Friday, August 21, 2009

Hare Krishna!

After the trek through the desert and the walks through the labyrinths of Rajput and Mughal architecture.. not to mention all the sites we missed due to the incessant heat.. Bharatpur, Fatehpur sikri and Ajmer/Pushkar to name a few... we had planned all these in our itinerary but just couldn't step out of the hotel room during the mid day heat.. so ended up missing all these places.. Anyway after all these escapades we finally had one last stop before heading back to base Delhi.

However unfortunately we had only about 4 hrs in Mathura before we had to head to the railway station and wait for our train to Delhi. And although we thought that was ample time.. it wasnt.. especially because we tend to linger and take our time.. the worst characteristic if you are tourists who want to see loads of places. But I like to think of myself as a leisurely tourist. I have more fun if I am not rushed (just a nice way of saying I am lazy )...

At Mathura we found this guide to take us through Vrndavan. After having avoided the fast talking types like plague.. we uncharacteristically took this guy with us to see Vrndavan. He turned out to be a student of commerce who was doing this as a social service, and did not even want to be paid. We of course paid him with money as well as a glass of cool maakan lassi (buttered yoghurt drink) a speciality of Mathura. I havent had such yummy lassi anywhere ever!

I digress back to Vrndavan, I had imagined Vrndavan to be this huge garden where Krishna comes to play ras-leela (dance with the gopikas) every night. However all that is left of Vrndavan is a small patch of tulsi garden and I was told they hear sounds of the flute and anklets every night emanating from this little garden. The main deity of Vrndavan looks absolutely breathtaking.. however the preist tries to fleece you of money in the name of donation. There were huge groups of widows doing Krishna bajan and I wanted to donate something for the cause. But the preist at Vrndavan actually put me off with his commercial smart mouthed talk! As we left I gave Rs 200 to Cheeky and asked him to put it on the puja plate (apparently this goes to the preist and not the temple!)... so the preist guy gave Nantu a piece of yellow cloth adorned by the residing deity.. The 2000 and more bucks we donated to the cause did not prompt him to give us that.. it was the 200 that went to his kitty that gave him that nudge.

Needless to say I was very disillusioned as I left Vrndavan. One captivating thing about Vrndavan are the monkeys.. they steal your eye glasses and food.. just about anything they can get their hands on! I found them so cute and cheeky and they brought the smile back on my face! Next we went to Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura.. flanked by a mosque which rises just above the prison cell where Krishna is believed to have been born, it is a place of much controversy. The mosque is supposed to have been built by destroying the temple at Vrndavan.. Aurangazeb was supposed to have used the red stones from the Govind Deb temple to built this mosque. While the hindus say this, the muslims claim the mosque existed first! And like every other place in India the controversy continues and casts a shadow on these historic sites! The security as you can imagine is supposed to be tight.. but I am not so sure! The shops inside this temple piqued Cheeky's interest and he was found hoarding on all the inexpensive toys.. a flute here, a shehnai (trumpet) there, a set of drums and what not... he was very excited while we would live to rue this as we were then subjected to loud noises termed music.

To be honest after the trip.. Mathura was a bit of a let down.. I expected to be swayed and moved by the birth place of Krishna.. Krishna after all is our favorite God and I am a strong believer in God.. but the controversies and commercialization dimmed my spirit and I was ready to move on! The temple in my (my husband's) hometown relatively unknown holds me in more awe as it is unblemished by controversy and commercial gains.. and the only thing that stands out is the powerful presence of God. Unfortunately, Mathura the birth place of God dims in comparison! That is very sad indeed!

8 comments:

asaaan said...

Hey, we went to that temple and the mosque thing.
Did you get frisked by the policewoman? Did you get asked for special mithai?

Also did you go through that tunnel with the figurines and suc. It was right outside the temple.

You know asking about the donations, I once told some guy, hamare char bache hai, humko donation chaiye and he just laughed and went off..(I am going to assume you know hindi)

Preethi said...

YES, YES AND YES!! We were frisked too.. and we bought the mithai which my dad finished in 2 weeks.. and none of us touched! And we did go through the tunnel...still my spirits were so slumped.. I wish the birthplace of Krishna had retained more of its mystic charm and not lost most of it to this new sense of commercialization!
As for the donations... good one girl :D

Aparna said...

First time on your blog here.
Being from Delhi, I've also been to Mathura(but not Vrindavan) and have been sorely disappointed. I was more impressed woth Meera's temple of Krishna in Rajasthan .
You have a way of narrating your travel stories, keep writing.

Pavi!!!! said...

I agree. Even when I was @ Mathura.. I didn’t feel that sense of devotion. Its hard to explain, but maybe we felt the same thing. Commercialization takes away so much of the actual meaning that a place holds. N priest trying to make money is such a put-off n SEVERAL temples across india face this problem. I donno how well their paid and if increasing their pay is one of the plausible solutions.

If I may ask… so over how many days did u cover all these places?

Also, did u buy mithai from Mathura?

Rambler said...

oh you are having one hell of a trip..awesome :)

Preethi said...

Aparna - Welcome and Thanks! Unfortunately we did not visit the Meera temple.. will keep that in mind though for my next trip!
Pavi - Over 10 days.. even though we skipped a few places was still hectic, mainly due to the heat!
Rambler - oh yeah having a blast!

Sumana said...

No surprises here preethi. We (myself and hubby) were totally frisked at haridwar. All it means is hari ki dwar, but no every priest at any place asks for money. People just snatch the pooja thali from your hand and claim to get the pooja done and demand Rs.500. I remember at the end of day hubby did not like entering temples the moment he saw a priest, he just took a right about turn to exit. It just defeats the purpose sometimes. That way south indian temples are lot more organised.

Mama - Mia said...

since this kinda priest crap happened to me in jammu and shirdi (both when i was fairly young) i just stay away from all famous temples. temples in general really. i mean i understand priests need to make a living, then just charge some kinda entrance fee at the temple and use that. dont try to fleece devotees who come to the temple.

dunno if somethings will ever change!

cheers!

abha