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Rewind: Lord Krishna’s heritage in ruins

Mathura, one of the most important pilgrimage centres, is in pathetic state today despite being ruled by those who ‘champion’ the Hindu cause

Updated On – 12:33 AM, Sun – 19 March 23

Rewind: Lord Krishna’s heritage in ruins

By Vineet Narain 

Hyderabad: In 2017, there was great enthusiasm in Hyderabad when over 500 saints, industrialists and devotees proceeded to Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) for the grand installation of a deity of Sri Sankarshan Bhagwan (also known as Balramji or Venkateswara Balaji).

A three-day celebration of pranpratishtha was organised by The Braj Foundation, an NGO which restored the puranic Sankarshan Kund (pushkarni) at the foothill of sacred Govardhan Hill. The same was in a state of neglect for several decades. It had turned into a sewage dump yard, spreading disease and foul smell all around, on the parikrama path of Govardhan Hill. The beautification done was of such high standards that it became the most attractive pilgrimage centre for millions of devotees coming to Mathura. It was here that this 34-feet-tall deity in black granite, sent by the people of Telangana with deep love, devotion and enthusiasm, was installed. The deity was carved by qualified shilpshashtris at Tirupati.

Today, this transcendental heritage site is back to its pathetic condition and has been partly destroyed by none other than the self-proclaimed champions of the Hindu cause, ie, the Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh.

  • The pranpritishthithdeity Sankarshan Bhagwan, sent by the people of Telangana, now stands amid a pool of sewage water with garbage all around it. Its regular seva pooja and abhishekam have not taken place since 2018

Down the Drain

Those who had seen the transformation in 2017, now get depressed and even shed tears seeing the plight of this Hindu pilgrimage centre in the land of Radha-Krishna. Readers may wonder how can the Yogi government do this when he is being projected by the RSS and the BJP as their brand ambassador and Hindu icon. The story is heartbreaking for the blind supporters of Hindutva because in their imagination Yogi Adityanath has brought Ram Rajya to Uttar Pradesh. He is aiming to bring a similar Ram Rajya all over the country.

After coming to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, the Yogi government gave a contract for reviving nine ancient water bodies in Braj to a contractor for Rs 67 crore. This was shocking for the professional team of The Braj Foundation, which had won six UNESCO-backed national awards as Best Water NGO of the country for having successfully revived dozens of such water bodies in Mathura at one-fourth of this cost.

Obviously, such a contract on highly inflated rates was awarded to siphon off a huge chunk of this money. Imagine this was the first initiative of the Yogi government within a week of coming to power to serve the Hindu cause. It appeared as if corruption was inbuilt into its religious policy. The Braj Foundation’s team raised an alarm and highlighted the manipulation.

  • The ancient water bodies, which were perennially filled with natural water, have been destroyed completely and today instead of water harvesting or conserving rainwater, these are being filled through borewells, making a complete mockery of PM’s Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Scrapping Contract

Considering the high reputation of quality, aesthetics, transparency and credibility of The Braj Foundation, which was also the official adviser to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for its HRIDAY scheme and of the Uttar Pradesh government for having made the first-ever Tourism Master Plan of Mathura, that contract had to be scrapped by the Yogi government. This disturbed those who were eying a big cut in the name of development of Mathura. To compensate for this loss, the Yogi government gave a red-carpet welcome to a Jaipur-based person, who in turn was being given several thousand crore rupees worth of contract for developing tourism infrastructure in Mathura.

The Braj Foundation team again objected to this because this so-called expert, who is accused in several scams being investigated by the CBI and the ED, had no knowledge of Braj culture and heritage. The protest was so loud and clear that the Yogi government had to drop the idea.

Any leader, government or party, if honest, would have respected the credibility and alertness of The Braj Foundation and taken its advice for making plans for Braj development. Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several of his cabinet colleagues, secretaries of government of India and corporate houses, apart from eminent saints, have publicly appreciated several holy sites restored by The Braj Foundation since 2005. The Foundation has done so with corporate funding and without seeking any financial assistance from the State or central governments. Then CEO of Niti Aayog Amitabh Kant had said: “What Braj Foundation has achieved in 15 years, against heavy odds and without government funding, 80% State Tourism Departments have not been able to achieve since independence.”

  • The BJP, RSS and the VHP claim to be the champions of the Hindu cause but did nothing to conserve the dilapidated heritage of Lord Krishna in Mathura

Despite such achievements and universal appreciation earned by The Braj Foundation, the Yogi government pressed into action its administrative machinery to prepare a false report of several allegations against the Foundation, which it filed at the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Then sitting member of the NGT, an accused in land manipulation at Govardhan Hill, presided over the matter and gave an adverse order against the Foundation by ignoring all the facts available in the case file.

Before the Foundation could get a stay order from the Supreme Court, which it got within four days, the administration of Yogi government came in a Talibani style and destroyed two holy sites in Govardhan —  Rudra Kund and Sankarshan Kund. The destruction was so brutal that the pranpritishthith deity Sankarshan Bhagwan is now standing amid a pool of sewage water with garbage all around it. Its regular seva pooja and abhishekam have not taken place since 2018. Repeated appeals to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Yogi Adityanath have fallen on deaf ears.

The Yogi government has not been able to substantiate a single allegation against The Braj Foundation in five years. Its aim was to sideline a selfless team dedicated passionately to the beautification of Lord Krishna’s land so that its official agencies can have free play in plundering and destroying the beautiful heritage of Mathura. They have succeeded in doing so.

Mindless Projects

The Yogi government appointed a retired IPS officer as Vice Chairman of the UP Braj Teerth Vikas Parishad. He was given the powers equivalent to the Chief Secretary with full control over all development projects in Mathura. The Parishad was floated by the previous government to ensure integrated Braj development by obtaining sufficient inputs from experts in the history, culture, philosophy, architecture and landscape of Braj. The objective of the Parishad is to restore the crumbling heritage of Lord Krishna in such a way that it attains pristine glory while ensuring basic facilities for the pilgrims.

It is estimated that in the last six years, projects worth over Rs 1,000 crore have been executed in Mathura under his patronage. Barring the construction of a few roads, huge money has been wasted on irrelevant projects and at far-off places, which neither have any connection with Lord Krishna nor did it see a single visitor. Moreover, the workmanship and quality of construction of these projects are of such low grades that many of them have caved in much before their formal inauguration. For example, the red stone-carved arches at Vrinda Kund and Nandgaon crumbled down within a few weeks of construction. Fortunately, these gates collapsed at a time when there was no public movement under them. Local Brajwasis and saints have persistently warned authorities about such disastrous projects but all in vain.

  • Braj represents a society which is environment-conscious and close to nature but the Yogi government is doing just the opposite in the name of developing Mathura

The ancient water bodies, which were perennially filled with natural water have been destroyed completely by the massive concretisation done by the Parishad. Today there is not a drop of water or they are filled with sewage inflows. Instead of water harvesting or conserving rainwater, these sacred water bodies (pushkarnis) are being filled through borewells. This is a complete mockery of PM’s Jal Shakti Abhiyan.

The stone-cladding done on the ghats of these kunds is of such poor quality that one can peel off large chunks of stones with just fingers. The massive use of carved red stone ‘jalis’ has been done to enhance the cost of construction because a big percentage of kickbacks can be taken from the suppliers. These jalis do not match the mood and landscape of these water bodies. These are ugly impositions in a natural environment with no purpose whatsoever.

Interestingly, enough modern urban structures like facilitation centres, toilets, massive boundary walls running into kilometres, concretised huge car parking, huge gates and street lights have been built around these natural water bodies, which do not even have access roads. This again is a poor joke with Hindus the world over in the name of developing Mathura.

Important townships in Mathura district are Vrindavan, Barsana, Nandgaon, Govardhan, Mant, Gokul and Baldev. Each of these popular destinations attracts a large number of pilgrims throughout the year. Despite this, they have very poor infrastructure, filthy streets and are in pathetic condition. Forced by these circumstances, a team of selfless, honest, young journalists got together and produced 27 investigative TV reports on each of these projects, which have been uploaded on a youtube channel ‘Braj Today’.

It is very frustrating that the Braj Teerth Vikas Parishad, despite repeated reminders by RTI activists, has not shared the DPRs, contract papers and accounts of these projects. It is obvious that the head of Parishad feels scared to share such information in the public domain. In every political rally Prime Minister Modi, Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath roar at the top of their voice claiming to be serving the Hindu cause. It is also quite revealing to see how the BJP and RSS leadership and cadre are mysteriously silent about this ongoing devastation of Radha-Krishna’s land. 

(The author is a senior journalist)




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