Have you ever heard about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu? Well, he rediscovered Vrindavan around 500 years ago in early 16th century. He belonged to a Bengali Brahmin family, and thus began the love affair of the mighty Bengal with the tiny town of Vrindavan located on the outskirts of Mathura city, hallowed as a sacred place on the banks of a holy river, Yamuna. Though, Yamuna has turned into no less than a sewer, Vrindavan is still shining bright among the many religious cities across India, with a regular footfall of thousands of people, mostly pertaining to its proximity to the capital of India, New Delhi.
But, which is still the biggest community in Vrindavan? Oh, the Bengalis! They have a connection with Vrindavan, much older than the recent connection of North Indians. Ever since Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Vrindavan, Bengalis have been coming to the town in large stock. Some own properties, bungalows, and ashrams in the town, many visit the place at an older age to attain peace and spend rest of their life in the town, and many visit Vrindavan regularly to keep the connection strong.
I went to almost all the major temples in Vrindavan, and out of all the connections with different Indian communities, the Bengali bond was strongest. Wherever I went I saw tiles carved with names and prayers of people, in Bengali, for their loved ones and themselves. It flabbergasted me! I asked a fellow walking alongside, while doing a venerating round of the Radha Damodar Temple,
“Do you know why all the tiles are carved in Bengali?”
The old man hesitated a little bit, looked around towards more tiles, and then said,
”Oh, no! They are carved in all the languages. People from all over India come here! See, this one is in Tamil!”
I looked carefully, and that one tile was really in Tamil. But he was unhelpful, and unrealistic. It wasn’t difficult for anyone to realize the special Bengali bond of Vrindavan. But I wanted to know why!
I asked another man, looking like a priest, after I completed my three rounds of the temple as required by the sign board I read while entering the temple. He told me,
“Bengalis love Vrindavan. They come here often and in large numbers. That’s why you will see so many tiles carved in Bengali. You know, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a Bengali, and other saints gave huge importance to the ordinary bhakts and lovers of Krishna. They started the tradition to help the bhakts in whichever way possible. So, Bengalis believe that if they will donate floor tiles with their names on it, it will not only help in the construction of the temple, but when people will walk on them, dance on them, in their unrequited love for Krishna, it will help them attain Moksha.”
I couldn’t really comprehend it at that point, but later, after much reminisce, I realized such a thing teaches humility, and humility is a gift to mankind. It is a precursor to peace and tranquility.
Imagine people walking on a tile with your name carved on it! The thought itself teaches you your real place in the world.
Radha Damodar Temple was full of such tiles mostly used as flooring, and also pasted on walls. I walked on them, hesitatingly in the beginning, and happily later.
Such tiles could not only be seen in temples, but also on roadside, ghats, and small temples constructed on every nook and cranny of Vrindavan.
Also, around 80 percent of widows and a major chunk of destitute living in Vrindavan are from Bengal. So, Bengali could be easily heard while walking on the alleys of Vrindavan, specially if you don’t leave the alleys for 5 days, like me.