The festival of Holi is all about fun and happiness scattered through splendid colors. But in Braj Bhoomi, that includes Nand Gaon, Barsana, Govardhan, Gokul, Mathura and Vrindavan, it is the way of life for entire 40 days starting from Basant panchami to Holi.
The Latthmar Holi of Barsana is world famous. It is played between two villages Nand Gaon and Barsana. As per ritual, women strike men with wooden rod.
So, where could one witness the spirit of Holi other that the place where it is suppose to be at its best. On March 13th 2011, I decided to be part of this madness. We started early around 5 in the morning from Sahibabad. Delhi Agra highway is pretty smooth to drive specially after Faridabad.
Around 8 we reached to Barsana. Dew was still there on wheat corps, and we couldn’t resist ourselves to get clicked.
To our disappointment we came to know that Latthmar Holi will begin from next day i.e. 14th onwards. That day it was Laddo ki Holi. There is a famous Radha Temple in Barsana, where devotees were present in large numbers; throwing laddos (sweets) on each other, everyone was singing and dancing even people greet each other with Radhey-Radhey. Photography was not allowed inside the temple.
|Devi Radha Temple in Barsana|
Our next stop was Govardhan. We skipped Nandgaon as it was on opposite direction. From Barsana to Govardhan the road condition was pathetic. 15 km drive took one hour. However we got some first hand experience of real India.
|Road condition from Barsana to Govardhan|
Two boys, studying near a grass field, while their livestock’s are grazing.
We complain for rush in AC Metro train and here, everything seems to be quite normal.
This is what we know as Jugaad. The word has its origin from this vehicle only. This Jugaad can’t get registered under Indian Motor Vehicle Act, so there is no fine for overloading or rash driving.
A word of caution, get one extra pair of west before driving in this road, because you’ll feel like detaching the original one to give it some rest.
Parking is a real pain in Govardhan. Private parking owners charges as many as 50 Rs for an hour and if they allowed they will park your car in others trunk. Half of the city area is occupied by sweets shops and rest by devotees. From here we started to understand the economy of religious cities.
|Sweet Shop in Govardhan|
Everyone has something to do with religious faith. Inside the temple there is a large stone of Govardhan Parvat, which Lord Krishna lifted to save the entire region from non-stop rain.
From Govardhan we drove to Mathura. Before Krishna birthplace temple parking we hired a guide for Gokul. You can easily find a guide that will charge 50 Rs for Gokul and Mathura and another 50 Rs will extend the service till Vrindavan. Gokul is about 15 km from Mathura. To our luck we get the chance to see the lord in his gold palki, which is only available in month of March.
|Here Lord Krishna spent his childhood|
Most of the temples of Gokul, Mathura and Vrindavan area are managed by government trust so one needs not to pay to any individual. You can pay a stipulated amount for shringar and get receipt of the same. So not every individual will bother you, but still they persuade to do shringar.
After Gokul we visited Shri Krishna Birthplace Temple at Mathura. This is one of the most guarded and well managed Hindu worshiped places. The disputed Babri-Masjid is adjacent to it. The mosque is open during eid for namaz. Heavy security forces are deployed in and around temple and you can’t carry anything inside except your wallet, that too after thorough checkup. Photography is strictly prohibited. Once you are inside the temple you’ll enjoy every bit of it. One should stay till Aarti, however since we intended to cover Vrindavan too so after lunch we proceeded further.
Vrindavan is another 15 km drive from Mathura and it is rightly said that you can count stars in sky but you can’t measure the exact number of temples in Vrindavan. There are so many temples so we decided to visit two most famous temples i.e. “Shri Banke Bihari Ji Temple” and “Iskon Temple”. Due to Holi, the temple was over crowded.
|Shri Banke Bihari Ji Temple, Vrindavan|
|Shri Prabhupad, Founder of Iskon Sect|
|Iskon Temple Vrindavan|
|Iskon Temple Vrindavan|
|Devotees in complete ecstasy|
|Volunteer of Iskon Temple and devotee|
|Most of the Iskon Vrindavan workers are foreign origin|
In Iskon Temple I met a volunteer, who was selling books related to Prabhupad ideology, who was founder of Iskon. His name was Baldev, sounds interesting, a devotee and volunteer in Iskon temple and his name is also a kind of religious one. Is it a mere co-incidence or something fishy? I inquired more in a friendly tone and then came the actual story. His real name was Badal. He was not from a very good background, aged 25 something, in day shift works in a mobile company and in night he changes his dress and ideology to suit Krishna devotees. He has got some target to sell religious books. The way he approached me, typical salesman style, made me curious.
So, here goes the story, a young guy with not so promising career, is working in two shifts to meet his day-to-day needs. In morning he sells mobile plan to customers and in evening books to devotees. In return he got the dress as per Prabhupad Sect and his daily expenses, in his words, Iskon take care of his daily needs. Most of the temples in Mathura and Vrindavan don’t allow photography, but in Iskon you can click as many photographs as you wanted provided you are not invading privacy of others. They have an eating point, books and CD/DVD store inside the temple, and a Janpath style market just opposite to the temple to woo foreigners. Another example of how the economy of religious cities works.
We came back around 9 PM from Vrindavan, discussing what we observe there, Shri Banke Bihari ji Temple was a total chaos, poor lighting and unorganized crowd, while Iskon was one of the best managed one. How God liked it to be? But on one point we all agreed that whatever way it is, faith is not going to die, neither from us also.