Vrindavan, 2017.08.06 (VT): With the monsoon fully active in North India, the Yamuna is flowing near its favorite ghats in Vrindavan. The river is desperate to come back to its natural course, which is being obstructed by illegal road built on top of the debris thrown over several years by the municipality and the residents.
A panoramic semi lunar stretch of Yamuna riverside, used to have 48 ghats on its bank, which had spectacular views. The then British Collector Mr. F. S. Growse mentioned 32 ghats in his district memoir of the Mathura. Sixteen more ghats between Keshi Ghat and Pani Ghat were built later.
These ghats were built and inhabited by various dynasties and monasteries and zamindars, in due course of time span. Each ghat is associated with a building in its backyard, having unique architecture. The buildings are either temples or palaces, each have its own history and mythology related with it.
The ghats on the Yamuna bank in Vrindavan used to have a special meaning for the local people. Once their life line these ghats are not visited regularly by the locals any more. While every ritual from child birth, marriage and the last rites were performed on the banks of Yamuna. People seldom go there for any celebration. Some local traditional people go to the ‘Panda wala ghat’ and ‘Bihar Ghat’ for the last rites.
Till one decade back, the pilgrims took holy dip at Keshi Ghat, Cheer Ghat and other ghats of Yamuna, to absolve all their sins, but now they can’t take bath on these ghats as the river was forced to change its course by two dream projects of the consecutive governments in Uttar Pradesh. During monsoon when the water level is high in Yamuna, the pilgrims who have been traditionally visiting Vrindavan during shravan – bhadra perform the ritual of the holy dip, even today.
The tussle between environmental priorities and the development agenda has been a perennial feature of Indian Governance. Different governments in the state arbitrarily annihilated the natural course of Yamuna. The brazen developmental project on the Yamuna bed and its floodplain has caused possibly irrevocable damage to the ecosystem of the plain and the unmatched architecturally rich heritage ghats.
The Mayavati Government in UP brought the project of building the ‘half moon bridge’ at Keshi Ghat, in the year 2009. An illegal road was built in front of the ghats under the project which prevents the river to flow on its original course, even during the monsoon.
The project was challenged in the High court by the ‘Citizen group’ Braj-Vrindavan Heritage Alliance, which appointed Mahant Madhumangal Sharan Das Shukla to become the petitioner. The court found severe irregularities in the project and disapproved it. Finally, the half built pillars were dismantled, but the illegal road still remains, which has become an obstruction between the Yamuna and its ghats.
The following government, led by Shri Akhilesh Yadav brought another disastrous project of the ‘Riverfront Development Project’, which has also been challenged in the different courts. The sewer pipeline laid in front of the ghats and the sheet piling activity undertaken in the project has posed serious threat to Vrindavan’s river system. Had the government succeeded in executing these projects easily without legal challenges, one could only read about the Yamuna ghats of Vrindavan in the books only.