Is prostitution now part of Vrindavan’s tourist trade?

How extensive is prostitution in Vrindavan? And are foreign women involved in it? Has the tourism industry in India grown to include sexual tourism also?

Allegations of prostitution in the midst of Vrindavan’s international devotee community surfaced yesterday on Facebook.

Rumors of prostitution activity have been making the rounds for some time, but since we have been getting more and more information on this issue from several sources, we have decided to report on it here on Vrindavan Today to the extent we are able to at present.

Videshidas [all names have been changed], a devotee from Belgium, wrote, “I got such a bad shock this time on visiting Vrindavan when I saw that prostitution is going on big time in the Dham!”

Devadatta Das, another devotee who has been living in the Dham for 18 years, said, “We were approached by the local milkman, who turns out to actually be a pimp. He asked us if we wanted a girl. For a Russian girl, the price was Rs. 3000, for an Indian Rs. 500.”

Videshidas further said that the women involved are not only Russian (though “mostly Russian”) and Indian, but includes American also.

It may come as a surprise that women professing to be devotees are engaged in prostitution in the holy land. Some say that the logic behind it is that these women are sincere and want to stay in the devotional atmosphere of the Dham, but have no source of income to stay there. But this does not explain why devotee men are amongst those who are using their services.

Other sources also allege that Indian men who are not necessarily from the devotee community, on hearing of the trend, are increasingly coming to Vrindavan lured by the prospect of having sex with Western women. The trade apparently takes place, at different apartments, guest house complexes, and even ashrams in the Raman Reti area.

According to statements made on his blog, Swami Balendu of Bindu Seva Sansthan in Vrindavan discusses reports in the newspapers from August of last year.

We have heard that prostitution in ashrams has been an ongoing business in Vrindavan since a while. Police raided one such ashram and found two prostitutes and their customers in the middle of intercourse. The pimp was also apprehended. The arrested women admitted in a statement that they had been using the rooms of ashrams in this neighborhood to meet clients and have sex since a year. They explained that they believed ashrams to be safe environments for their work.

According to an article from India Today prostitutes from the former Soviet Union countries are in growing demand in India.

Since the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, one prominent development has been the exporting of sex workers from the former communist block around the world. India may not be the most lucrative destination, but it has been clearly playing a big role in the phenomenon.

Regarding the Eastern European women, Videshidas said, “It was always a curiosity to me that unmarried girls would be able to wear such costly saris and stay in Dham and roam around in the temple. Now we had our answer.”

Another informant, a European woman who has been working in the health care field in Vrindavan for the last ten years, said that she herself was asked two years ago if she would like to make quick money by meeting a man.

Surprised and shocked at the proposition, she said the woman who invited her, a Russian, told her that a group of women had organized a system whereby they would be driven to Delhi for “collecting money on sankirtan.” There they would meet clients and pocket the money for themselves. The women were allegedly devotees connected to ISKCON and the main point of connecting with clients was in the strip of shops across from the Krishna Balaram Mandir.

This same informant also said that another large source of prostitution in the Vrindavan area came from newly married Indian girls who had been abandoned by their husbands. By working in the local community as a health care worker, she said she had had numerous opportunities to witness cases where girls were forced into prostitution by such circumstances.

The pattern, she explained, was one where a family would agree to take a girl for their son as bride, take the agreed upon dowry, and a few months after the marriage would leave the new bride on the streets to fend for herself. Since most of these girls were not able to return to their original homes, they were left with little option but to sell their bodies.

The traffic has been taking place, she said, in cheap guesthouses on the outskirts of Mathura and Vrindavan. She said the girls from Mathura bring their clients to Vrindavan so as not to be recognized by anyone; and the girls from Vrindavan go to Mathura for the same reason.

Local residents confirm these things. One Brajvasi said that many Indian men come from Delhi and other nearby towns to avail themselves of the opportunities being provided. Some devotees even report being approached by Russian girls in Loi Bazaar.

Even more troubling are reports of child prostitution. One person reported that at the gate of the Krishna Balaram Mandir on Chattikar Road, “small children approach devotee men and ask them if they want to do sex for money.” One European devotee confirms this, saying that he was approached by a 5-year-old who told him that he had a younger brother who was sick. The child was offering sex to get money for medicines and treatment!

Devotees who take ISKCON’s four regulative principles seriously (“No meat eating, no intoxication, no gambling and no illicit sex”) are extremely disturbed by the development. Videshidas says, “We were disgusted at what we saw with our own eyes! This is really happening and we should act against it, especially if these women pose as devotees in the Dham, but are actually polluting it badly and giving it and the devotional institutions there a bad name.”

“It is a hard fact to face, but we need to look the truth in the eyes by pretending to be trancendental to it all. We should not sweep this under the carpet again and again! ISKCON is now becoming famous for prostitution.”

A few years ago, as ISKCON’s temple project in Mayapur began to be a huge draw for tourists, a big prostitution problem arose there also. The hotels that sprung up around the nearby ferry ghat were all hotbeds of the sex trade. Mayapur got the reputation of being the number one spot for paid sex in West Bengal and prostitution became the second major source of tourism in the area. ISKCON finally woke up and realized that their reputation was being hurt by the association of such activities in their neighborhood and they acted to clean up the area by pressuring the police.

If ISKCON Vrindavan decides to act immediately and effectively as was done in Mayapur, and other institutions follow suit, the problem can be contained without further damage to the community. Just as animal slaughter and alcohol are prohibited in the confines of Vrindavan, the same goes for prostitution.

Jagat

Jagadananda Das (Jan K. Brzezinski, b. 1950) has a longtime association with Gaudiya Vaishnavism, joining the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1970. He left in 1979 and spent six years in the traditional Gaudiya Vaishnava environment as a disciple of Sri Lalita Prasad Thakur. In 1985, he returned to McGill University in Montreal and did an undergraduate degree in comparative religion and went on to do a Ph.D. at the University of London (SOAS). He has since been a lecturer, translator and editor. He currently lives in Vrindavan.
  • Katie Jo Walter

    I heard several such stories while I was in Vrindavan and spoke to different people about it. What is reported here seems to be common knowledge except to a few people who would rather be in denial…

  • http://jagadanandadas.blogspot.com Jagat

    Some interesting comments on thread in Facebook.

  • Yajna Murti das

    Look what Srila Prabhupada said 40 years ago and Srila Narottama 500 years ago:
    “Here the words virajäs tértha-sevayä refer to Vidura, who was completely cleansed of all contamination by traveling to places of pilgrimage. In India there are… hundreds of sacred places of pilgrimage, of which Prayäga, Hardwar, Vrndävana and Rämesvaram are considered principal. After leaving his home, which was full of politics and diplomacy, Vidura wanted to purify himself by traveling to all the sacred places, which are so situated that anyone who goes there automatically becomes purified. This is especially true in Vrndävana; any person may go there, and even if he is sinful he will at once contact an atmosphere of spiritual life and will automatically chant the names of Krsña and Rädhä. That we have actually seen and experienced. It is recommended in the sästras that after retiring from active life and accepting the vänaprastha (retired) order, one should travel everywhere to places of pilgrimage in order to purify himself. Vidura completely discharged this duty, and at last he reached Kuçävarta, or Hardwar, where the sage Maitreya was sitting.
    Another significant point is that one must go to sacred places not only to take bath there but to search out great sages like Maitreya and take instructions from them. If one does not do so, his traveling to places of pilgrimage is simply a waste of time. Narottama däsa Thäkura, a great äcärya of the Vaisvava sect, has, for the present, forbidden us to go to such places of pilgrimage because in this age, the times having so changed, a sincere person may have a different impression on seeing the behavior of the present residents of the pilgrimage sites. He has recommended that instead of taking the trouble to travel to such places, one should concentrate his mind on Govinda, and that will help him. Of course, to concentrate one’s mind on Govinda in any place is a path meant for those who are the most spiritually advanced; it is not for ordinary persons. Ordinary persons may still derive benefit from traveling to holy places like Prayäga, Mathurä, Vrndävana and Hardwar.” SB 3.20.4 Purport

  • http://harekrishnawomen.wordpress.com/ V

    Aren’t prostitutes part of Krishna lila? I know several places in the Bhagavatam where prostitutes are mentioned, even being guests at Rukmini’s wedding if I remember correctly. So how is prostitution giving a bad name to holy places if the holiest of the holy celebrated prostitution?

    If Indian society wasn’t so repressed, and women weren’t so disrespected in general, then prostitution would be seen like it was in Krishna’s time — an acceptable part of society. So much hypocrisy to worship Krishna yet in reality to hate his true cultural legacy.

    Because of the hypocrisy, what should be legal and provide protection for the women (or men), instead becomes part of the black economy, which due to its illegality is dominated by ruthless exploiters and career criminals.

    Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession and will never go away — in a culture like Vrindavan which is supposedly a celebration of Krishna and all things related to Krishna, why not try and actually support Krishna’s culture instead of the modern Indian culture — which in the name of morality instigates gross immorality (exploitation) as a matter of course.

  • Howdy

    Who ever wrote the previous comment, I never heard such bullshit before ? You’ve got some serious issues buddy…get yourself out of that black hole of denial and ignorance that youre in, and purify your heart and mind. You should spend as much time in Kirtans as you can for your own good.

  • J

    The sad fact is that the leadership of ISKCON has all the money (many are millionaires), while the rank-and-file peons at the bottom are usually so poor they have to resort to acts like prostitution to support themselves, so they can even stay in Vrindavan. This is the reason the society needs a more balanced economic system, one that would be more supportive of the underclasses of devotees.

  • http://harekrishnawomen.wordpress.com/ V

    Howday

    What part was bs? Are you calling me a liar? Prostitutes are mentioned as part of Krishna lila in the Bhagavatam as part of Krishna lila, several times relating with Krishna, even sporting with Krishna, and part of Rukmini’s wedding. In this first verse prostitutes greet Krishna on his entrance into Dwaraka: http://vedabase.net/sb/1/11/19/en

    In this next verse it mentions their sporting with Krishna, although whoever translated the verse (translated after Prabhupada left his body) used “society girls” instead of the proper translation as Prabhupada did in the first verse above: http://vedabase.net/sb/10/69/27/en

    Here is mentioned their participation in Rukmini’s wedding to Krishna. Vāra-mukhyāhÌ£ is translated as “courtesans” which is a polite term for high class prostitutes: http://vedabase.net/sb/10/53/42-43/en

    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada said:

    “All these devatās, the demigods, they also enjoy. In higher planetary system, like Indra, he is prostitute hunter number one, Indra. (laughter) But he is a great devotee at the same time.”

    Better to regulate in order to make it healthy and safe rather than leave it in the hands of criminals. Ignorance of true Vedic culture in support of mundane morality, which is a failure on every level, may be your excuse, but it certainly doesn’t make what I said any less correct.

  • http://harekrishnawomen.wordpress.com/ V

    This is what Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wrote about legalizing prostitution:

    “We may not hate even the prostitutes if they are devotees of the Lord. Even to date there are many prostitutes in great cities of India who are sincere devotees of the Lord. By tricks of chance one may be obliged to adopt a profession which is not very adorable in society, but that does not hamper one in executing devotional service to the Lord. Devotional service to the Lord is uncheckable in all circumstances. It is understood herewith that even in those days, about five thousand years ago, there were prostitutes in a city like Dvārakā, where Lord KrÌ£sÌ£nÌ£a resided. This means that prostitutes are necessary citizens for the proper upkeep of society. The government opens wine shops, but this does not mean that the government encourages the drinking of wine. The idea is that there is a class of men who will drink at any cost, and it has been experienced that prohibition in great cities encouraged illicit smuggling of wine. Similarly, men who are not satisfied at home require such concessions, and if there is no prostitute, then such low men will induce others into prostitution. It is better that prostitutes be available in the marketplace so that the sanctity of society can be maintained. It is better to maintain a class of prostitutes than to encourage prostitutes within society. The real reformation is to enlighten all people to become devotees of the Lord, and that will check all kinds of deteriorating factors of life.

  • Bhumi Devi Dasi

    The poster above, Shiva Haridas, also known as Vrajabhumi, or V, is in fact an ex-Iskcon man whose current agenda is to discredit Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in every shape and form. So why is Shiva quoting Prabhupada “positively” here? The obvious answer is usage. Shiva is using Prabhupada’s words to validate his own and which are that the actual essence of Krishna consciousness is that women in this world are meant to be enjoyed freely by males in all imaginable ways. He supposes to speak for all women insisting against any possible questioning that he knows what women want, and that what they want is sex sex sex. He believes this “want” is a reflection of the “fact” that Radharani, being the pleasure potency of the Supreme Lord, is not to give pleasure to Krishna exclusively but rather to experience pleasure herself. This means, by pleasuring women left and right in this world, males are ultimately serving the Pleasure Potency of God. This is Shiva’s philosophy and agenda in a nutshell. Shiva claims this “understanding” through his own interpretation of shastra and by personal “experiences”.

    To anyone doubting the accuracy of my assessment I would recommend read through his prolific blog but I rather spare the innocent readership the convulsions and the nausea.

    Pranams to one and all.

  • Duratma

    Being conditioned by “western” standards, we have a culture centric view of prostitution. We also take a dim view of it due to the violence and oppression experienced by women forced into prostitution.

    I don’t know all the reasons why “white” women are engaging in prostitution in Vrindavan but I am loathe to paint them all with a broad brush. If I woman was born into a family of prostitutes in Vrindavan and then became a prostitute herself, is she not a Brijabasi, providing a legitimate commericial activity? I would tend to think so.

    One of the things we fail to distinguish here are motives and desires. A prostitute generally does not provide sex because of her lusty desires. She provides a service to make a living. When someone said that poor western women can live for free in Vrindavan because ISKCON provides kitchri everyday is fooling themselves and others. Housing, clothing, necessities etc., require a steady income stream. A prostitute simply provides her body for someone else to enjoy and in turn she receives payment. Models provide their bodies for others to enjoy as well.

    As a prostitute refines her craft, she becomes more desirable. Cloth merchants, jewelers etc. of Vrindavan do the same. They make their stores nicer, more attractive and their meditation is not necessarily on SriSri Radha Krishna, but rather on how to make their business more successful in order to make more money. Their motives are geared towards survival not dependence on Krishna.

    We should be more concerned about the desires of the customers. The customers of prostitutes approach them because of lusty desires. I have also been in the shops of Vrindavan many times, watching devotees spend hundreds of dollars on unneccessary “stuff.” Nobody “needs” ten custom made silk kurtas, or twenty five saris, or boxes of jewelry, or five emroidered wool chaddars, etc. Yet, western devotees have made many shopkeepers in Vrindavan millonaires many times over, because of our lusty desires.

    I wish these women could find other means of making a living but I will not condemn them. There has always been prostiution in Vrindavan and always will be because of the lusty desires, not of the prostitutes, but the individuals who seek them out.

  • http://harekrishnawomen.wordpress.com/ V

    Bhumi

    Wow. I have to give you credit for creative writing skills. But as I have told you before when you accused me of similar things on Facebook in front of hundreds of people, where is your proof I have ever said such things or am whatever you say I am in your numerous slanders? At Facebook when asked to present your proof you went silent. I wonder why? No, I know why. You have none.

    If this blog is going to allow people to randomly traffic in slander I cannot continue to post here.

  • Bhumi Devi Dasi

    V, you give your home page as Hare Krishna Women, but the give way note that you are indeed Shiva is your enthusiastic endorsing of prostitution. Your quoting of Prabhupada and Vedic “evidence” in support of that endorsement is laughable when its clear you have made the debunking of Prabhupada your life mission. Moreover, you don’t believe a Vedic culture as defined in any given shastra even existed! It is you who insult everyone’s intelligence by shamelessly manipulating quotes.

    Vrindavan Today is not a blog but an online news portal. Why should my comments be rejected in favor of your own private agenda? If you believe my assessment of your philosophy is faulty, you have the right to state so, but slander it is not. It could be said that your own overall assessment of Bhaktivedanta Swami is slanderous, but I am saying it is merely ridiculous, and hopefully it will go away when you get sober.

    Radhe Radhe.

  • Duratma

    Well, Mrs. Duratma didn’t really agree with my assessment above.

    She was of the mind that I was being naive, and that the amount of self esteem, self worth and energy consumed by any woman in that position is utterly destructive. She quoted one of the prostitutes themselves in a India Times article referenced elsewhere, as saying they were “spiritually dead.”

    She continued, that I can’t compare this service to other commerce. That is unrealistic and misguided idealism. Rather, all facets of this prostitution is degraded. The manner in which the act takes place is degrading, the “john” is degraded, but worst of all, the prostitute (who presumably is a devotee of Krishna) degrades herself the most. Her spiritual life suffers immeasurably as she takes on this role.

    After twenty four years I have learned to appreciate my wife’s insights and willingness to share a woman’s view of the world, and I stand corrected.

    I pray that we can help our sisters and nieces who are caught up in this business return to more uplifting service.

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  • mayank

    Those who are directly and indirectly involved in Dham aparadha will go and suffer in the darkest regions of hell.

    All Glories to Srila Prabhupada
    fallen soul

  • Priyasharan

    This is another example of heterosexuals messing everything up. Men
    are horn-dogs, no matter how “devotional” or “evolved” they might want
    to appear. Women don’t/can’t understand/appreciate male sexuality,
    hence their feeling “spiritually dead” when trying to make a living in
    an occupation that should celebrate male sexuality. So obviously, men
    should look to other men to gratify their immediate “needs” and let
    let women be themselves and contribute it ways that are better and
    more suited to their (women’s) dispositions. That way, men and women
    can have healthier relationships, raise healthier families, male
    sexuality can be celebrated and devoted to Krishna in more productive
    ways, LGBT people of all types can be seen as viable members of
    society, and all of this can be conducted in such a way as to raise
    everyone up in Radha Krishna Consciousness. I am in no way saying that
    all LGBT devotees should/ought to be prostitutes, but I am saying that
    men understand male sexuality better and more profoundly than women
    do. There is room in Radha and Krishna’s mandala for everyone.
    Radhe Radhe!

  • http://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM amrit

    In Vrindavan prostitution is also taking place in Vaishya Ashram, Fogla Ashram and Bhajan Ashram. I met two pimps Natthi Laal and Sulochna Joshi. They were offering me sex and told me I need to pay 5000 rs. They live in Vaishya Ashram and operate from Sant Colony, Gora Nagar.

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  • Shyam

    I’m obviously disturbed to hear that Vrndavana has become a haven for the sex trade, and worse still that children are so poor they are offering sex for money (especially outside a palacial temple full of rich westerners).

    However, I have to weigh in and support ‘V’ – although I may not share his opinion, he has supported it by quoting shastra, and should be treated with a little respect, whoever he may be. I haven’t read his blog and don’t intend to, after Bhumi d.d.’s caveat, but what he has said here is supported by Srila Prabhupada, so I can’t condemn him for it.

    I also agree with ‘Duratma’ prabhu’s statement above. It is an offence to have sex in the holy dhama – Srila Prabhupada says that one who lives in Vrndavana but has lusty desires should immediately leave that place and thus cease his offences (NoI) – but it is also an offence to live in the dhama solely to make money & do business. The Loi Bazar mafia are also prostitutes in their own way, although selling dhotis, medicine etc. is a more respectable profession.

    In any case, local & ISKCON leaders should be doing something about this trade – and they should also address the root cause, which is poverty.

  • http://www.shyam.org.uk Shyam

    Here’s the quote – it’s actually from Srimad Bhagavatam (9.19.19). I’m pretty sure there’s something similar in Nectar of Instruction as well.

    “Therefore, if one somehow or other gets the opportunity to live in Vrndavana, and if one is not a pretender but simply lives in Vrndavana and concentrates his mind upon Krsna, one is liberated from material bondage. One’s mind is not purified, however, even in Vrndavana, if one is agitated by lusty desires. One should not live in Vrndavana and commit offenses, for a life of offenses in Vrndavana is no better than the lives of the monkeys and hogs there. Many monkeys and hogs live in Vrndavana, and they are concerned with their sexual desires. Men who have gone to Vrndavana but who still hanker for sex should immediately leave Vrndavana and stop their grievous offenses at the lotus feet of the Lord. There are many misguided men who live in Vrndavana to satisfy their sexual desires, but they are certainly no better than the monkeys and hogs.” (S.B. 9.19.19p, King Yayati attains liberation)

    http://vedabase.net/sb/9/19/19/en

  • Kusha Das

    Material Opulence is always a disadvantage to the cultivation of Pure Krishna Consciousness,with the kind of buildings that are been built in Vrndavana making it more modern than natural Vrndavana Forest,it is expected that this will happen,material facility comes in package,this is part of the packages.

    But then Serious devotee will never be part of this sinful act in the Dham

  • http://4sharelinks.blogspot.in T

    Before ISKCON Vrindavan existed Vrindavan was so pure and undisturbed , just when ISKCON vrindavana appear it attracted the attention of foreigners and money hunters and the whole atmosphere became disturbed. The biggest problem is that ISKCON Vrindavan devotees themselves not follow Srila Prabhupada teachings , SP said, we have to cultivate our life just by having a land and cows this is the vedic way of leading life depend on cows and grow own crops but what ISKCON has done? If anyone enter the temple you can see all kind useless activites they are doing . Life member ship office it is a bigggest fraud for ISKCON Vrindavan life members they lie for LM’s and take money from them , Goinda’s which sell even chocolates which SP restricted . They have opened very much departments just to collect donations my question is have they opened any department which preach Krishna Conscious and save people from impure condition of life . No! Bhisma Department they are also collecting money by telling so much lies to people .

    Every year atleast one devotee of this temple run away with so much money and temple authorities ignore him since because he is a disciple of such and such Guru Mahajar in ISKCON. Neither ISKCON Vrindavan devotees are following vedic principles of life and how they can inspire others.In the temple premises itself devotees are having sex with foreigners and one such instance happenend recently inside Srila Prabhupada quarters.

    My dear Brothers, sisters, Devotees, the root cause of all these problems are coming from ISKCON Vrindavan . please try to understand this . so called Religious people are responsible for every thing that is happening in Vrindavan.

  • Krishna Das

    The people quoting “prostitutes in Dwaraka” and equating it to this are insane. Do they have any idea of the extreme violence involved in the prostitution trade in India? In almost every case, the girls are sold to pimps in their very young child hood (around 10 to 13 years old) when they are still considered valuable. Then they are beaten, raped and tortured in all sorts of terrible manners to break their will so that they will agree to be prostitutes. No 13 year old child wants to be taken from their parents, and then forced to become a prostitute. It requires extreme violence to break their will and force them to cooperate. There are countless news articles of girls being tortured in the most inhumane ways, being cut with knives, burned with fire, beaten continuously, etc., until they give in and agree to be prostitutes. Added to this is the continous rapes which they must endure. After 10 years of such torture they accept it as normal aspect of their life, but many commit suicide before coming to this stage.

    So those who are trying to say prostitution existed in Krishna’s times need to educate themselves. It never existed in the form that it exists today. There is no comparison at all. The prostitution that exists in India needs to be wiped out. The selling, rape and torture of children should never be justified ever, and those who are justifying it have serious mental problems.

    In India nearly every case of prostitution involves the child being sold into slavery while they are still very young. Those who suggest this is acceptabel are sick individuals who need to educate themselves about what actually happens in India.

  • Yadu Gopala Das

    ¡Radhe Radhe! No soy quién para Juzgar si la Prostitución es parte ó no de los Pasatiempos Trascendentales ó de este Mundo Material Condicionado, sí soy un Ser que tiene una Visión de la Realidad, la cual es clara al respecto de la VIOLENCIA a la que son sometidas las mujeres, niñas/os y demás… Los Proxenetas siempre han existido y son parte de la Mentalidad Demoníaca sencillamente. Prostitución de varias formas y maneras habrá siempre en este Mundo Material, además, también se prostituyen muchas Almas de diferentes formas… Dinero, Placer Sensual, Materialismo, Odio, etc…

  • Rahul Prashant

    Chudai ka maza vrindavan me lene ka koi matlab nahi hai.Bande ko chahiye ki maza G B Road delhi me le le.