Covid dampens Janmashthami spirit at Krishna Janmabhoomi

Mathura/Vrindavan, Aug 12 (IANS) Never before has the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi worn such a forlorn look on Janmashthami. Without devotees this time due to the Covid pandemic, it was a sight that the twin-towns of Mathura and Vrindavan had never witnessed.
“Without devotees and pilgrims, the fervor and excitement is clearly missing. The ritualistic celebrations are being conducted behind closed doors,” said a priest at Vishram Ghat.
The narrow lanes of Vrindavan that used to reverberate with joyous chants of Radhey Radhey and the hustle and bustle at the Sri Dwarkadheesh temple and Sri Krishna Janambhoomi complex is missing. “The stretches leading to the shrines are desolate, so are the ghats of Yamuna and the holy Goverdhan hill-town,” says a local Jagan Nath Poddar.
The Sri Krishna Janamashtmi festival is the main draw here. It is an opportunity for locals to make a living selling religious artefacts, dresses for the Lord, hindolas, decorative items, silver-ware and jewellery and brass statues of Laddoo Gopal. Flowers and fruits used to be in great demand but sadly, a whole year is wasted, lamented social activist Pawan Gautam. “Dress-making for Thakurji and hindolas, engaged thousands of craftsmen, a large number of them Muslims. It has been a very testing time for them all,” Gautam added.
But on a positive note, Jagan Nath Poddar says,”The Covid-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to review our developmental policies. We should seriously consider the consequences of mindless development here. The holy land of Braj is not only heavily polluted but is fast transforming due to rampant construction.”
Nature lovers, activists and heritage conservationists in the Taj Trapezium Zone have been raising an alarm over the frenetic pace of development that is eating up all the green spaces and water bodies.
“The Braj Mandal spread over roughly 150 kms is losing its glory and tranquility due to a spike in construction activity, and illegal sand and stone mining,” says environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.
“The famed forests of Braj mandal, a dozen from Vrindavan to Agravan, from Kaamvan to Mahavan, Kokilavan to Kotvan, have all but disappeared, making way for structures completely out of sync with the local architecture,” Bhattacharya added.
Acharya Sri Vatsji Maharaj, Vrindavan’s eminent spiritual leader said at a meeting recently, “Sri Krishna was an environmentalist. He consumed Davanal to cool off heat, ate mud and purified the soil and by killing Kaliya Naag, he purified the water of the Yamuna.”
“Lord Krishna was a protector of hills, ponds, rivers, forests and animal life. The mor pankh (peocock feather), tulsi, bansuri, love for cows, these are all manifestations of his bonding with nature. But his followers are doing just the opposite,” says green activist Akash Vashisht who has petitioned the National Green Tribunal to seek effective measures to save Vrindavan and its neighborhood.
Apart from this there is also tremendous stress on the cultural wealth of Braj.
Music maestro Acharya TN Jaimini says, “Haveli sangeet parampara of the Sri Krishna temples is disappearing and has been replaced by loud film music. The lanes of Vrindavan no longer echo with divine music. Now it is all cacophony.”
The water bodies of Braj, the kunds and sarovars, numbered more than a 1000 and were a perennial source of fresh water. It served multiple purposes like irrigation, domestic use, for cattle etc. However rapid urbanisation, lack of maintenance and prolonged negligence has left 80% of the kunds filled with silt.
While past governments developed several religious circuits in the state, the Braj circuit remains the most neglected and under-developed. Also land grabbers have usurped several prime properties in Mathura, Vrindavan and other smaller towns in the circuit. This has hit infrastructure development here. For instance, the parikrama route in Goverdhan. Multi-story buildings are being built there for wealthy pilgrims.
The same trend is destroying green cover and open spaces in Vrindavan which has more high-rises than Mathura. “Where is the space for greenery and a pollution free ambience,” ask river activists.

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