Rakesh Sharma, Govardhan. 2011.10.05 (DJ): Braj is most famous for its temples and the sites related to Radha and Krishna lila, but there is one cremation ground at Govardhan that is a unique landmark in this holy land.
When this piece of architectural heritage was starting to disintegrate, a yogi named Shailendra Sharma stepped forward to preserve it. Through his efforts, the entire appearance of the site has been transformed.
Standing right across from the Mukut Mukharavind temple at Manasa Ganga off the Parikrama Marg coming from Radha Kund, is the place where three kings, Balavanta, Baldeva and Ranjit Singh, were cremated. The kings have been memorialized by two architectural jewels in the form of their cenotaphs. The first of these was built by the Bharatpur royal family in 1825. These beautiful buildings, constructed to show the devotion of the Bharatpur royal family for Krishna, add a special dimension to the land of his pastimes.
Their architectural beauty is not less than that of Fatehpur Sikri, the tomb of the Moghul emperor Akbar. Built of brown stone, the cenotaph’s cupolas or chatris and domes are decorated with paintings highlighted in gold. In some respects, the great care of the stonework in the chatris, and the artwork of the ceiling murals showing peacocks and other natural scenes, is superior to that found in the more famous heritage monuments of the Moghul period. They are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Many of the ceiling paintings are erotic in nature, showing Krishna’s pastimes with the gopis. Because of their explicit nature, some people tried to have them destroyed. “Because of this,” says Sharma, “the Tourist Department turned it over to the Siddha Siddhanta Yoga Academy for protection.” Since then, the fate of the cenotaphs has completely changed.
Founder of the Siddha Siddhanta Yoga Academy Acharya Shailendra Sharma is in the kriya-yoga lineage that originates with the legendary Babaji Maharaj and descended through Shree Shyamacharan Lahiri Mahasay, the same tradition as Paramahamsa Yogananda. He is initiated in by Lahiri Mahasay’s grandson, Satyacharan Lahiri Mahasay.
Over the past 16 years, he has been making an effort to return the chatris to their original state of beauty, and even to enhance it. Moreover, he has been engaged in a campaign to plant thousands of kadamba trees, which are so dear to Krishna, that is gradually taking form as a forest and creating a joyful and heavenly atmosphere along the Parikrama Marg between Govardhan and Radha Kund. Moreover, at least 10,000 fragrant “queen of the night” bushes have been planted. Through the use of drip irrigation, they are trying to keep this section of Govardhan great for twelve months of the year.
Sharmaji only uses cowdung as fertilizer. One amazing effect of the tree planting effort is that ground water levels have been rising and now can be found at a depth of a mere two meters, while the surrounding areas have water tables at least twice as low.
Acharya Shailendra has not only been planting thousands of trees along the Parikrama Marg to enhance the natural beauty of the area, but has also installed solar lights to show off the architectural beauty of the cenotaphs. In front of the cenotaphs is an ancient kund. The kadamba and rudraksha garden is also filled with numerous flower bushes like night queen, bigun beriya, har shringar, and gul mohar, which emit a powerful fragrance and create a delightful atmosphere.
Shailendra teaches yoga to foreign visitors and travelers. He also provides them with room and board. When they take their leave they give him some dakshina according to their capacity. It is through these donations that he has been able to make improvements in the beautification of the locale.
On the cenotaph grounds themselves, there are also two dozen rudraksha trees adding that special yogi element. “One yoga student from Rajasthan made a gift of 20-25 rudraksha saplings about ten years ago which we planted here and there on the grounds. We give the rudraksha beads themselves as gifts to the yoga students who come here to stay and learn,” says Acharya Shailendra.