A recent visit to the holy land of Vrindavan and Mathura brought a queer fact to our attention. Especially in the former, the land where Krishna is believed to have grown up amidst all his lady friends, the gopis, the monkeys have a strange attraction to spectacles!
Our guide warned us in time and as a result I ended up walking the lanes half blind, with my glasses safely in my bag. Soon enough we did witness proof of this when a hapless visitor had his glasses snatched unceremoniously.
According to our guide, the monkeys use the glass to barter for food! But why glasses and not something else? Anyone care to suggest?
That mystery aside, the trip was an eye-opener on how irreverent and uncaring we Indians can be, as much as we are devout. For one, we can never be silenced. Not even by the Gods!
The best proof for that is a visit to Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna the Indian deity widely worshipped and who lived around 5000 years ago. Though not milling with crowds of the kind seen at Mecca or Jerusalem, the place sees a constant stream of devotees, all chattering nine to the dozen.
Unlike in other religious practices, Hindus do not believe in maintaining silence. That is fine and can be overlooked. But what can’t be is the attitude of priests at places like Mathura and Vrindavan. If one looked bored and refuses to reply to a query, the other was loud and threatening in the way ‘financial offering’ was sought!
Rather than a quieting atmosphere one would expect at such a historic place like Mathura, there is the noise and the ubiquitous presence of gun-toting soldiers. The wall of the mosque built almost adjacent to the prison that held Vasudev and Devaki looms large and the azaan calling to faithfuls is loud and clear. What better proof of the secular nature of the country!
Coming away from there, I was left disappointed. There was no trace of Krishna here. Not the image I carried. I did not find Arjuna’s charioteer here, nor Radha’s lover. Perhaps all that was lost in the many times the temple was destroyed down the centuries. Or perhaps, one needs to see the eighth avataar of Vishnu in his devotees, not on the walls or the prison enclosure.
At least the small lanes of Vrindavan hold some charm comparatively. Here, cows can be seen loitering here and there. The ashrams housing the ‘meeras’ are another endearing aspect, though they can do with some maintenance and cleaning. Women of all ages, who are either widowed or taken up a life of sanyas, live here according to our guide. Bhajans fill the air all through the day.
The Madhuban or (Nidhivan as it is known locally) the gardens where Krishna consorts with his gopis was another letdown. Our driver cum guide had built an image of beauty and reverence around it. But the patch of shrub forest left us wondering. The intertwined branches are said to represent Krishna and Radha. Locals like our driver believe that ‘Thakurji’ (Krishna) comes every night to dance here, and he is given his privacy. The gates are kept locked at night even as beetle leaf and some eatables are left behind for the god and his partners. These are said to be consumed by day break and the devotees believe the hand of Krishna behind this.
A cameraman who decided to stay back and check out the truth lost his eyes, our guide told us. Indeed, folklore can turn the god of love into a vindictive one.
Stories are many, as many as the gods we have. But when it comes to taking care of historical or religious places, we Indians are woefully inadequate. Any reasons, anyone?