Out of sheer darkness, and a pungent body odor emanating loudly from breaking of millions of bacteria inhabiting hundreds of armpits and groins within a few meters of my own armpit and groin, I entered into a two story atrium at the center of the structure. For next few seconds, I couldn’t lift my eyes of the luxurious, opulent makeshift ceiling of the atrium, adorned only with fresh flowers, and with the lustrous sky in the background, right above the metal grille fitted to stop monkeys from coming inside the temple. There was a long vertical chandelier made up of multi colored lilies and white jasmines at the center, surrounded by many small vertical braids of har-singar, jasmine, and barleria flowers in a circular shape. Another such small layer surrounded it in a square shape. Before the last and the second square layer, in the remaining space, there were many long vertical braids connected to the form small circles. In an alternate pattern, these long vertical braids, forming circles, were either connected to each other at the bottom or left draping from the makeshift roof like a teen hanging straight on a pull up bar to grow more taller.
The white layer of har-singar flowers spread as the the base of the ceiling, other opulent arrangement of flowers, and much creative designs, were enough for a usual worshiper to never come out of the katzenjammer of either fear or love for Lord Bankey Bihari.
Artificially created green covers in varied shapes, put up on all four sides of the atrium walls, with many white and red lilies, pink lotuses, and other fresh flowers fixed on them, were adding more colors to the already magnificent arrangement of flowers, I have ever seen in my life.
I held my ground, kept looking at the colorful ceiling, took a deep breath and inhaled the transcendental, lung-purifying, heavenly, sweet perfume of the varied flowers studded like precious stones into the ceiling. I wanted to stay there, sit right below the center of flowery ceiling to keep inhaling the heavenly odor, to absorb the magnificent and resplendent view, but soon someone pushed me from behind, and a private temple guard rudely ordered me keep on moving. I moved, but nothing more important could hold my attention as it was transfixed on the flowery ceiling. The idyllic conditions created in the atrium woke up my hedonist self and for a moment I thought of staying at the place forever.
I moved towards the Bankey Bihari idol, already spellbound by the splendiferous decoration of the main temple hall, to again feel the huge crowd surrounding me, shouting at their top voice, “Radhe Radhe” as the priest folded the curtains to let the worshipers have a rare look at the much rare and mythologically significant Bankey Bihari idol. I again felt the push, was shown eyes by a worshiper as I mistakenly walked on his foot, and the pungent human odor again intensified. I somehow managed to find a place with less crowd, and stood there for more than 2 minutes, observing, and memorizing as many types of flowers and their order of importance as an adornment in the ceiling of the one of the most famous temples in India.
I also looked at the Bankey Bihari idol, and wondered what could be so special about a stone sculpture – other than being an art piece – that people thronged from different parts of the country just to have a look at it. It didn’t impress me. I was more impressed by the wonderful decorations near the Bankey Bihari idol by varied flowers all over the stage, the magnificent ceiling of the atrium, and the efforts put in to create a heavenly aroma inside the temple premises using natural means.
Soon, another private temple guard asked me to move out of the temple, as according to him I was done with my prayers. But was I?
I left the temple complex, and sat on the floor of the veranda, outside, near one of the entrance gates to Lord Bankey Bihari temple. I was still trying to absorb what I saw in last 4-5 minutes. A huge theist crowd, a magnificent flower temple, blind faith, happiness, selfishness, and sacrifice. I saw family members holding each other’s hands, saving each other from the wrath of the crowd. I saw people buying prasad to please Lord Bankey Bihari. I saw people coming to the temple with no questions, but only demands. I saw elderly people who couldn’t walk properly, but still trying to get a glimpse of the Bankey Bihari idol.
Bankey Bihari temple has three doors, one for entrance, one for exit, and one for both entrance and exit. The temple only opens in the morning and evening, and remains shut for more than 5 hours at noon, like most of the temples in Vrindavan, Mathura, and Pushkar.
If anyone believes in mythology, the Bankey Bihari idol in the temple was acquired by Swami Haridas in Nidhi Van (also in Vrindavan), after days of sacrificial prayers to Lord Krishna. The saying is that Lord Krishna himself appeared in front of him and his disciples, with his consort, Radha, and established themselves, together as a couple in the Bankey Bihari idol. You can read more about it on Wikipedia, since I am a non-believer and only consider religious legends as an exaggerated stuff.
I visited Bankey Bihari temple every evening on all four days I stayed in Vrindavan. Two evenings, I went inside the temple, and rest of the evenings, I sat outside in the veranda, just to look at the huge crowd of theists, to see the heavy strain on their foreheads before they are going to visit the mighty Lord, to observe the happiness in air, the happy families for whom God is an eternal identity, the reality, which can’t be questioned, to look at the much spiritual quotient in the air which comes along with the happiness to meet their lover, the God, to whom they always wanted to meet, to look at the arrogance of the priest, to look at the arrogance and frustration of police officers managing such huge crowds without any lapse. I saw people who come to the temple everyday. I also noticed those who selflessly, or perhaps out of need, serve the needy outside the temple. I saw people beating cows right outside the temple, I saw people showing bamboo sticks to monkeys spread all around the temple. I even witnessed a calm, patient individual interacting with cows, monkeys, and dogs alike, feeding them, and talking with them.
It was a lively place, full of people from different sections of society, coming together to please the mighty (in their eyes).
When I was leaving the place on the 5th day, I was nostalgic about it. The same place which looked creepy, small, and poor to me on the first day, now looked happy, rich, and satisfied.