The greening of Govardhan: Slow, silent, successful

Govardhan, 2011.09.30 (VT): A few days ago I was intrigued by an article in the Hindustan newspaper (संत ने लिखी गिरिराज तलहटी में हरित क्रांति की इबारत, Sept. 13, 2011) about a sant who had been planting tens of thousands of trees on the side of Govardhan for the past five years, calling it a “green revolution”. From the article, I learned that not only had he slowly begun the operation of planting, but that he had put into place an elaborate system of irrigation and caretaking that had resulted in a considerable greening of this most sacred spot in Braj.

Rather than simply translate the article, I decided I wanted to follow up personally and get more information about this sant, Jugal Kishore Dasji, in order to see what kind of man he is and what motivates and inspires him to do this work. So yesterday I came to Govardhan and, after wandering around the town a bit, headed down the Parikrama Marg in search of Vanshivat Ashram.

The greening of Govardhan. This is looking west from Gaya Prasad's samadhi.

Asking for directions every few feet, I finally found the ashram. There is a new Gaudiya Math being built by a Parbat Maharaj on the Parikrama Marg itself. Just before it is a side road, newly paved with interlocking brick that connects with the Sonkh Road further south, going through a small farmer community. Vanshivat Ashram stands out here, a three-storey building in the middle of a field.

When I was being “vetted” at the entrance, I showed the Hindustan article to the young gatekeeper, along with my card. I was later rather surprised to find that no one in the ashram had seen the article or was even aware of it. Rather unlike most people who are engaged in activities of this sort, there seems to be little or no desire to exact some return on the good deed “investment” through publicity and enhanced public reputation.

Acharya Jugal Kishore Dasji

Acharya Jugal Kishor Dasji was younger than I first expected. Perhaps it is because I myself am getting old! Now 47, he came to Vrindavan as a young boy to stay in his guru Haricharan Dasji’s ashram (Nimbarki) near Vanshi Vat, Kishore Kutir.

He took training in Bhagavata from Atul Krishna Goswami (Jnana Gudri) of the Radha Raman Goswamis, and eventually started his own career as a Bhagavata speaker. Somehow, this career took a different turn from that which most Bhagavata speakers from Vrindavan seem to aspire to–getting on Aastha TV and holding huge Bhagavata saptahas in Delhi and Mumbai, or on cruise ships to Dubai, traveling to foreign lands and having government ministers trekking to your ashram or temple to show their reverence. Instead, he started to go and give programs in villages and small towns to audiences of farmers and country folk.

Even now, says Jagdish Goswami, his principal assistant in the plantation project, Jugal Kishoreji will not accept any invitation from a wealthy donor unless the patron first sponsors at least three village programs. This has led some interesting results as we shall see.

About twelve years ago, Jugal Kishore Dasji got the “call” to come and serve Govardhan. The opportunity came to build an ashram on a plot of land off the Parikrama Marg. Govardhan Parikrama became a feature of the ashram’s life, and even now there is a prominent sign that says, “You came this far, now go and do parikrama of Giriraj.” And the various rules and regulations for the parikrama are written on the outside wall. “First of all, bow down to the holy mountain, either with your full body or on five limbs. Do not insult the sacred dust of Braj by shaking it from your body.”

But it wasn’t long before, in his words, “we saw the situation of the Parikrama–empty stretches of barren land without any shade, gokharu thorns strewing the path and making it impossible to walk barefoot. We thought that this was not the ideal atmosphere in which to do this holy parikrama and our hearts went out to the pilgrims making the walk. If the government does not take responsibility, then someone else has to step forward to realize the dream.”

In 2006, he began by planting 1500 trees from the Talhati towards Anyaur. He arranged for a drip irrigation system with sweet water which he had piped in from his ashram.

Gradually the march westward continued and reached Anyaur. The sector from Anyaur to Puchari is already served by the district’s Udyana Vibhaga (Parks Department), but Jugal Kishore took on responsibility for greening the sector between Puchari and Jatipura and then from there to Govardhan.

In the beginning, he begged saplings from devotees in Agra, Dehradun, and other places where he gave Bhagavata saptahas. But now he has his own nurseries in Puchari and elsewhere. In order to get sufficient water for irrigation, he pipes in sweet water from five kilometers away and even the Parks Department is making use of this facility.

Another feature of the Vanshivat Ashram program is the govar gas plant and vermicompost tanks. The ashram has a small goshala that provides sufficient govar for all of its cooking needs and also enough fertilizer to nourish the young saplings.

Worms doing good stuff.

“Altogether,” says Jagdish Goswami, “the ashram employs about 100 gardeners and other workers to keep the project going.”

Now, five years later, the results of the effort can be seen, thousands of young neem, banyan, kadamb, rose apple (jamun), and mulberry (shahtut) trees, as well as varieties of flower bushes and vines, fill the entire parikrama area from Govardhan to Puchari and back.

In all of this, Jugal Kishoreji says that he has taken no government aid. And the government officers, who are quite happy to see him taking this responsibility, are standing back and letting him follow his inspiration without interference. Seeing the success of his efforts, others are being inspired to come forward. Now the district Forestry Department is working with the Siddha Siddhanta Yoga Academy to plant trees in the Govardhan-Radha Kund segment of the Parikrama Marg using the same strategies that Jugal Kishore has implemented. Except it seems that Yogi Shailendra Sharma has decided to concentrate on rat ki rani and kadamba.

Jagdish Goswami

The slight and unassuming Jagdish Goswami calls himself Jugal Kishore Dasji’s technical advisor. Jugal Kishore calls him his right-hand man and is not slow to praise him.

In 2009, Jagdish, who lives in Radha Kund, observed that the government was planning to widen the Parikrama Marg on the Radha Kund side even further, opening it up to more vehicle traffic and eradicating the soft shoulder areas of the walk that are so necessary to pilgrims making the walk. As a result of the protests he spearheaded, the more than Rs 50 crore plan was eventually scrapped by the government.

But, interestingly enough, all these accomplishments already seemed to be things of the past for the two men. Jugal Kishore Dasji was much more excited about something else, an unusual and inspired annual go-seva program that is conducted during Karttik month. More about that tomorrow.

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.
  • Nishant Vashisht

    Thanks Jagat Ji for glorifying these sadhus .
    Jai Shree Radhe

  • VAIBHAV KUMAR SARRAF ,DEHRADUN

    Maharaj ji Apka Article Dekhkar Bhahut Prasanta Hui , Is Tarha Ke Karya Brij Ko Aur Bhi Sundar Bana Rahe Hai , Mujhe Aasha Hi Nahi Pura Vishvas Hai Ki Aap Is Tarha Ke Karyo Ko Vistrit Karenge , Meri Toh SHRI RADHA RANI JI se Yahi Prathna Hai Ki Aap Jaise MAHAPURUSH is Pavan Dharti Par Bar-Bar Janam Le.:::::SHRI RADHE::::::: APKA LADLA- VAIBHAV

  • gorav jagrawal

    maharaj ji me aapko koti koti parnam karta hu mene jab se aapki katha suni mera jiwan badal gya h ab to ak hi echha ki sara jiwan aapki sewa mw lgade jai shri radhe

  • sameer aggarwal

    SAMEER AGGARWAL , NAZIBABAD. maharaj ji apko koti koti vandan mene abhi nagal (Bijnor)me apki katha suni thi aki vani se amrit ki varsha ho rahi thi mujhe apki katha me vada anand milta hai man ko shanti milti hai meri apse prathna he ap her saal nazibabad me katha jarur kare taki nazibabad ki dharthi awarg ban jay.

  • gorav jagrawal

    maharaj ji ke chran kmlo me koti koti prnam krte h .

  • aradhika

    I have seen many people in my life who offers gurantee card in 6months you can find GOd or by giving 10000 rs to aasharam or poor you can get rid of all problems of your life. Or they suggest you to wear stones and doing many things…… but we are fortunate that in simple looking body we found Jugal Kishore Das ji maharaj who just say you to do good whatsoever you can do but from heart….. do and go for a gowadhan parikrama if you have any problem than he ll listen you. Best part of shri maharaj ji is that he never says anybody to worship him as God or he never says to just accept God in krishna swaroop…. he says in whomu so ever you trust trust him by heart by soul……………..

  • aradhika

    Maharaj ji ko shat shat naman

  • aradhika

    Ajkal jahan har taraf apko hasaro sant aise milenge jinhe kewal aur kewal paise se matlab hota h wahi kuch sachhe sant aise bhi h jo bina kisi shor aur dikhawe ke bhagwan ke bataye raste par hi chalte jate h manavta ki bhalai ke liye….shri maharaj ji bhi unhi mahan santo me se h…… gowardhan me paudhe lagana ho ya gaayo ke liye chaare ka arrangement karna maharaj ji khud bina der kiye humesha tarpar rahte h …….

  • Prashant kumar

    Maharaj ko koti koti pranam..i m from jamola.ajmer topper of vansivat shivir’1994 organised by sree sree 108 shri jugal kishore das ji maharaj.i accompanied wid maharaj in vrindavan for abt 4 month as a sangeet pupil.

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