Pictures from Braj Discovery Website are of previous years’ celebrations. No pictures were available this year.
Over 60 Lakhs of Pilgrims Do Govardhan Parikrama
The popular festival of Muriya Purnima or Mooriya Poona ended on Sunday. This is the biggest festival in Govardhan during the year and this year official estimates state that more than six million pilgrims did the parikrama of Giriraj.
The festival commemorates Guru Purnima, which coincides with the disappearance day of Srila Sanatan Goswami, the doyen of the six Goswamis of Vrindavan. The term muriya refers to the shaving of heads that the Vaishnavas performed in mourning for Sanatan Goswami. Since Sanatan is often credited with restarting the practice of circumambulating Giriraj, this has became the principal way of commemorating him. But visiting the major temples around Govardhan, including Mukharavind and Danghati, and bathing in the Manasa Ganga and other tanks around Govardhan form part of the ritual.
The last two months in Govardhan have been hectic as preparations have been made, especially road-widening and removal of encroachments. High security was everywhere, with CC cameras being used for the first time.
The festival lasts five days, but of course the largest crowds come on the full moon day itself. People came from many different states across North India. From early morning crowds flooded onto the Parikrama Marg. Caravans of pilgrims approached Govardhan, each with the cry of Jai Giriraj Maharaj ki Jai on their lips. The same cry echoed everywhere on the path.
The primary attraction at the Mela is the procession in honor of Sanatan Goswami that left the Chakleshwar Radha Shyamasundar temple at 11, headed by the picture of Sanatan Prabhu. Accompanied by sankirtan. Offered obeisance to Sanatan.
The procession goes from Chakleshwar, to Dasbisa, Bijali Ghara Tiraha, Sankh Adda, Danghati, Hati Darwaja and back. Tamal Krishna Das Baba gave a lecture.
Arrangements tested to their limits. Mathura Junction people coming back. People risking their lives by hanging to the outside and roof of trains, despite several extra trains. Not a square inch of space on the platform. People fighting to get space, even on the rooftops of buses.
Numbers down this year.
The estimates came in at six million whereas in previous years, particularly in 2007 and 2008, the numbers were said to have passed ten million. The record was set in 2006 when an estimate 15 million people attended, but by last year, numbers had gone down to 8 million. Govardhan Development Officer Hari Om Sharma said the reason numbers are going doing is the lack of facilities.
Why are the numbers going down? Certainly much less this year than predicted. Better facilities than previously. B.D. Paulson, the police superintendent says that since the road has been made wider all around Govardhan, it now looks like there are less people.
Since there were no buildings on the road, etc., people were able to walk easily. But there is some concern that attracting more people to the mela is necessary. Mathura Prasad Kaushik, the head sevayat at the Danghati temple said that it is not a good sign for Govardhan that less people are coming. Visitors have to face many difficulties. Not everyone wants to face the crowds and would rather come and do the parikrama on a regular day.
One pilgrimload of buses was forced to stop near Raya railway crossing. As the driver was dealing with the problem, the passengers got out. A car coming from behind ran into the bus. Several people were injured and two woman, one from Aligarh the other from Meerut, died. Several of the others are still in critical condition. Another person was killed on the road near the Jaygurudeva temple.
During the mela, three people drowned. Because of it, people in need of first aid had to wait long hourse before getting it.
One woman from Agra, another from Faridabad drowned. One of the women was taken to the Govardhan general clinic, but there were no doctors available. She was taken to a private clinic and treated, and then refered to the Mathura health center, but the drive took three hours and by the time they reached, she was dead. They asked the driver to stop at some other health center on the way, but he refused. When she was dead, the family members started a riot in the hospital.
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