaliya, Krishna gave the message that He could only contain pollution, only separate it and dump it in the ocean, but even He can’t destroy it. Pollution was just transferred from Yamuna to the ocean, but it remained in the ocean.
When you love and respect somebody, you take care of them, you help them with cleaning and you make try to make them happy in every possible way. Shri Krishna performed the ultimate pastime of ecstasy – the Maharasa lila on Yamuna Pulin. But the Yamuna Pulin (the bank of Yamuna), has to be pollution free and filled with sanctity.
Maharasa will only take place if our heart is not filled with the pollution of kama, krodha, lobha, moha, matsarya (lust, anger, greed, illusion, miserliness). It is only possible to visualize the Maharasa when our heart and mind are pollution free.
VT: How can the Yamuna become clean and unpolluted?
SVG: Yamuna Pulin is the physical theatre and stage of the Rasa Lila. It should be clear that if the Yamuna Pulin is not clean and the water of Yamuna is polluted, it creates hindrance in the Rasa Lila. We must think about how the Divine Couple and the Gopis take bath in the Yamuna and perform jal kreeda (water sports). It is our duty to keep the Yamuna clean and unpolluted for the Lordships of Vrindavan.
The practice of bathing the Lordships with the Yamuna water, and cooking bhog with it was prevalent two decades back. Radha Raman Mandir and Rangji Mandir are the two temples that practiced these rituals with Yamuna water until recent times. But, the amount of pollution in Yamuna water became so severe, that these two temples had to stop using Yamuna water in their rituals.
I believe that if every temple in Vrindavan takes the vow that no ritual will be performed without Yamuna water, then Yamuna will be cleaned automatically. There has to be a serious religious commitment to get Yamuna to regain her sanctity. Our commitment to serve Yamuna is the only hope for the Yamuna’s future on this earth and that is the relevance of celebrating Yamuna Chhat, the appearance day of Yamuna.
It is hypocrisy in the name of ‘Bhakti’ just to merely offer milk, flowers, clothes and money and perform Aarati to the suffering Yamuna, who has become polluted and deformed. Instead, we must all make an effort to restore the health of our mother by opposing the drains that flow into Yamuna and getting her released from the Hathini Kund, where she has been captivated.
When Shri Krishna saw the pollution in Yamuna, he was pained to see His patrani (darling) was polluted. He worked hard to restore the health of His beloved Yamuna. He drove away Kaliya to the ocean. The devotees of Krishna should also work hard to restore their mother’s health.
VT: What is the significance of the Yamuna ghats? Do you approve of the state government’s initiative to build new ghats beyond the ancient Yamuna ghats?
SVG: Yamuna surrounds Vrindavan from three sides. Her circling Vrindavan is very important because she is not just touching the physical realm or the geographical space, but is touching the lila stali (places of the pastimes) of the Lord.
The ghats on the bank of Yamuna resemble the Yamuna Pulin, where Krishna performed the Rasa Lila. From Varaha ghat to Vanshi Vat and further down, all the ghats were built to keep awareness of the lila places alive. It is ignorance that people try to separate Yamuna ji from Vrindavan’s 15th -16th century ghats, which are very beautiful. The ancient ghats of the Yamuna without water is an abomination. Destroying the ghats and building new cement structures beyond them on the river bed is a crime being committed against Yamuna and Krishna philosophy.