Soaked in the Radha’s mystery and glory, we roamed around her village during our Braj Bhoomi Yatra. And discovered another new but beautiful palace-like temple called Rangili Mahal.
Chaurasi Kos Yatra – Braj Bhoomi Yatra
This is being built by a recent cult that follows Kripalu Ji Maharaj. This huge structure at first confuses you and you wonder if it is a well-guarded palace. Or actually, a temple as the people tell you. The name Rangili Mahal also does not help. We were then told that Radha here is referred to as Rangili Rani because she embodies all that is fine. She also called ‘Kishori’ meaning ever youthful, the one who never ages. Of course nowhere is she referred to as aged or old, neither visually nor literally. This temple is still under construction but a huge congregation hall is ready with exquisite paintings and idols. A model of the temple under construction suggested that the temple was being built according to the principles of temple architecture, with carved stones adorning all the walls, ceilings, arches, and pillars.
The staff here after persuading us to listen to their Guruji every day on TV. And convincing us that he is the only one who can be a link between us and God. They were kind enough to take us to the workshop where the stones were being carved. This was the most delightful experience of this whole trip. We were told that the marble has all been imported from Italy. We saw the stones being cut by huge machines and then carved manually using computerized stencils. Those sculpting the stone cannot be called artists as they were merely making the precise incisions as directed by the design. But it still involves a lot of skill as a small mistake can render the whole stone useless.
There were geometric and floral designs carved out in various shapes and sizes. The management of stone pieces is all by detailed computer design. You see the coming together of an old art form and new age technology. The only thing that I missed in the designs was the art of storytelling. If you see the sculptures at our old temples, they all are telling stories, each stone is telling a story. The symmetric geometric designs look good to the eye but do not set you thinking, do not evoke all the senses.
Temple in Vrindavan
The same cult is also building a temple in Vrindavan, which is almost nearing completion and is beautiful, to say the least. The central hall gives a feeling of being in a mythical sabha or hall from a folktale. The carvings on a sheer white stone, the scenes from the life of Radha Krishna, and everything enthrall you. The whole plan involves a house for the Guruji called Sheesh Mahal, a park, a hotel a place to live. All in all a huge lavish campus. It is ironic that a country where so many people starve can fund such lavish buildings all through voluntary donations. More often than not collected from the general public including the poorest of the poor. Religious or spiritual leaders who once used to stand for austerity are now redefining the standards of luxury.
Govardhan – Braj Bhoomi Yatra
After Barsana, our next stop was Govardhan, the hill that Lord Krishna lifted on his little finger to protect people from torrential rains. Now the hill is reduced to a small pile, but nonetheless symbolically very important for the Krishna devotees. On the main road, there is a temple that recreates the Govardhan Parvat for you. Brightly lit at night and crowded with people. Outside this temple, there are rows of sweet shops and you start getting the famous Mathura Peda, you are not too far from Mathura now. But it was the Kachori and the Chaat that caught my eye and I had them as soon as I could.
A narrow lane from here takes you to the actual Govardhan Parvat. A small part of the hill is now treated as a temple. You can touch the stone here and bow your head to the stone that was touched by Lord Krishna.
Radha Kund – Braj Bhoomi Yatra
From here, we headed to the last spot of the Yatra which is Radha Kund. The name may not mean that the Kund belonged to Radha, she may have used it sometime. But the fact is everything here belongs to her including the beloved Krishna and so does the Kund. It is a beautiful pond surrounded by temples and bathing ghats and this is here that people complete their Braj Bhoomi Yatra with a bath. As you drive past the last leg of the Yatra, you see a lot of stalls selling pain-relieving oils. And you cannot find a better example of a perfectly located business. When people are tired after walking around for miles and miles, you sell them pain-relieving oils and massages.
You get another glimpse of devotion when you see the enthusiastic devotees singing and walking from Govardhan to Radha Kund. There are people of all ages, they are tired but they do not stop until they reach Radha Kund. There are many big and small ponds here. You can get lost in them if you do not follow the Yatris on foot.
The last stop for us in this yatra was Vrindavan. The small town on the other side of the river Yamuna from Mathura. Vrindavan is full of temples but the most famous and ancient temple is that of Banke Bihari. Located at the intersection of narrow lanes, flooded with the Pandas who would use every trick of the trade to pursue you to do some pooja. This temple with a courtyard was also full of people singing and dancing in praise of their favorite God. The temple was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and the devotion was similar to the Ladliji temple of Barsana. You have to be there in that air to feel the devotion.
I do not think words will ever be able to define what devotion means. Unless you see it as a tear falling down a devotee looking at the image of his deity. Unless you see them dancing with sheer joy with no regard to who is watching them. And the sheer belief that it is Krishna whom they are dancing for.
As you go through the streets of Vrindavan, you would hear the bhajans playing everywhere, but nothing touches you like live music playing in the temples. It may not be as refined and singers may be ordinary folks. But still, the energy they emit is so live that it brings you alive.
Unknowingly, without a plan, we finished our Braj Bhoomi Chaurasi Kos Yatra at Vrindavan. Here is what the board in Vrindavan said:
Braj Chaurasi Kos mein, Char Gaon nij Dham,
Vrindavan aur Madhupuri, Barsana Nandgaon
Read the earlier part of our yatra one.