2023.01.01 (Vrindavan Today News): A weekly two days cultural extravaganza commenced at the ‘Vrindavan Chandra Mandir’ in Gyan Gudri area of Vrindavan, on the eve of the English Calendar New Year of 2023. Culture Enthusiast Shri Nand Kishor Rathi, a Pune based business owner, took this initiative to preserve and promote the folk dances, vocal music and folk culture of Braj – Vrindavan.
In order to re-connect the residents of Braj to their roots Rathi ji decided to sponsor the two hour cultural event every weekend on Saturday – Sundays. The event named ‘Braj Chaupal’ is organized at a recently renovated temple of ‘Vrindavan Chandra’, also known as Sandha wali Kunj. This temple is situated right opposite of Rathi Athithi Bhawan in the Gyan Gudri area of Vrindavan. Cultural events will comprise of the traditional Raas Lila, Haveli Sangeet, Samaj Gayan and other folk arts.
For Vrindavan, philanthropy is not a new phenomenon. The culture of philanthropy is as old as the discovery of Vrindavan itself. Scores of princely states, nobles, zamindars contributed for the development of Vrindavan, post its re-discovery 500 years back. They built temples, havelis, dharmashalas (inn), heritage buildings, ghats etc. for the convenience of the residents and the pilgrims visiting Vrindavan. They also contributed for promoting the culture of Raslila, traditional Samaj Gayan, Haveli Sangeet and other folk culture. There are many who continue to imbibe these values even though Braj may bear little resemblance to the culture described in the ancient texts. Shri Nandkishor Rathi, is one of such patrons who has taken interest to revive the lost culture of Braj – Vrindavan.
Not only Shri Rathi has taken initiative to organize the ‘two days in a week’ cultural extravaganza, but he has also taken steps to preserve the old part of Vrindavan at Gyan Gudri, where the Gopis shared the wisdom with Uddhav. He transformed his family owned old time dharmashala into a modern guest house keeping its heritage architecture intact. He has also outreached to the owners of other heritage buildings in the neighborhood to restore them as per the ‘heritage values’ of ancient Vrindavan.
Talking to ‘Vrindavan Today’ Shri Rathi said, “We have taken steps to reconnect the residents of Braj – Vrindavan to their roots to provide an environment and a forum to folk artistes to showcase our shared goals and values.” ” We want the devotees visiting Vrindavan experience the Braj cultural along with the darshan at the different temples,” said Shri Rathi.
“It is a great project for safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage of Braj. When our relatives visit Vrindavan they want to learn about the Raaslila, Samaj Gayan and other folk art of the area. But there is no place where they can experience the lost art and culture of Braj”, said Shri Narendra Agrawal, the Chairman of the ‘Gangotri’, who is also a great admirer of ‘Braj Art and Culture’.
Shri Brajesh Baheti, the Manager of the event said, “Thousands of devotees visit Vrindavan and go to the temples for darshan, but hardly anyone experience the folk art of the pilgrim town. Only a few temple practice the ‘Samaj Gayan’ and Raas Lila is occasionally organized in some places.” “By organizing the ‘Braj Chaupal’ we want to give an opportunity to the devotees to learn about the cultural songs and dance of Braj’, said Baheti.
Charity and philanthropy has been in the ethos of the Indian traditions. Cultural heritage is today threatened on a number of fronts. This initiative of ‘Braj Chaupal’ is a ray of hope to revive the lost folk culture of Braj.