Informal meeting with Sri A. Parasuramenen, Director and the Representative of UNESCO India in New Delhi, at Gambhira, Jai Singh Ghera, Vrindavan, on December 30, 2009, at 3.30PM.
1. H.H. Paramadvaiti Swami
2. Sri Sewak Sharan
3. HH. B Avadhut Swami
4. Sri Shrivatsa Goswami
5. Sri Padmanabh Goswami
6. Sri Chandan Goswami
7. Sri Harimohan Malviya
8. Sri Radhakrishna Pathak
9. Sri Aravind Agarwal
10. Sri Rajendra Varma
11. Sri Jagganath Poddar
12. Sri Rahul Gopal
13. Sri Mukesh Sharma
14. Sri Udayan Sharma
15. Sri Arup Govinda das
16. Sri Atul Sharma
17. Nirguna devi dasi
The meeting was started with a word of welcome from Sri Shrivatsa Goswami, who appreciated Sri Parasuramenen’s agreeing to a meeting on short notice while on a personal visit to Vrindavan.
Sri Shrivatsa stated that Vrindavan is unique in its natural heritage, its oral, spiritual and cultural heritage. Its literature, dance, music, theater, art and the approach of bhakti, all have a distinct nature here.
Whilst he was aware that for those of us who live here it is also our home and we require the modern amenities of life, he said the aim was to find a way that the sacred nature of Vrindavan is not lost by unplanned urbanization. “We have to consider that the local people have their needs and requirements but must also preserve what it is that makes Vrindavan different from any other place.”
“The existence of Vrindavan is because of Krishna, and without Him Vrindavan would not exist. Countless people visit Vrindavan every year because they are devoted to Krishna. We are here to play with Krishna,” Sri Shrivatsa continued. He appealed to Sri Parasuramenen to bring in his and UNESCO’s expertise in giving Vrindavan world heritage site status.
With this he invited Sri Parasuramenen to speak.
Sri Parasuramenenji spoke of his intent in returning from Paris, where he had been posted, to the land of his ancestors, India. He asked for this posting as he wished to return to his roots and give something back. His ancestors had migrated to Mauritius from Salem in Tamil Nadu in the late 1800’s. “Furthermore,” he said, “I have always been attracted to the tradition and culture of Krishna.”
He expressed his happiness in being in Vrindavan on a personal visit with his family and for the opportunity to meet with the citizens of Vrindavan and hear their views.
Sri Sewak Sharanji was the next speaker. He said that an ever increasing number of people come here to find Krishna. We have to save this world heritage, he said, which in fact is a human sanctuary. Its natural heritage as well as its built heritage, the man-made architectural sites, are unique here. The natural heritage of Vrindavan as the place of the lila or play of Radha and Krishna is most important.
Sri Sewak Sharanji said, “Cultural development must be parallel with other development. They should neither intersect, nor be in confrontation. We need plan for Vrindavan that could be a model for all of Braj as well as for other heritage towns.”
Sri Shrivatsa here added that this is where UNESCO’s expertise in the realm of conservation and planned development for other heritage towns and settlements would be most valued.
Sri Harimohan Malviya, Director of the Vrindavan Research Institute (VRI) spoke next. He spoke of his sadness at the lack of preservation of the heritage sites of the great literary geniuses of India, Surdas, Tansen, and many others who lived and drew their inspiration from Braj. Although a living centre for Education, Literature and Culture, the Sahitya Dharma of Braj, its literary tradition is becoming extinct. He made an appeal that UNESCO’s programs for culture be implemented here. He asked that the monuments connected to the great litterateurs of Braj be restored. Sri Parasuramen said that UNESCO will immediately assist in this venture.
Sri Malaviya also informed that VRI is planning to hold a multi-disciplinary international conference on the Heritage of Braj in the coming year and also begining an ambitious project on preparing an Encyclopedia of Braj Culture, a collaborative effort of international scholarship.
Sri Atul Sharma of Gurgaon spoke next. He stated that the 80 percent of the population of this country, which is Hindu, lacks a sanctified space for worship. He spoke of developing proper habitats and shelters for all and the need to create a slum free environment here in this most holy of holy places for Hindus.
Sri Radhakrishna Pathak spoke next. He too appealed that the original fabric and roots of Vrindavan be preserved. Vrindavan had its own municipality since 1865 and he spoke of the new amalgamation of the muncipality here in Vrindavan with the one in Mathura as a great mistake.
Sri Parasuramenen said that is a very important mission of UNESCO to make the intangible cultural traditions of a place compatible with its tangible physical realities. UNESCO advocates development and conservation of heritage and promotes eco-tourism.
Sri Udayan Sharma next warned that the new circular road (bridge) within the Yamuna stream is against the principles of Vastu. This Keshi Ghat area, he said, is an important vastu centre for the peninsular nature of Vrindavan. The bridge will severely affect the vastu of Braj and India.
He said that the local landowners have been cheated of land by developers from outside who are not acting as stakeholders but are developing urban housing projects only for personal profit.
He appealed for a minimum common program to halt the buying of land from locals as has been done in Uttaranchal. These people do not have a concept that Braj and Vrindavan have a special global presence.
He also said that the political development linking the civic bodies of Mathura and Vrindavan would spoil things further. If Vrindavan is considered only a small appendage its interests will suffer.
Swami Sewak Sharan added that it would not only be a historic, administrative wrong move, but a cultural disaster as well. Mathura from time immemorial has been representing the urban-city culture, whereas Vrindavan had been till now a model of natural settlement (vana-samskriti) and natural heritage.
Sri Pawan and Sri Shrivatsa said that there was no anti-government attitude here. But the local voices should always have a say in any developments here.
Sri Paramadvaiti Swami said this tradition comes from the Vedas. Like the Vatican, Vrindavan is the centre for those who follow the Vedic religion. The tradition and culture systems have been preserved here for thousands of years by the kings of ancient India.
Unfortunately, the political parties have not been sincere or serious to involve local people in conserving this tradition. All decisions are made by engineers and experts outside of Braj without a view to preserving the traditions. If we lose our tradition we lose everything he said, The government must consult with the local people before they do anything.
Yamuna and Tulasi are mentioned in the scriptural books as essential for Krishna’s presence. This is our faith, he said, so we need to preserve the Yamuna and the vanas.
Paramadvaita Maharaj also said that tourism and agriculture are the two most important means of livelihood here. People come to see the Yamuna, meet saints, and have darshan at the temples. The businessmen have thrived from this tourism, but the urban development has led to destruction of both these sites and of the agricultural tradition.
Developers are furthermore exploiting the sentiments of the people who come here to live, to be close to the temples of their faith or to retire and even die here.
More people are coming than ever before and more will come. So development has to be planned. Sewage systems don’t existâ€”all the sewage goes into the Yamuna. There has to be planned infrastructure. We need the citizens to unite. We need UNESCO’s intervention he said.
Sri Shrivatsa spoke of the urgency of having a comprehensive planning process in the Vrindavan spirit. We are losing good will towards Vrindavan, he said, as the present government in UP has been very generous in making a huge grant for developing Vrindavan and Braj. But the lack of a blueprint or good decisions by the local administration and the failure to utilize this interest properly is a waste of the generous aid that is being offered.
As a group, Sri Shrivatsa said, we want the cooperation and guidance of UNESCO. UNESCO’s efforts for the Taj, Hampi (Vijaynagar), etc., have made them what they are todayâ€”World Heritage Sites. He makes this appeal on behalf of Vrindavan; in fact on behalf of all Brajvasis, on behalf of all of Braj Mandala, which is one unit. He appealed to Sri Parasuramenen to help this movement gel and guide us in developing right systems for town planning, water management, traffic management, etc.
Sri Shrivatsa introduced Jagannath Poddar of Friends of Vrindavan, which collects 1/3rd of the waste from the Vrindavan municipal area and also voluntarily disposes of biomedical waste from 103 hospitals and medical clinics in the Mathura-Vrindavan area.
Jagannath Poddar replied to Shrivatsaji’s question if Vrindavan had an eco city status saying that there was such a plan, put forward by the Central Pollution Board in cooperation with GTZ, a German group, but it fell through. The only holy place that was able to get this status is Tirupati. The plan required a 50-50 partnership between the municipality and the CPB, and this could not happen in Vrindavan.
Sri Shrivatsa also inquired about Tourism Master Plan of Braj Region prepared by IL&FS; and The Braj Foundation under MVDA being sanctioned and implemented as per the newspaper reports. Sri Padmanabh Goswami replied that it is yet to be sanctioned. Sri Shrivatsa said that this is just as well, as this permits further input to be taken from the various groups serving the cause of proper conservation and development in Braj. Hence the urgency of preparing comprehensive plans as per the world heritage site guidelines of UNESCO.
Sri Parasuramenen thanked all for the information he received at the meeting. He said on behalf of UNESCO that he was definitely interested in serving Braj. He reported that two letters have already been sent: One from his predecessor to the Chairman the UP State Advisory Board in May 2009 expressing concern and offering UNESCO’s technical support, the other written by him in December 2009.
UNESCO has the technical expertise to look at a plan and to ensure participation of the community. He offered to sensitize various contacts in the government and media about the issue.
Sri Parasuramenen said as the custodian of promotion and preservation efforts as Director of UNESCO, his presence is clear indication of their support.
After getting invitation from the citizens and the local bodies like Nagara Palika Parishad, he offered to bring experts from various field of heritage planning to Vrindavan for workshop and a formal meeting. In the meantime, experts from UNESCO could visit Vrindavan and Vrindavan citizens would be welcome to his office in Delhi for consultations.
He also said he would come officially with specialists from all the five areas of work where UNESCO is active and this multi-speciality team of experts would discuss the whole issue with stakeholders here.
To Sri Shrivatsa’s suggestion that the next formal meeting with UNESCO be held at Vrindavan Research Institute, Shri Malaviya agreed and Sri Parasuramen said UNESCO would co- sponsor the event and for which he will arrange Hindi-English interpreters, and hoped that the formal meeting would lead to some concrete follow-up action.
He appreciated that there is a common concern. A larger consensus, he said, can be built at different levels, local, state and central.
He said he would propose concrete support for harmonious development. UNESCO works in holistic tourism and wants that the heart of Vrindavan, the local people, be benefited. He assured everyone of his personal engagement in this.
It was resolved that Nagar Palika Parishad of Vrindavan be the empowered developmental authority, together with MVDA and citizens, and that they should all be invited to the formal meeting at VRI sometime in mid-February 2010.
All the members present resolved to come together as partners in the service of Vrindavan and Braj Mandala.
Sri Padmanabh Goswami thanked Sri Parasuramen on behalf of the citizens and NGOs of Vrindavan for his willingness to serve the cause of Vrindavan and Braj.
Latest posts by admin (see all)
- Krishna Theme Park in Braj :: Fossilizing a Living Tradition? - October 19, 2015
- Did Hema’s Mahotsav recast Krishna lila in promiscuity? - October 7, 2015
- Petition to UP CM opposing Vrindavan-Mathura merger - October 19, 2014