Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stop the Yamuna Bridge

On Dec. 25, a few hundred persons, mostly from Vrindavan’s religious community, including many foreigners from several maths and ashrams, gathered at Vrindavan’s Keshi Ghat to protest the building of a bridge.

This bridge, which loops around the ancient redstone ghat, will permit car traffic to make the full tour of Vrindavan, turning the Parikrama Marg into a Ring Road.

Even ten years ago, the Parikrama Marg was still mostly a sandy trail that circled the hallowed central portion of Vrindavan, the site of so many temples—Banke Bihari, Radha Vallabh, Radha Damodar, Govindaji.

Hundreds of barefoot pilgrims from dawn to dusk quietly followed the 14 kilometer trail, reciting their japa or singing God’s names, or simply walking in meditative silence. Some even covered the length lying prostrate on the ground.

But the success of many Vaishnava preachers, Bhagavata pathaks and bhajan singers has drawn a steadily increasing flow of the faithful from around the world and, more to the point, from Delhi, to the sacred home of Krishna’s play with Radha.

And, to accommodate the ubiquitous automobile, more and more of the Parikrama Marg has been paved. Parking lots increasingly line the sides of the road and block the view to the green fields and the Yamuna, which stretch out on the southern side.

No pilgrim can now make the sacred circumambulation without being repeatedly honked at by contemptuous chauffeurs. The one remaining ghat in Vrindavan, Keshi Ghat, where daily Yamuna arati is held, was the single part of the parikrama that was vehicle free.

But now, Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority, which sees the prosperity of Vrindavan as linked to the automobile, has decided to destroy what is left of this sacred tradition by building a flyover type bypass to link the two ends of the circumambulation path.

The view of the holy river will now be obstructed by an ugly concrete structure, the peace broken once and for all by the sounds of racing cars and beeping buses.

But there seems to be no bridge crossing the divide that separates the environmentalists and traditional religious community of Vrindavan from the government and development agents, who are clearly living in different worlds.

In their high-minded arrogance, the latter did not even see fit to consult those who have guarded these traditions for the last half-millennium or those who have come there to make Vrindavan their spiritual home before they started work on the project.

So PWD Chief Engineer C.D. Rai calls the Goswamis and saints “vested land owning interests” when they make objections, and Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority Vice Chairman R.K. Singh scoffs that they “neither understand development nor the environment.”

What is clear is that the issue of the sacred has been completely ignored by the development authorities. If Vrindavan has become attractive to tourists, it is only because of the promise it holds out of an encounter with the sacred, and such an encounter requires something quite different from a rapidity of access to goods and services. It needs space for contemplation.

Recently in Delhi, I noticed a billboard in the Jahangirpuri metro station. The poster on display there had a quote from the famous American scholar of myth and religion, Joseph Campbell, which immediately attracted my attention: “Your sacred space,” it said, “is where you can find yourself again and again.”

But, in the true spirit of desecration, these words had been turned into a sales pitch: “This space is where people can find your company and products again and again.”

So this is what it has come to: the sacred places are now for sale to the highest bidder, a hook to pull in the patsies. But if you cut off the branch on which you are sitting, then where will you sit?

Indians are still proud of their ancient heritage and the attraction it holds for foreigners. On Independence Day, 1947, Sri Aurobindo addressed the new nation on the radio:

“The spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun,” he said. “India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope, and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice.”

But this spirituality is fast becoming a joke. Amidst the noise, accumulations of dirt and plastic bags, the polluted holy rivers, and the haphazard and insensitive development, it is becoming harder and harder to find the fulfilment of that hope.

It is time for all the sacred places in India, from Vrindavan and Varanasi to Rishikesh and Srirangam, to immediately be declared heritage sites by the state and central governments. Let them too be developed for tourism, but only one that takes into account the thirst for spirituality that brings pilgrims there.

They should not be treated as playgrounds for jejune city dwellers, with nothing on offer but more tired old theme parks, shopping centers and traffic jams.

J.K. Brzezinski


ID said...

Wasn't it already predicted that these type of things will happen, meaning that Vrindavan will not only be covered in our beings but on the outside as well? Isn't Vrindavan, after all, state of mind? Not to suggest that based upon that conclusion we should cover it with industrial innovations.

(just for the record, word for verification for posting a comment was "tragis" - how appropriate)

Anonymous said...

Dear Readers,

The Yamuna is a sacred place of pilgrimage for thousands and millions of people seeking spiritual enlightenment.People from all over india have been coming to visit the holy banks of the yamuna and Circling the holy dham along the parikram marg. I don't see why now, because of some greedy businessmen,people should have to be constantly dodging cars and busses. Also, many of the indian legends surround the yamuna, and it is worshiped by hundreds worldwide.

Jagat said...

Please go sign the petition.

Jagat said...

Of course, many devotees are already fed up with Krishna consciousness, Vrindavan and all the rest because it is sometimes just so hard to love.

Yes, Vrindavan is in our hearts, but our success in envisioning it there comes in materializing it externally. Wherever we are, but preferably in THAT place.

dr.jaya said...

... Isn't Vrindavan, after all, state of mind? .....
The example of the exquisite mental service rendered by Nrsimhananda Brahmacari is also very famous (Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 1.155-159):

* * * * * * * * * * * *

vRndAvana yAbena prabhu zuni' nRsiMhAnanda

patha sAjAila mane pAiyA Ananda

When Sri Nrsimhananda Brahmacari heard that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu would go to Vrndavana, he became very pleased and mentally began decorating the way there.

kuliyA nagara haite patha ratne bAndhAila

nivRnta puSpa-zayyA upare pAtila

First Nrsimhananda Brahmacari contemplated a broad road starting from the city of Kuliya. He bedecked the road with jewels, upon which he then laid a bed of stemless flowers.

pathe dui dike puSpa-bakulera zreNI

madhye madhye dui-pAze divya puSkariNI

He decorated both sides of the road with bakula flower trees, and at intervals on both sides he placed lakes of a transcendental nature.

ratna-bAGdhA ghATa, tAhe praphulla kamala

nAnA pakSi-kolAhala, sudhA-sama jala

These lakes had bathing places constructed with jewels, and they were filled with blossoming lotus flowers. There were various birds chirping, and the water was exactly like nectar.

zItala samIra vahe nAnA gandha laJA

'kAnAira nATazAlA' paryanta la-ila bAndhiJA

The entire road was surcharged with many cool breezes, which carried the fragrances from various flowers. He carried the construction of this road as far as Kanai Natasala.

Mahaprabhu's instructions:

amAnI mAnada haJA kRSNa-nAma sadA la’be |
vraje rAdhA-kRSNa-sevA mAnase karibe ||

Without seeking respect but respecting others,
always taking in your heart the Names of Krishna,
"serve with your MIND Radha and Krishna in "Vraja".

Jagat said...

And how does your state of mind do when your body is sick?

Vrindavan is the bhauma manifestation of the spiritual world. If it doesn't look like it, it is because you are not trying.

Either by karmana, manasa, arthena, dhiya. Whatever.

dr.jaya said...

Like to share an excerpt from one of my old messages about the importance of 'mind' and raganuga sadhana'.

"calo mana sri vrindAvan dhAm

jahan viharata nit syAmA-syAm" (1)

O My mind, please go to the Divine abode, Vrindavan, where my Lordships are ever engaged in the blissful pastimes.

Comment-The devotee is telling his or her mind to meditate upon the sacred land,
which is the place of eternal lila of Radha and Krishna.

Why mind?

Mind alone is essential for raganuga sadhana bhakti. If we can bring along the body and senses, that is fine too, but mind is a must.

That is why Lord Krishna said so many times in Gita and other scriptures, stressing on the words like, mana, chetah, chitta, buddhi.

"tasmAt sarveshu kAleshu

mAmanusmara yudhya ca

mayyarpita mano buddhir

mAme vaishyasi asaMsayah"

Gita 8.7

"Therefore think of Me at all times and fight. There is no doubt that by giving your mind, heart and intellect to Me, you will surely attain Me."

"ananya cetAh satataM

yo mAM smarati nityasah

tasyAhaM sulabhah pArtha

nitya yuktasya yoginah"

Gita 8.14

"O Son of PrthA, (Arjuna) one who, having single minded love and attention, remembers Me uninterruptedly throughout his life, to that devotee,(raga-yogi) of constant devotion and concentration, I am easily attainable."

"syAmA-syAm sung brijabhAm

nit nava rasa barasat nija dhAm (2)

Sri Radha and Krishna together with Their Gopi friends, showering the ever new rasa,
bliss in Their native land of braj, twenty four hours of the day. (asta kaliya seva)

"Ananda cinmaya rasa pratibhAvitAbhis

tAbhir ya eva nija rUpatayA kalAbhih

goloka eva nivasaty akhilAtma bhUtO

govindamAdi purushaM tamahaM bhajAmi"


"I adore Govinda, the primeval Lord, the Soul of all souls, residing in His Own realm, Goloka, with RAdhA, His Own spiritual Form, the Embodiment of Divine ecstatic potencies, in the company of Her playmates who are the extensions of Her Own body, permeated and drenched with ever blissful transcendental RASA."
"chalo, mana, gahavar kunja latAn

jahan lAli caran cApat bhagavan" (5)

O My mind, please go to the secret flowery bower of Gahavar van,
where All Blissful, All Mighty, Absolute Reality, the Supreme Person,
Bhagavan Lord Krishna is serving His Soul Radha,
by gently massaging Her lotus feet.

Engrossing yourself in the madhurya lila of Radh-Krishna,
O My mind, attain the prefection of your existence.

Finally, the devotee evolved through raganuga sadhana,
has to contemplate upon the intimate lilas of Beloved Couple.

Here the Lord forgets that He is Bhagavan.
The devotee in madhurya bhava forgets
he or she is an insignificant soul.

This is accomplished by the un-thinkable, un-imaginable power of amazing Grace,
Who influences Yogamaya.

"sakhi ! he Kesi mathanam udAraM"


"O Friend, the slayer of Kesi (demon) is indeed, kind, noble and sublime! "

Lord's Svaroopa sakti is Prema in its Purest essence.

He enjoys serving His own Soul, Radha.

"hlAdini sAra aMsa tAra prema nAma"

Anonymous said...

You know, this is all well and good and everyone's intention is nice – but the reality is that the government started building this bridge months ago. Now the bridge is virtually complete - why did it take so long for people to sit up and take notice, start petitions, protests etc?

All this activity should have begun when they started the damned thing – not when it is almost complete.

Do you really think that the government, municipality, contractors etc give a hoot about a few sadhus and iskcon gurukul kids making a noise on the parikrama marg?

Jagat said...

They did, but it takes time to mobilize. The government and builders did this suddenly, without any forewarning, as far as I understand. Their idea was to blitzkrieg the bridge before any opposition could form, and then render opposition null and void before the fait accompli.

This was in August. So you are quite right that it took a long time to get things rolling. You can see from the Facebook page, etc., that once word got out many people's ears started perking up.

It is not too late, yet, so I hope that you will participate in the letter writing campaign. Please see the Facebook pages: "Stop the Yamuna Bridge" and "Save Yamuna, Save Vrindavan." Contact names and addresses to write to are given their in the Discussions section.

Thank you in the name of the Dham.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info – I stand corrected. Yes, I will certainly participate in the campaign.

If the campaign is successful, I hope that it gives an incentive to devotees to do something about the material conditions in Vrndavana (cleaning the Yamuna, waste disposal, traffic problems etc)