Even after writing about the inspirational story of Widows of Vrindavan, the intriguing love affair of Bengal, the happy story of 5 children of God, a creative evening spent at Bankey Bihari, and the never ending monkey menace in the town, I still feel there is more to Vrindavan. As if the town cries out for love, attracting me towards it like a heavy magnet.
Vrindavan is a labyrinth of alleys, with every alley leading to a temple. But are there only temples in Vrindavan? No. There are beautiful ghats as well. But I suppose upper middle class religious tourists from Delhi rarely go so deep into the town to touch the base of river Yamuna, oh, sewer Yamuna! I am not insulting the river, rather it just makes me feel helpless when I think about its irreversible sewer like situation. I feel responsible for it, and it makes me more sick when I realize nobody actually cares about it, as so many Hindus do for cows!
Kesi Ghat isn’t an easy place to find in Vrindavan. You will have to go through an ever confusing (for people who are new to the town) myriad of alleys, back alleys, narrow lanes, and car-jammed streets of Vrindavan to reach its extreme end i.e. Kesi Ghat. Oh, the majestic red bricked structure on the banks of Yamuna, appearing no less than a pleasure palace or a meditation centre for the royals of old times. Maybe some Maharaja of a nearby state had come to Vrindavan, fell in love with it, and decided to built a proper ghat in the town for himself. Or maybe after Chaitanya Mahaprabhu rediscovered all the sites related to Sri Krishna some 500 years ago, he named this place as Kesi Ghat where Krishna had bathed after killing the demon Kesi, and some Maharaja – in all gleam for Krishna – built this marvelous palace cum ghat in his honor.
Well, when I visited the ghat, people were bathing in the river throughout its long archway. What else are people supposed to do at a ghat? But in Yamuna, the sewer? I looked more carefully. None of them looked like belonging to upper middle class, as we can easily find on the ghats of Ganges in different cities. Most of the people bathing in the river, men and women alike, topless and without giving a damn, looked like belonging to nearby places in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Bihar. For a moment, I wanted to pity them. But then I remembered the reason I took this trip. It was to understand the reality, to cherish it, and to savor the moments I otherwise didn’t use to enjoy.
I looked again. There was color, lots of color, red color, blue color, drenched flamboyant silk sarees hanging on plastic ropes, water droplets dripping on the red stoned floor from the bottom corners of the hanging sarees, dry clothes and sleepers put carelessly on the stairs of the ghat, monkeys trying their level best to steal food, spectacles, and sleepers, a gentleman – sitting on a circular elevated apron at the front of the ghats some 10 meters higher than river level – practicing meditation, looking at the endless beauty of the place. I saw happy souls, lost souls. I saw women changing clothes hiding behind the makeshift changing room, created by a single saree held on two opposite corners respectively by two women. I saw men bathing in a singular loin cloth. I saw men and women washing ghats, cleaning them. I saw naked kids diving into the river from the elevated aprons.
Yes, river Yamuna may not be fit to bathe in, but can I change the reality that it is still a river and people are supposed to bathe in the river?
After staying in Vrindavan for 5 days, I went to Mathura, and thus had the chance to see Yamuna again.
Vishram Ghat – Mathura’s most prominent ghat – wasn’t as gigantic as Kesi Ghat in Vrindavan, but it looked different. It was a ghat cum temple dressed like a pink bride. It appeared as if people come to Vishram Ghat to worship Shri Krishna and Yamuna, and they go to Kesi Ghat to take a bath in the river.
Click here to see the complete photo series on Yamuna as it is seen in Vrindavan and Mathura.
The first thing I saw when I place my foot on the ghat was a brawl between two priests. Like we usually see auto drivers fighting with each other when an outsider auto driver takes away the supposedly local auto driver’s passenger. Yes, exactly like that! They were fighting over praying rights on the ghat. One priest must have come out of line to get more customers. So, the brawl!
I looked at Yamuna, and somehow it didn’t look pathetic at that moment, thanks to the clement monsoon weather, and the brimming flood water in the river. The black clouds in the sky were like adornments to the beautiful bust of a dusky Indian woman. The gushing winds sounded like the sweet voice of a woman that make her stand out of the league. I clicked some photographs and the priest came running to me,
“Do you want to pray to river Yamuna?”
I simply said, “No!” and he went away. It was unusual for priests and I would discover that soon enough when I would be in Pushkar. Oh, I had lengthy discussions with priests near the Pushkar lake. Perhaps, this priest must have understood my inclinations and realised in time that it is more beneficial to ask families for prayers than a bachelor young man.
During my stay in Vrindavan and Mathura, I couldn’t give much thought to the dying Yamuna – thanks to the congenital apathy most Delhiites carry for the river – but today, while writing this piece, I feel forlorn and helpless. Yamuna makes me feel so.
The condemnable indifferent attitude most Delhiites carry for Yamuna never let me think about its dying state. Only when I went to places like Vrindavan and Mathura, I realized the importance of Yamuna in millions of lives. A river is part of an ecosystem, a chain of nature, and an indication of the health of cities through with it flows by. If a river is not healthy, I am sure all the cities along its banks will one day bear the consequences. Today, more than ever, I urge you to make Yamuna a political tool, as you have done to beef. I urge you to fight for it as you do for cows. Isn’t Yamuna your mother? Isn’t Yamuna important for our existence? Why is that no politician is concerned about the cleaning of Yamuna but everyone wants to save every single cow on earth? It is because of you, the common man! The common man decides the priority level of issues concerning him/her. Yes, cows have to be saved. But is that the only thing that concerns you? Can’t you see every politician in the country is using cows for their own political advancement? Don’t you think banning of beef in 24 states is too much for such a non-serious issue? So, can we replace cows with Yamuna for some time? I beg you. Cleaning Yamuna is a time specific issue. If we don’t act today, we won’t be able to save it in time!
To convince my inconvincible friends who vehemently support “ban on cow slaughter”, here is my irrefutable argument:
These are the words of great Brijbhashi poet Soordas, also known as the Blind Poet. While talking about the gifts Nanda gave to brahmins on the birth of Shri Krishna, he talks about the special cows which give double milk after grazing grass on Yamuna’s shores.
So, now you see the importance of Yamuna?
Can we save her now?