Vrindavan Parikrama Marg is losing its spirit and form to commercial interests at an appalling rate.
Vrindavan, 2022-04-01 (Ashee Sharma): The original Raman Reti was in Vrindavan, not in Gokul. Sounds uncanny? Yes, what is thought of merely as the name of a locality, used to be an important destination in the Panchkosi Vrindavan Parikrama where people took a stop to rest on the sandy shore of the Yamuna. Replaced by a shopping complex in a manner that has left no sign of its existence, this sandy riverside spot has today been completely obliterated from the physical and psychological map of Vrindavan. And along with it was lost the endearing tradition of making sand castles that symbolised people’s wish and prayer of being reborn in the dust of Vrindavan forever.
Raman Reti is not a standalone tragedy. The Vrindavan Parikarama Marg is vanishing; losing in spirit and form to business interests at a mind-boggling speed. The blight of commercialisation and corruption, surpassed in intensity by mindless development, has rendered this most ancient and vital element of Vrindavan’s identity unrecognisable for those who know of it or have seen it in its heydays.
The Parikrama once defined Vrindavan through its myriad tangible and intangible facets including the temples, ghats, tilas (mounds), sands, greenery, as well as the traditions, rituals, and mythology associated with them. Many of these formerly inviolable fundamentals are either non-existent or stand as dead structures today.
Proceeding along the sandy shores of the Yamuna, the Parikrama was originally bordered on the right by magnificent ghats housing numerous temples of indescribable spiritual significance. Sprawling farms of gauava, plum (ber), rose and jasmine ornamented its left. As the perils of civilization mounted and the town’s population swelled in an uncontrolled and unplanned manner, the Yamuna receded making way for garbage, and construction debris. When inconvenienced ‘Parikramarthis’ complained, the authorities took to the lazy solution of concretizing the pathway. But there’s more to this than meets the eye.
Behind the concretisation of Parikrama Marg and its subsequent cannibalisation by the Ring Road, was the nexus between the corrupt government machinery and land mafia. The account begins with the VIP road, which was unceremoniously cut out from the Parikrama Marg to pave way for quick and comfortable celebrity darshans of Bihari ji. As greed grew, so did the menace. Civic authorities colluded with the real estate cabal to facilitate the rampant encroachment of the Yamuna floodplains. Farms were replaced with concrete jungles in the form of illegal building and roads in an orchestrated takeover of the Panchkosi Parikrama.
There’s no count, official or unofficial, of the number of ghats, temples and other structures lost to the onslaught of this ‘development’. But surely, more is destroyed than left. Beginning with Kalideh (Kaliya Ghat) and the Kaliya Daman Temple, to the Sun Temple at Dwadashaditya Tila near Madan Mohan, and the adjoining Prasknandan Ghat, the list goes on. Construction on Yamuna riverbed between Shringarvat and Keshi Ghat has caused irreparable damage to Cheer Ghat, Govind Ghat and Bhramar Ghat. The supposed beautification of Vihar Ghar with cemented platforms and artificial fountains under the central government’s HRIDAY Yojana has turned the once living ghat into a lifeless museum, nowhere matching in aesthetic standards to its ancient counterpart. Keshi Ghat too would have been lost had the Allahbad High Court not intervened to stop the construction of the proposed semi-circular bridge for the Yamuna Riverfront Development project.
Brajraj, Yamuna and Govardhan are said to be the three eternal deities of Braj. The previous two can unfortunately be called near extinct today. While the state of Yamuna, whatever remains, is evident, the lost sands of Vrindavan buried under motorable, concretised roads cannot even tell the story of their destruction. If the usurping of the physical pathway wasn’t enough, with decrees such as banning the age-old spiritual tradition of Danduati Parikrama in the name of safety on almost every important occasion, the authorities have time and gain tried to ruin the spirit Vrindavan Parikrama.
The expanse and blessings of Yamuna Rani and Raj Rani as they are called, was not limited to one particular place in Vrindavan. Even today, there are people who having lived a lifetime in Braj recall stories from ‘their’ time when they used to set out on Vrindavan and Govardhan Parikramas in sparkling white outfits which turned golden with the sacred dust of Braj as they returned. When they are gone, not just another generation, but the last living evidence Braj’s splendour will be lost. The younger lot, unfortunately, has seen and will see its successors grow with the idea of Vrindavan Parikrama as ‘Ring Road’; its real nature and form being limited to books and articles like this on