On June 5th, a group of 25 ladies, including Food for Life Vrindavan (FFLV) Sandipani Muni School (SMS) teachers and administration staff, cleaned a part on one of the main roads in Vrindavan in an homage to local saint Shyamananda Prabhu. The event also coincided with World Environment Day.
According to FFLV secretary Sri Radhika Dasi, “The attention received by the local people was amazing; many came forward to help clean, understanding what was going on and the best part was having them help. This shows us their receptivity and demonstrates all the efforts are definitely paying off, if we simply work harder and don’t give up, all this will certainly lead to the dream of a beautiful and clean Vrindavan.” HG Deena Bandhu Das of ISKCON’s Vrinda Kund also lent a hand in the cleaning.
The effort, which was undertaken jointly by ISKCON Vaishnavi Sanga (IVS) and FFLV, was the kickoff to a cleaning program that is set to run every Sunday with any and all interested parties invited to participate. The campaign is a women’s initiative, but FFLV and IVS stress the importance of involving everyone in the project of cleaning Vrindavan.
The initial June 5th cleaning event not only drew the attention of neighborhood onlookers, but also that of the media. In an article published in the Hindustan Times, Divya Gupta wrote, ”[f]ar from being repulsed by the garbage, these women encourage others too to join their initiative to keep the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan clean.”
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has supported the cleaning and greening of Vrindavan in the past, has agreed to support the new cleaning initiative. Local NGO Friends of Vrindavan also lent a hand by helping to cart away the garbage that was gathered by the volunteer cleaning crews.
Sri Radhika Dasi said that the main goal of the cleaning project is, “to bring the local youth together and teach how important Vrindavan is and also educate tourists about the importance of Vrindavan.”
Parshada Dasi, a member of the IVS, told the Hindustan Times that, “ISKCON Vaishnavi Sangh is a self-motivated organization of women working for heritage conservation. vrindavan is a religious city and famous across the world for its association with Lord Krishna. Therefore it is our duty to keep it clean.”
Sri Radhika Dasi, too, stressed the point that cleaning Vrindavan was the duty of all who live there, saying, “Vrindavan is alive; cleaning Vrindavan is not only to show devotion or gain spiritual merit. It is our duty and our job because it is our home and because we are also responsible for its deteriorated state in some way or another.”
She encouraged anyone who is interested in joining future weekly cleaning events to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pilgrims, tourists, groups, individuals – all are welcome to join in and help.
Sri Radhika Dasi mentioned other recently developed FFLV initiatives related to waste management and waste reduction including the manufacture of paper shopping bags by SMS school children for sale to local markets, eco-friendly, reusable sanitary pads for women, the installation of new dustbins at Krishna Balaram Mandir and lobbying efforts with the government to replace plastic cups with clay ones.