BY BRIJ KHANDELWAL
Goverdhan (Mathura district), July 14 (IANS) Lakhs of pilgrims from different parts of India, including NRIs, are part of the the sea of humanity that has deluged the holy Goverdhan ‘Parbat’, or hill, that little Lord Krishna is believed to have lifted on his finger to protect inhabitants of Braj from the wrath of Lord Indra.
The five-day annual Mudiya Poonau festival will conclude on Tuesday, on full moon, with a procession of saints and members of the Gaudiya sect. Locals say the total number of pilgrims this year could easily cross five million.
Goverdhan, a tehsil 20 km from Mathura, is connected by rail and road with Rajasthan, Haryana and other parts of Uttar Pradesh.
“Most people from Haryana, Punjab and Delhi are taking the Yamuna Expressway. They can come via Vrindavan, Chatikara, Radhakund. The bypass and newly-laid roads all around, with adequate parking slots, have made it convenient for visitors to reach Goverdhan this year,” a district official said.
The divisional railway headquarters at Agra has started a set of two passenger trains, while the state roadways has operationalised a fleet of more than 1,500 buses to ferry pilgrims from Agra and neighboring districts. As many as 42 parking sites have been developed for vehicles coming in from all parts. The police have put up barriers at 92 points to regulate movement of people and vehicles.
“Least bothered by the intense heat with monsoon clouds taking a break, lakhs of pilgrims are in full ‘josh’ (enthusiasm), joining ‘keertan mandlis’ and singing and dancing all through the ‘parikrama’ (circumambulation) route,” a local priest, Keshav, said.
“It’s a never-ending procession right now, as faith quotient is running high. The devotees are crowding the Mansi Ganga pond for a holy bath. The administration has provided fountains along the periphery of the pond for the convenience of pilgrims and to ensure cleanliness,” he added.
Mathura District Magistrate (DM) Sarvagyaram Mishra said that by Saturday more than 15 lakh devotees had already performed the 21 km long ‘parikrama’ of Mount Goverdhan.
“After the Kumbh, this is the second biggest ‘mela’ (festival) in the state,” another local priest, Hari Kishan, said. After Vrindavan, Goverdhan, is now becoming a round-the-year spiritual hub of Krishna devotees.
With increasing influx of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and high income group pilgrims from the metros, the town, which once had night stay facilities run only by temples and religious institutions, is now home to smaller hotels and a row of roadside ‘dhabaas’ (restaurants).
High-profile visitors have, however taken a fancy to the Sri Radha Brij Vasundhara resort spread over 25 acres of lush green offering a panoramic view of the holy Goverdhan hill.
The Brij Vashundhara resort along the circumambulation route near Aanyaur village, looks an oasis amidst dry parched desert sand.
“From the outside, you cannot even make out what’s in store inside the campus. But once you are in, it’s a treat all the way. The cottages are sited in green clusters that echo with constant chirping of birds,” a pilgrim from Gujarat staying in the resort, said.
Goverdhan is perhaps the only pilgrim centre that records the highest number of devotees in India round the year for ‘parikrama,” said Ravi Baba, a priest.
“They keep coming, whatever be the season or time of day, from thousands to lakhs daily. A rough estimate of the pilgrims would be over ten crore annually. For the five-day annual Mudiya Poonau fair, we have over ten million visitors,” said shopowner Madhu Mangal.
Goverdhan is high on the priority list of the Uttar Pradesh government which has embarked on a massive construction spree, building by-passes, new roads, adding pilgrim shelters and providing street lighting along the parikrama route.
A number of NGOs, including Braj Ujjwala, Yamuna Mission and Braj Foundation are busy renovating local ponds and groves. The newly-constituted Braj Teerth Vikas Parishad, has drawn up ambitious plans for development of the area at the initiative of the local MP Hema Malini.
This year, an additional facility in the form of Heli-Yatra is available for pilgrims who are short of time. A seven-seater helicopter circles the holy hill, providing a panoramic view at a fare of Rs 3,000.
BY BRIJ KHANDELWAL