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  1. Delhi, 2014.11.28 (Express News Service): Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has introduced special pilgrimage package tours to Rameswaram-Kanyakumari-Nagercoil-Madurai and New Delhi-Jaipur-Agra-Mathura. The package tours include confirmed reservation in trains, hotel accommodation and road transport along with a guide. A discount of 5 percent is offered to those who book their tour at the booking counter of IRCTC offices.
  2. Mathura, 2014.11.11 (Brij Khandelwal, TNN): The growing number of child beggars at Mathura and other religious shrines that draw hordes of pilgrims round the year is causing concern among police and the administration. What is worrying them is that many a time these children commit petty crimes like snatching purses or bags, pick-pocketing, and they often fight over division of loot. A few days ago, a child beggar ran away with the purse of a woman from Gujarat at Goverdhan. In another incident in Mathura, a kid lifted the mobile phone of a visitor from Chandigarh while he was having tea at a stall. Within seconds, the thief disappeared in the narrow lanes of the city. Such complaints are multiplying. While Mathura police do not have exact figures of missing children, they admit there has been a noticeable increase in the number of beggars not only in Mathura but also Goverdhan and Vrindavan. Rajendra Kumar Nagar, kotwal of Vrindavan, said, “The problem is there. The smaller kids are either locals or from nearby areas, but the older ones come from distant districts like Etah or Mainpuri. When they are caught for the first time, we call their parents and advise them to control their kids. If caught, they are sent to the reformatory. Now, the marriage season has started. We have to be extra cautious as these child gangs become more active.” A large number of child beggars are from outside the district. “Often they are part of a big gang headed by a goon who pulls the strings,” said activist Dhananjaya Gautam of Vrindavan. “Begging till some time ago was considered a part of the religious paraphernalia. Outside the temples in Vrindavan there were long queues of women beggars, mostly from Bengal, but now that institutionalized practice has taken a back seat, but the spurt in number of child beggars is surely an issue that we all should be seriously concerned about,” said author-activist of Mathura Ashok Bansal. On the parikrama route in Goverdhan, one sees numerous child beggars pestering the pilgrims. “Every day, you hear of a bag disappearing or a mobile and even laptops suddenly going missing. When a kid gets caught, he is let off after a few slaps. This emboldens him to graduate higher into the world of crime. Most of these kids are under the influence of some intoxicant or the other, cough syrup or some cheap chemicals,” adds Manju Sharma, a local. In Mathura, the railway stations provide the hordes of child beggars a comfortable shelter. Senior police officers, however, do not admit that it is such a big problem “In Mathura and all the nearby religious places, food is not a problem. They all get enough to eat from temples and ashrams which regularly hold bhandaras or mass distribution of prasad. But its the monetary support in terms of cash collection that is a big draw and sustains the local begging industry,” says social activist Jagannath Poddar. “The police should do something about this evil. If the children who are forced into this profession do not stop begging, they should all be rounded up and put in the reformatory where they can receive some education and security,” suggests pandit Ram Babu Sharma, a temple priest in Barsana.
  3. Vrindavan, 2014.11.10 (VT): Although the proposed merger of Mathura and Vrindavan along with some other surrounding villages into one municipal corporation is pending with the government, those who oppose it are relieved to find allies in the Vidhan Sabha. Feeling the mood of the Brajwasis, Pradeep Mathur, the local MLA, has decided to ask the Chief Minister not to include Vrindavan in the proposed Mathura Nagar Nigam. He opined that the villages of Gokul and Govardhan may be preferred over Vrindavan in order to attain the population requirements needed for legally forming a Municpal Corporation. In a media brief, he said that he will recommend upgrading the status of the Vrindavan Municipality to Grade A. Currently Vrindavan Municipality comes under the B grade municipalities. The saints, priests and the citizens expressed their contentment when they heard of Mathur’s stance. “We are happy that our local MLA has understood our concerns that merging Vrindavan in Mathura will hamper the religious significance of the land,” said Ful Dol Bihari Das, the Mahant of Chaitanya Kuti. “It is the duty of the public representative to understand the mood of the people. We welcome his initiative in suggesting that the status of the Vrindavan Municipality be upgraded. We also want the facilities availed under the Municipal Corporation, but the merging of Vrindavan into Mathura will not be accepted at any cost,” he specified. Acharya Badrish said that the government should feel the mood of the people. It shouldn’t go against their wishes. Vrindavan has become famous internationally by his religious nature. There shouldn’t be any compromise on changing its religious nature by merging it with Mathura, where wine and meat are openly sold. Another saint, Swami Maheshanand Saraswati, also welcomed the MLA statement. He said that the MLA should act quickly on this issue. The merger of these twin towns should be put on the back burner. The Vrindavan Municipality should be empowered to take strong and independent decisions in implementing the garbage and traffic management schemes. The Braj-Vrindavan Heritage Alliance, which was first to oppose the merger plan, has kept silence on the statement. Madhumangal Shukla, the convener of the BVHA has said to the Vrindavan Today that the group will soon meet and is yet to take a stand on the MLA’s statement. “My personal opinion is that including Goverdhan and Gokul in the Nagar Nigam will also be disastrous. Urban development of a mega-city will simply kill the ecological and religious instinct of Vraja Bhoomi as an entity,” he said.
  4. Mathura, 2014.11.05 (PTI): The first organized ‘Dandauti Parikrama’ of Mathura city was held on Nov. 6. Dandauti Parikrama refers to the practice of covering the entire distance of ‘parikrama’ (circumambulation) by lying down and rolling over. Till now, devotees perform ‘Dandauti Parikrama’ of Goverdhan, Vrindaban, Barsana, Nandgaon, Baldeo and even ‘Chaurasi Kos’ (about 250 km), but the practice never took hold in Mathura town. The event was organised to pay homage to a spiritual leader of the Chaturvedi community, the late Guru Gopal Peeth Bitthalesh Ji Maharaj who passed away one year ago. “Since Sri Krishna Janmasthan in Mathura is the place of incarnation of Lord Krishna, Dandauti Parikrama of such an auspicious place will bring good omen to Brijwasis,” said Gopeshwar Nath Chaturvedi, convenor of the event. “Hundreds of disciples of Gopal Vaishnav Peethadheeshwar late Bitthalesh Ji Maharaj will start Dandauti Parikrama after paying obeisance to the Yamuna tomorrow,” Gopal Peethadhishwar Acharya Purushottam Lal stated. The parikrama will conclude at Vishram Ghat on November 15.
  5. Mathura, 2014.10.25 (PTI, NDTV): Hundreds of pilgrims will take a holy dip in the Yamuna in Mathura on Saturday on the occasion of Yama Dvitiya. A number of woman pilgrims, along with their brothers, have arrived in Mathura to take a dip on the auspicious occasion to attain salvation. “Our dream of bathing in river Yamuna on this auspicious day with my sister would be fulfilled tomorrow,” said Sallu and his sister Jhabbo, who have come from Neemsar Misrik in Sitapur. 80-year-old Vinodini Mishra, who has come with her brother Nitin from Pratapgarh was equally elated as she has come to Mathura for the first time. “I have come with my brother as people say that bathing at Vishram Ghat on this auspicious occasion guarantees salvation,” she said. Narrating the legend, Goverdhan Peethadhiswar Krishna Das Kanchan Maharaj said pleased by the hospitality of his sister Yamuna, Yamraj blessed her saying if brothers and sisters together take a dip on this auspicious day (Yam Dwitiya) at Vishram Ghat then they would not be tortured by the messengers of Yamraj. They would also get salvation, he added. Meanwhile, district administration has also made elaborate security and safety arrangements for the pilgrims on the occasion. With Yamuna being badly polluted, fresh water has been discharged from Okhala Barrage to flush off polluted water in the river. “A section of flood company has been posted at the ghats with 20 divers to prevent any incident of drowning. Arrangement for round-the-clock power supply has been made and, generators would also be deployed to ensure uninterrupted power supply,” District Magistrate Rajesh Kumar said. Security has also been beefed up and police in plain clothes have been posted at Vishram Ghat, the main bathing point, he added. At the ghats, municipal board has made adequate arrangement for bathing. “Four camp offices have been set up at four bathing points, 50 boats and two motor boats would also be used for the occasion. Bathing area has not only been barricaded but from three sides it has been covered by boats,” said Manisha Gupta, Chairperson of Mathura Municipal Board. Also, eight tents have been set to be used as changing room for ladies.
  6. Mathura, 2014.10.20 (TOI): Ahead of the five-day Diwali festival beginning on Tuesday, security has been stepped up around temples in the city. Officials said the district was on alert following inputs from intelligence agencies about terrorist acts during the festival season when lakhs of pilgrims visit the the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan. The Sri Krishna Janam Bhoomi complex here has been placed under the watch of National Security Guard. Additional force has been deployed around Vrindavan’s Bankey Bihari temple as well. However, a senior official termed it “routine” affair for the police. “This is nothing unusual. When you have such big crowds, the government machinery has to be fully prepared and watchful.” Mathura pandits said Dhan Teras would be observed on Tuesday, followed by “Narak Chaturdashi or Roop Chaudas” on Wednesday, Diwali is on Thursday, Goverdhan puja and Annakoot on Friday followed by Yam Dwitiya on Saturday, when lakhs of brothers and sisters would take a holy dip in river Yamuna and offer prayers Yamraj. “This is peak festival time. The market places and temples in the Braj region draw lakhs of pilgrims from across the country. The month of Karttik, considered auspicious by devouts, has already attracted a large number of pilgrims for Yamuna snan or holy dip. Three Braj yatras (parikrama) are already underway with thousands of followers participating in them. The concern of district authorities towards security arrangements is understandable,” said Vrindavan’s activist Madhumangal Shukla. Traffic police both in Vrindavan and Mathura are on their toes as an unusually large number of private vehicles enter the area from Delhi and Haryana. “The Yamuna expressway has made it easier to commute to Vrindavan from Meerut, Ghaziabad and Noida. And with the parikrama season on, there is chaos everywhere,” said Jagannath Poddar of Vrindavan. The stretch from Mathura to Vrindavan is also packed with vehicles. Within the city, the Holi Gate crossing is perpetually jammed by traffic. “Due to encroachments by shopkeepers and pavement stalls, it is difficult to negotiate vehicles through narrow lanes,” said Ashok Bansal, a local resident.
  7. Mathura, 2014.10.14 (India Today): Veteran actress and parliament member Hema Malini, who will turn 66 Thursday, will spend her birthday with her family in Mumbai. “Will be in Mumbai with my family for my birthday and then go to Mathura for a few days where I will oversee preparations for the Cleanliness Drive,” Hema posted on her Twitter page Wednesday. Popularly called Bollywood’s ‘dream girl’, Hema is a Bharatiya Janata Party’s Lok, Sabha member from Mathura. She divides her time between Mumbai, Mathura and other cities to fulfill her personal and professional duties. Married to “Sholay” star Dharmendra, the actress has two daughters – Esha and Ahana – who are both married and well-settled now.
  8. Mathura, 2014.10.11 (VT): The Central Government has begun to work on the initiative of making Mathura a heritage city. The Modi government has sought complete data on what needs to be done for developing Mathura in that direction. A report has to be sent to the government within a week, describing the culture, archaeology and urban development. Senior officials from the Union Urban Development Ministry interacted with the District Magistrate of Mathura and the Vice Chairman of the Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority by video conferencing, and sought the report on heritage city within a week. They wanted to know on what basis Mathura can be qualified as a heritage city. They wanted a list of ancient historical heritage buildings and a full description of its cultural heritage. They are also seeking suggestions from the Mathura District Administration on how to conserve these heritage buildings and culture. The Union Government announced the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) for seven cities of the country in its yearly budget. Mathura was also selected to be part of this plan along with Amritsar, Ajmer, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Varanasi, Vailenkani. The joint secretary of the Urban Development Ministry held video conferences with the District Magistrates of all these seven cities. B. Chandrakala, the District Magistrate of Mathura and Nagendra Pratap, Vice-chairman of the Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority participated in the video conferencing from Mathura. After the video conferencing the District magistrate has instructed all the officials of the various departments to be present in a meeting to discuss the heritage tag for Mathura. She asked them to come in the meeting with the suggestions on the link road between the heritage buildings, their conversation and their present condition. Rs 200 Cr has been set aside by the Union government to conserve and preserve heritage in the above-mentioned cities by way of a joint program between government, academic institutions and local communities. The government’s stated goal is to increase global tourism. “India’s rich cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for the development of tourism and job creation as an industry,” the Finance Minister said in his speech announcing the plan back in July. The travel and tourism sector in India has seen a 40 percent jump in employment in June 2014 compared to the same period last year. In 2013, the travel and tourism sector in India generated 35 million jobs.
  9. Vrindavan, 2014.10.09 (VT): The Shankaracharya of Puri Goverdhan Peeth, Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati, came out openly against the merger of Vrindavan in Mathura on Thursday. He opined that Vrindavan’s identity has always been different from that of Mathura. He cited many examples from Shrimad Bhāgavatam and other religious texts that glorify Vrindavan as the unique Dham that cannot be merged with any other city. “Religious texts like Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, Gopāla-campū, Ānanda-vṛndāvana-campū, and others describe the actual svarūpa of Vrindavan,” he said. “The efforts should be directed to make Vrindavan as it is described in these holy books. If the dhāma can be preserved then the dhāmī, Krishna, will be attracted to it,” exhorted Swamiji. His Holiness Shankaracharya was giving a discourse on Dham conservation, which was organized by the Braj Vrindavan Heritage Alliance at the Satyanarayan Mandir. Swami ji was addressing the Brajwasis who had gathered in large numbers to have his darshan. A good number of Bhāgavata acharyas were also present there. He said that the preachers have been preaching about the significance of Vrindavan around the world. “Now everyone wants to stay in Vrindavan, which is a good achievement. Everyone has the right to stay in the Divine Shelter. But those who come are not just the devotees. Many want to make a business out of Vrindavan by buying and selling land and covering it with concrete,” he said. “You have lost the Yamuna. You have lost the groves. You have lost the peacocks. Non-vegetarian food is being sold here. The cows are not safe here. And the Vraja raj is lost. Only the name of Vrindavan is left. You need to stand against the injustice of the name of Vrindavan being erased from this Divine Abode,” said the Shankaracharya of the Goverdhan Peeth. He seemed to be in pain when he said that the map of Vrindavan has been changed in the name of development. “Brajwasis should not swayed away by the glitter of increased wealth. They should feel proud that they live in the land of mādhurya. The svarūpa of Vrindavan is being diminished in a deliberate way, just as the holy Ganga and Yamuna were killed for business interests, for economic development. The people of Braj should be aware of this fact. “The meaning of development should be well defined only in terms of Vraja culture. We have no problem with sattvik development. Most of the eco-spiritual attraction of Vrindavan has been lost. Only the name of this city remained Vrindavan. Now if the movement to merge Vrindavan into the Mathura corporation is not opposed vehemently, then even the name will be lost.” He said that the onus was on the Brajwasis: do they want the Holy Dham or the glamour of worldly riches. He said that the Brajwasis should shun their ego and stand for the cause of Dham preservation. He insisted that everyone unite to make an effort to get the Yamuna cleaned and water released from Hathini Kund. “It is the duty of every Hindu to work for cow protection, as the cows are the temple itself,” he added. Mukesh Gautam, Chairman of the Vrindavan Municipal Council, Radha Krishna Pathak, Swami Sushilananda, Dr. Om ji, Dr. Chandra Prakash Sharma, Tota Ram Upadhyay, Madhumangal Shukla, Bihari Lal Shashtri, Pradyumna Pratap Singh, Radheshyam Choudhry, Jagannath Poddar, Dr. Laxmi Gautam, Damodar Shashtri, Shyam Sundar Parashar, Shri Vijay Gautam, Manoj Mohan Shashtri, Gosevak Alok ji and many important preachers and brajwasis were present in the discourse.

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