Makar Sankranti Snana
The Yamuna is the giver of liberation and the purifier of all sins. Her cries to be saved from pollution are finally being heard. Over the past decade and a half, billions of rupees have been poured into various projects for cleaning the river, but the effects of that investment are barely noticeable.
On Makar Sankranti, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come to Vrindavan and Mathura to bathe in the river. They will come, usually to one of the four spots where the Yamuna is still accessible: Keshi Ghat, Chir Ghat, Imli Tala Ghat, Bihar Ghat, or some other place along the river to bathe. But the flow of water is low and in many places it is more mud than water. Sandbars can be seen everywhere.
After all this the Pollution Control Board has done nothing to stop the filthy refuse of the town to flow into the river in around 12 drains. Devotees were disturbed to see the condition of the Yamuna only a few days before Makar Sankranti prompting them to ask, “Who has enough faith to take bath in such water?”
Flowers and garlands
Exactly one year ago the National Green Tribunal gave the order that the remnants of pujas like prasadi flowers and so on should not be thrown into the Yamuna (at the risk of a 5000 Rs. fine). But this law is neither being enforced nor having any effect.
The local water board has plans to complete the sewage system in other parts of the town, but they have not yet been implemented. Where drains have been built, in many cases they are not maintained which means that much of the water in them never makes it to the Sewage Treatment Plant in the Pagal Baba area. So most of it ends up in the Yamuna without treatment.
The chief engineer from the Water Board says that the laying of the sewage system is almost complete and that they are being cleaned. They are doing everything they can to ensure that dirty water will no longer flow into the Yamuna.
No work for Yamuna boatmen
The water levels in the Yamuna go down every winter. But the situation seems to be getting worse than ever at Keshi Ghat, where the river comes to a halt, the main stream of the river passing a hundred meters to the north. The little bit of water that does come in front of the old ghat, one of Vrindavan’s most enduring and popular symbols, is filled with the sewage that flows in from a drain at Chir Ghat and another at Bhramar Ghat. People have to walk 100 meters across the sand to get to the river.
This is also a big problem for the boatmen who take pilgrims and tourists for boat rides on the river. Dozens of the colorful boats lie idle on the dry banks. Keshi Ghat has always been a place where local priests would perform shraddh and other auspicious rituals for visitors to the Dham. The water is currently at its lowest levels.
The situation at Keshi Ghat is the worst. The construction of the bridge seems to have clearly affected the flow of the river channel, causing it to be diverted further away from the ghats. In 2012 an attempt was made by private individuals to dredge a channel that would bring the water back to the ghat, but the bridge pillars in the middle of the riverbed seem to have created a barrier that rendered it ineffective. Without the removal of the pillars, it is unlikely that the water will flow by Keshi Ghat except in the rainy season.
Those who make a living with their boats say that they have not had any business for the last two months and this is bringing them to the brink of starvation. Said boatman Rakesh, “I regret not having boating tourists who can not be bothered to get up. Tuesday Ahuja’s paradise with his family boating and boating Yamuna worship came but they could not. It seems they lamented. Yamuna worship returned.
It is one of Vrindavan’s favorite attractions, nauka vihar being one of Krishna’s favorite pastimes, but without the river it is impossible. The tourists who come are sad to see that they cannot partake of this popular activity.
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