Today, when I visited The Braj Foundation office at Vrindavan in connection with the preparation of Detailed Project Reports for the Tourism Development plan of Braj, I got the chance to glance upon the following news item from the Agra edition of the Daily Hindustan newspaper (Hindi), dated 2010.11.10.
Destruction in the name of development
The parikrama of Ramesh Baba from Barsana arrived in Vrindavan and was welcomed at Govinda Ghat by members of the group dedicated to the service and memory of kirtaniya great Swami Mukunda Hari Maharaj.
On the occasion, Ramesh Baba said that the government work being done in Vrindavan in the name of development were leading to the destruction of its identity. “That will only be possible,” he said, “when the Yamuna is free of pollution and Vrindavan’s ancient temples and ghats are restored.”
Ramesh Baba expressed his distress at the transformation that this holy town is undergoing. “We are losing the character of these places where Krishna performed his pastimes. In the name of development, the government is actively engaged in destroying the ancient form of Vrindavan. The true development of Vrindavan will only come when its greenery is preserved, when filth is no longer thrown into the Yamuna and its water is once again clear and clean, and when the dilapidated temples and ruined tanks are repaired and maintained properly.”
Sudama Kuti’s mahant, Sutikshna Dasji Maharaj said that Ramesh Baba is the pride and glory of the entire Braj Dham. He has dedicated himself fully to the advancement and uplift of Braj Dham.
Baba Gopal Das Laghusakhi also praised Ramesh Baba for drawing attention to the problems of the whole of Braj Dham.
The Sewa Sansthan presented him with a shawl. Also present on the occasion were the Braj Foundation’s CEO Vineet Narain and many sants and mahants of Vrindavan.
Sri Ramesh Baba is without a doubt one of the most venerated saints of Braj and has inspired a whole generation of youngsters to participate in the drive to restore the pristine glory and grandeur of Braj bhoomi. Here he is quite correct to criticize the spate of developmental activities going on in Vrindavan.
For a starter and a neophyte, his exhortations and assertions sound ultra convincing and motivate one to dedicate oneself for the cause he advocates from the public platform.
Nevertheless, the vision of Braj he expounds on all such public forums take a complete U-turn when it comes to his own place of establishment – Sri Maan Mandir, Gahvarvan, Barsana, Tehsil Chhata, District Mathura.
The entire surroundings in the vicinity of this ancient site situated on the mountain top popularly known as Maangarh has been a great victim of mindless construction activities. There, 7 and 8 storey towers compete with the heights of the Barsana mountain itself. Excavation for yet another such tower is presently in full swing, which in all possibility will pollute what remains of the water bodies in the near vicinity.
Perhaps this is all meant to be a modern symbolic illustration of the Vedantic aphorism Tat Tvam Asi (“Thou Art That”): The mundane buildings want to touch the magnanimous heights of their inspiration and cause.
Development has become a double-edged sword throughout the entire Braj Bhoomi.
On the one hand, the ancient living tradition talks about a harmonious balance between nature and human desires. On the other, the very exponents of this grand sacred vision are subdued by the materialistic aspirations of their not-so-immortal disciples with deep and fat pockets.
Hinduism at large has been a victim of such hypocritical stands for over a millennium, which is perhaps the singlemost important reason for its retreat – a fact very intricately explained by Prof. Kapil Kapoor of Jawahralal Nehru University.
If Sri Ramesh Baba, who was, is, and will remain my personal source of inspiration, is really serious about the fate of development in Vrindavan, I would certainly pray and plead at his lotus feet to simply look into his own backyard where he has performed penance for over six decades.
We implore Ramesh Baba to not allow the horde of Panjabi NRIs (non-resident Indians) from the United States overpower, blur and corrupt the grand vision of Braj he formed as a young sadhu and lived out, in served and realized for so many years. Let those who claim to be Radharani’s true servants stop covering the glories of her birthplace in the name of revealing it.
Otherwise, Giri Baba, a young sadhu with an engineering degree from Jabalpur, who for three long years oversaw the restoration of Gomati Ganga in Kosi with the community’s support, could not stand tall and erect to declaim, “The Braj Sewa about which Baba speaks in open forums is something he has not himself been able to safeguard back home in Maangarh.”
I sincerely hope that good sense will prevail and Ramesh Baba’s exhortations will be backed up by appropriate models of development throughout Braj.
Environmental activist Raghav Mittalji is Project Coordinator & Trustee, The Braj Foundation. He has a B.Tech and M.Tech from IIT Kharagpur. He is also Editor of UPTU WATCH, Managing Director of Extra Edge Infomedia Pvt. Ltd., and Chairman of the Paarth Educational Foundation. The opinions expressed are his alone and do not necessarily represent those of the Editors.
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