Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart by Debashish Baidya

Vrindavan is the launchpad of what we can call the ‘Krishna Consciousness’, spreaded into this world through various institutions, rituals and individuals. A strong spiritual façade which is the lifeline of many people living in India and world over, drawing its power from this majestic town which is echoed with the voice of ‘Radhe Radhe’ in a certain symphonic tone, silencing our unsettling minds and immediately you get this urge to throw these two enchanting words back at the locales. You shout these words again and again, getting aligned to the custom, feeling a certain belongingness with the crowd. You get institutionalized so to speak!

The atmosphere of Vrindavan is energizing, the roads hustle bustle with tourists buying prayer material while they line up for temple visitations, locales are mostly smiling, enjoying their daily chores be it road side vendors or big store operators, the temples are vintage, architecturally flawless, and give vibrations of joy with their artistic carvings, clean surroundings and disciplined visitation procedures and last but not the least those mouth-watering sweet shops are highly distracting, especially in the market area of popular Banke Bihari temple. Vrindavan is not a conventional religious place which takes footage just on few temples and their historic relevance, it also hypnotizes you with lot other extra ordinary scenes and rituals which transports you to divine dimensions of exhilaration, the feeling which is omnipresent at every corner of the place.

Krishna, 8th incarnation of lord Vishnu as per Hindu mythology was believed to be present on earth 5000+ years ago. There is practically no documented texts, artifacts either dug from the graves or recovered from some timeless library that can claim 100% accuracy of this information, but only speculations based on popular Hindu epic stories like Mahabharata, or artifacts/writings from other Hindu, Greek, Buddhist or Jain explorers, or quotes from Indian soldiers during the Alexander – Porus war era in the northwest Indian subcontinent, saying that they saw the Alexander army carrying image of ‘Herakles’ (greek god who Indian army said looks like Krishna). Now all of this knowledge can be debated and speculated on, but I happened to experience a part of history of my own when I went to Vrindavan this summer with my friend Rahul Khera, who was equally interested in a quick ‘express in and out’ visit to the place, and explore the unknowns on the most revered Hindu gods of all times ‘Krishna’, plus of course relish other sightings that the place had to offer

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart 1/4 by Debashish Baidya
Picture of Herakkles (*Source Internet). Can’t be said for sure Krishna looked like this. But maybe he did as documented by many historians

But here we were, at Vrindavan where Krishna spent his days playing and living and we had to find some concrete piece of history which could quench our thirsts and curiosities. After long hours of wandering around, we stumbled upon this ‘not so much talked’ temple called ‘Kali Deh’. Didn’t look touristy nor had a sophisticated architecture. There was no commercial appeal to it, but yet it had all the answers. As we entered the gates under the blistering heat, we quickly ran towards the only person who was sitting under a tree there and accompanied him for some time. He looked like a sage wrapped in an orange robe, sporting a gold earring and a big black beard sitting blissfully under the tree like there was no tomorrow, enlightened in his own way. He had been living in Vrindavan for almost 4 years, but originally from Chitrakoot where he left his family at the age of 14. He pointed us towards that 5000 year old tree where the popular multi headed huge demonic black snake used to live (hence the name Kali Deh), creating havoc in people’s lives at that time, later assassinated by Krishna. The lord used to play on that tree as well. As we enquired more, many locales validated this story as well, and claimed that the leafs of that tree had ‘Radhe’ written on them all over in Sanskrit or maybe some other ancient Indian language that no one knows about. I looked at the tree and I could believe everything that people would tell, it indeed looked very old with its stem fading out of strong texture and color, heavy branches bent towards the ground, and the tree hollow from inside

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart 2/4 by Debashish Baidya
the simplistic yet mysterious person who we met at Kali Deh
Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart 3/4 by Debashish Baidya
The extra ordinary narrative about Krishna around this 5000 year old tree was quite overwhelming

Some moments earlier at the pinnacle of the hot sun, a very interesting thing that caught my attention was a line-up of middle aged and old women at the Banke Bihari temple area, sitting on the sides chattering and hymning melodies. A teenager boy noticed me, maybe got intrigued with my backpack and curious touristy gestures, randomly approached me and said that the ladies belonged to the widows community. My friend had a DSLR with him and after listening to the boy, I sprinted towards him like some kind of double agent on a secret mission. Focused fast paced footsteps, the background music in my ears became intensely tactical and suspenseful, the narrow corridors of Banke Bihari became narrower…. kept becoming narrower and…I reached my friend sooner than I thought. I jumped at him, blocked his vision to a huge Godzilla sized buffalo who was standing like a mannequin, and turned him forcefully to a more unusual view

“Take a shot there”


Click, click, click, the only sound that I could hear amidst the noisy market, gave me a certain relief. I knew my friend would take nice shots

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart 4/4 by Debashish Baidya
Sitting and talking casually. Not a good sight to see them begging, it’s overwhelming, intriguing and saddening at the same time

Vrindavan has been an abode of widows from far off places in India, who have travelled and taken refuge at various ashrams present in the place, not much of a guess they belonged to poor families with backward traditional beliefs that don’t allow women to live a strong independent life. Victims of ‘female subjugation’, and now living peacefully in Vrindavan all these ladies are big support for each other sharing same sentiments. Krishna’s legacy is popular with having love thrown at ladies at his day who were called ‘Gopis’, and spreading the message of love and respect for women. The calling was clear, and one widow after other started to mount up becoming part of the bigger ‘Krishna Consciousness’ community, participating in Ashram Bhajans (loud soothing prayer songs that is sung in temples, paying tribute to the deity) and also getting involved in other administrative work

"Jab Bihariji ka bulawa aaya toh aana pada"

….said one of the widows along with many other locales who lived / worked at Banke Bihari

The big rush at Banke Bihari

Photo of Banke Bihari Temple ,Vrindavan, Madan Mohan Banke Bihari Path, Bankebihari Colony, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India by Debashish Baidya

And not just another ‘run of the mill’ line, this one is iterated by many who have left their homes and taken shelter at Vrindavan, linking their calling with the most popular talked about temples Banke Bihari. The temple talks about love and ecstasy outright, through the dancing bent posture of Krishna’s magnificent statue. A true representation of Krishna’s ideology which is to celebrate, dance to this beautiful gift called life. The message is so loud and clear that not only it shines inside the temple through Krishna’s eyes, but also resonates in the long slender corridors of the surrounding market, which is practically filled with chirpy households, active retail stores, persistent vegetable vendors, delightful and aromatic sweet shops, playful children, and the infamous nuisance creating beings called ‘monkeys’.

If someone is looking for love and compassion in his life, pahla bulawa toh bihariji se hi aayega

*which means ‘the first call would come from Banke Bihari’

…and I am not exaggerating. the people who live there are the proof, where almost everyone looks as if this is the first and last place on earth they want to be, carrying a sense of pride on their faces. Here’s the real charmer and something to look forward to at this temple (and the ‘being careful’ part I will come to later), the Holi week is super fantabulous here with an explosion of colors in the air, complimented with consumption of ‘bhaang’ and girls doing two essential things, one is worship and attain a meditative flamboyance inside the temple on the onset of Krishna’s eyes (which is shown momentarily and then covered), and the other is extremely opposite act of hardcore and daredevilry, which is beating boys up with wooden logs, and making them run for their lives. The latter is a ritual followed by the ladies on the occasion of ‘Lath Maar Holi’ (the beating with a log Holi), and which is the being careful part I was talking about for the guys ;)

the festive week of Holi is something you cannot miss at Vrindavan

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart by Debashish Baidya

In deep thoughts – a devotee

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart by Debashish Baidya

Vegetable seller at Banke Bihari

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart by Debashish Baidya

There is another ‘be careful situation’ and this is for general public,

…the shrewd monkeys, beware!

A smart bunch which snatches your spectacles, and move up on the high rise apartments. Hold on! The act of chivalry must have finished, but the scene isn’t over yet. Before you hold your senses back, coming out of that awkward ‘what the f&%* just happened’ situation, the monkey comes back down and waits for you to give him some food, as an exchange for your spectacles. You give some snacks or maybe a banana, and it gives you back your shades

What do you call that now?

Rise of the planet of Apes? (good Hollywood movie btw, must say the director is a visionary)

Wait a minute, the monkeys can just snatch food directly, and save a lot of time? Just saying, it would have been easier, *dumb ass monkey alert*

Hello there

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart by Debashish Baidya

This was supposed to be just a day long road trip, and by dusk we were supposed to return to Delhi. Reasons were quite many, next day not a spare day, cyclonic weather and friend’s wife waiting (this one was quite overwhelming and scary ;), but then I thought of

Ibn Battuta, the mighty explorer from the 14th century had set out his journey from Tangiers, Morocco touching down almost the entire world especially Islamic countries of the day, and returning to his homeland after 24 years of non-stop adventure. He would have had challenges, he would have faced problems but he persisted. Out of guilt and shame which I felt, I humbly pushed the agenda of at least staying overnight? We could surely do this bit

And we found the reason why we had to stay that day, Kesi Ghat

The gigantic stream of Yamuna alongside banks of Kesi (named after demon Kesi who was sent by king Kansa to assassinate Krishna, but eventually got beaten and crushed by the deity who then took a bath at Yamuna). It was 6 pm in the evening when we reached Kesi ghat after cruising through mad traffic and strong wind blasts. At this part of the town, people had quadrupled, vehicles had jammed on the road, and people were shunting down the market store by store on the account of deadly storm that had struck the place

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine it’s lethal” – Paul Coelho

And this reminder to me by Paul Coelho came at the right time, giving the adrenaline that I needed. The need of the hour was motivation to make our way through a crowded marketplace in a cloudy stormy atmosphere with minimal visibility. And our tough conviction paid its price, by taking us right to this magnum spell binding scene at Kesi Ghat. The excitement was double, since we had defeated a lot of Kesi demons on our way so to speak, to make it till here. Thick stream of Yamuna alongside a clean bank (which was quite surprising), and a massive artsy temple placed at a distance of say 500 meters from the river was all getting decked up to host the evening ‘aarti’ (prayer). People were huddling up, scattered and running from far towards the temple, bacause the aarti was just about to start. We started running too. Couldn’t miss this one for sure!

The evening grandeur of pleasing River Yamuna

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart by Debashish Baidya

Head Priest spearheading the aarti at Kesi Ghat

Photo of Vrindavan | Spirituality of the Heart by Debashish Baidya

Vrindavan is a magical place which offers not only good vibes, but also engages itself in many ritualistic activities having deep historic relevance. There are many other temples that we touched like Prem Mandir and Bhajan Ashram which are equally mesmerizing like Banke Bihari. Prem Mandir is an architectural marvel in its own right, whereas look forward for Bhajan Ashram for evening bhajans by widows. But the best time to go there is during Holi week in March, where the festival is celebrated in all its grandeur. Adrenaline guaranteed!

180+ kms from Delhi, falls just short of Mathura and Agra, there are multiple ways to reach Vrindavan via buses, train, taxi or my favorite recommended option of self drive from Delhi. Fastest route is the Taj Express highway which starts from Greater Noida, or the other alternate route is the popular NH19 Delhi – Faridabad – Agra route which now is in a good condition. Thanks to UP government

Strongly recommended destination if you want to get closer to what is called as ‘Spiritual Enlightenment’ , and until next time when I meet all of you to another heart-warming, soul stirring travel experience, be in good health and spirit