Last weekend took me to Brindavan and Mathura – the land of Lord Krishna, which was a stark contrast to the land of Shiva, Banaras. It was an exhilarating experience partly because I love road trips and partly because I love to explore different cultures, cities and their people. So even a day’s trip was an adventure to quench the thirst of my soul, tired by the monotony of an exhausting corporate life.
The Yamuna express way is a class apart and it was a delight traveling on it. Such things are what we call a necessary evil. The ever growing demand for better infrastructure by the increasing population has to be met by sacrificing the essentials, like the agricultural land.
Nevertheless the road trip proved to be quite promising. The outskirts of Brindavan are like any other village and reminded me of Banaras. The farms being ploughed in the traditional manner with a plow and cattle, the produce fresh and pesticide free ready to be taken to a mandi, hand pumps and tube wells still operative, men and women working together under the sun. Their smiles as pure as the air in the village; we in cities with amenities have forgotten how to smile, but they, with minimalistic possessions, live life to the fullest.
The Yamuna looked pristine…untouched by the sins of us humans…not choked by our deeds but flowing freely to sustain life for those who revered her. The very river which Lord Krishna passed through as an infant, is treated so differently in the two cities; Brindavan and the capital.
As I entered Brindavan, I realized it was no longer the same place where Lord Krishna mesmerized the humans. The town with hardly any green cover appears to be gasping for fresh clean air. The roads are being widened to accommodate heavy transportation. It has a plethora of temples but the local government does not shy away from building many more majestic temples to honour gods. If only building schools was as important to us as building places of worship. But that is another debate.
The devotion to Radha and Krishna is manifested in every possible manner. All residential societies, shops, parks are named after Radha and Krishna. They not only worship these deities but also live them.
Coming from a place where Shiva is worshipped – who is a symbol of detachment, where death liberates us and one will presumably attains moksha, Brindavan depicts a different perspective of life. Krishna always celebrated love and life though He too preached detachment in doing any ‘karma’; going through the cycles of life and experiencing the moments was as important to Him as attaining moksha when you are ready for it. His former avatar Ram is a symbol of discipline but Krishna knows no boundaries, for Him right or wrong cannot be distinguished as strictly white or black. He was never a king like Ram, still he ruled and continues to rule the hearts of many. He himself experienced all the cycles of life.
The Galis of Brindavan are no different from the Galis of Banaras, only the chanting of ‘har har mahadev’ is replaced by ‘Radhe Radhe’. Such was the purity and strength of Radha’s love that mere chanting of her name brings the devotees closer to Krishna. Though not united they still remain inseparable. There are shops selling beautiful and delicately adorned clothes for gods. The famous pedas stacked up in every shop ready to be offered to Him. The intense fragrance of desi gulab and marigolds fill the air..faraway you can hear the temple bells gravitating you towards Him. The famous Banke Bihari temple was flooded with devotees and we could only catch a glimpse of the God. The temple beautiful from inside is a must to visit if you are in Brindavan. The darshan of a few seconds did not help in invigorating my soul and the only realization I had was that the idol here was black and indeed Krishna is not the fair one. It was the sight of his black face that struck me as I was pushed towards the exit by the moving crowds. Some ‘sevadars’ were applying chandan and roli to all the devotees. Not to miss this opportunity I jostled my way towards them and my forehead was heavily smeared with chandan. This experience had only one flaw – the guides and beggars cling to you literally and do not like taking a no from you. They touch you, block your way, talk rudely – not realizing how deterrent it could be to people who only wish to have a peaceful interaction with the Almighty.
If you are in Brindavan then ISCON temple is another place to witness the supreme devotion for Krishna. It was the time of afternoon aarti when we reached ISCON. The crowd definitely more disciplined and respectful. Witnessing the aarti was blissful. We chanted ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ along with many others. People from different countries, caste, creed, were united with these words. With folded hands we prayed to the one who gave us Gita. Devotion surmounted every thought, every heartbeat, the soul drenched in spirituality. Bowing your head in front of Him was in itself occult-you forgive yourself for your sins, you seek for more knowledge, you find strength to forgive others and you have an urge to find yourself. Socrates said ‘know thyself’. Does Gita too not help you to find yourself?
The other temple which I visited is popularly called as Mayya ka Mandir. It is a replica of Vaishno Devi temple. A humongous idol of Durgaji is built above the temple. A worshipper of Durga, I could not resist visiting the temple. It is my perennial wish to visit Vaishno Devi and in no way this could be substituted! I seek my strength and resilience from Her and though the atmosphere resonates with Radha and Krishna I did find peace standing inside the replica of Vaishno Devi.
We returned with a lot of pedas (!!), with peace in our hearts and with a hope to find wisdom as we go through the cycles of life. May we all be blessed…