As one enters the once revered holy spot of spirituality, Vrindavan, we are taken aback by realizing that the spiritual sanctity has given way to a relentless hustle and bustle.
The narrow lanes which were once graced by gentle footsteps of devotees, are now filled with hundreds of tourists, peddlers and “tuk-tuk” pullers jostling for space in the small streets leading you to the holy shrines.
Just for a little glimpse of God, pilgrims and visitors push and shove each other with all their strength. They cause and succumb to pain – the one thing God would never want his creations to face.
Today, after a few days of coming back from my second trip to the holy place of Radhe-Krishna, I write to you about the Crowds of Vrindavan and how it is slowly losing the sense of peace, calm, reverence and respect that it once was known for.
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Crowds of Vrindavan: A Cacophony of Chaos
For centuries, ever since it was created with love by Lord Krishna, Vrindavan has been a place of love, peace, calmness and a discreet destination for devotees, from all across the globe, seeking inner tranquility and a profound connection with the Almighty.
The picturesque ghats, the serene ancient temples – each with a different story and the holy presence of the divine once felt all around the city, seems to be slowly forgotten.
With more accessible travel opening up to the world, the town’s charm became irresistible to the curious explorers.
With time, as the calming footsteps turned into a chaotic amalgamation of noise, pollution and a sheer bedlam – the streets of Vrindavan turned into a maddening maze full of aggressive peddlers, honking rickshaws, desperate beggars and children half our ages forcibly trying to put that “Radhe-Radhe” on your forehead, wherever you go.
Once a place of solace and contemplation has now become a victim of its own popularity and talking about the Crowds of Vrindavan is now, more important than it was ever before.
It is slowly turning into an unsettling testament to the dark side of mass tourism, and it breaks my heart to see the land of Radha and Krishna – losing breath due to the massive humanity.
Banke Bihari Temple
The spiritual sanctity that once permeated the air of Banke Bihari, has now been overshadowed by the overwhelming crowds of Vrindavan. The narrow lanes leading towards the temples are now packed with a sea of people – pushing, shoving or running over each other to get a fleeting glimpse of the deity.
As a stark contrast to the place it once was, the temple premises can be seen marred by litter and pollution along with a massive horde of travelers and devotees and whatnot.
With commercial peddlers, selfie-seekers and beggars of all genders flocking and blocking your way as you move towards the temple gates, seems to lose the meaning of the spiritual essence that the place has.
Once you reach the premises of the temple, you see people trying every possible thing they could do to you to get inside. I have seen little children being hit and thrown to the sides, crying out loud and still no one caring to even listen. I have seen old aged men trying to shove their hands on girl’s heads to make way and saying “I am an old guy” as a response to this messed up behaviour.
What do these people think? God would still give them what they want, when they treat other people like so? Does the God not see what they did just moments before the guy is standing in front asking for a better life? Many more questions wrapped around with growing frustration catches your mind as you try to protect yourself and your loved ones from these so-called devotees.
After fighting along and finally getting to enter the temple, you still don’t get a breathe of fresh-air. The insides feel like a bustling marketplace. If you stop to take a look, people will push you in every direction they can. There is no management. You will see cops and guards flocking around the corners, but of what use are you people, if you cannot manage the crowd?
The quest of hurried darshan of the almighty overshadows the essence of spirituality in hundred possible ways and the crowds of Vrindavan turns this place into a solid example of negative impacts of unchecked tourism.
Why do we visit a temple? To find solace and a connection with the divine. To ask something. To tell something. But with the ever-increasing numbers of people flocking the entirety of a temple like bees, the very essence of the temple is drowned in the sea of humanity.
In this dark scenario, it becomes imperative to discuss the pressing need for responsible tourism practices to begin if we want to preserve the sanctity of the place. The crowds of Vrindavan must be controlled. It must be understood that covering the entire temple with heads and sweats and arms and legs of people won’t make any devotee have a positive experience. There needs to be a crowd controlling system that allows only a set of people to enter the temple premises at a time.
Social Media’s Distorted Lens on Vrindavan
Social Media has been doing most of the bidding when it comes to attracting wanderers to a place. Just a mere scroll through Instagram can instantly transport us to any city of our choice – like Vrindavan.
Every reel or short video or photographs that you see of Vrindavan, depicts vibrant colors, smiling faces and an exotic ritual being captured on camera. It all paints a paradise of sorts and attracts your travel bug to come and explore this precious city.
Many people come here to recreate those alluring images they saw on their screens, and flock this sacred site beyond the limit.
What social media does not tell you is the harsh reality that tends to lie beneath these idyllic snapshots or vibrant reels. Behind every perfect click, is a sea of struggles:
- The burdened infrastructure struggling to cope with the massive footfalls.
- The dwindling resources of the town stretched to its very limits.
- The damaging impact it all has on the local ecosystem.
Just to get the most amazing “instagrammable scenes” on their camera, people intensify the already overcrowded spaces. It is good to capture memories or document your travel. But it is also important to know when you’re going over-the-top with it. One should never be so lost in capturing the moment to go through later, that one loses sight of the primary essence of the destination, right?
The distorted lens of social media and the crowds of Vrindavan has not only led to a messed up experience for travelers or devotees but also happens to have a profound effect on the locals as well.
Nobody want’s their sacred town being overrun by a transient and sometimes quite disrespectful audience lot. It develops a sense of frustration within their minds for all travelers.
The digital commercialization that Vrindavan never asked for portrays its locals as mere props in a massive staged performance rather than what they actually are – custodians of a profound spiritual legacy.
When you want to portray a beautiful Vrindavan to your followers, you need to make sure you actually help the ecosystem be that. The reckless disposal of single-use plastics or disregarding the holy Yamuna river’s well-being is not at all at par with what you want everyone to believe.
In a sad ironical twist, social media has actually played a major role in undermining the charm of the city that attracted tourists from across the globe to visit and experience the spirituality and positivity this place has. More the crowd or relentless hordes being attracted to this marvelous place, more would be the gradual erosion of the very soul of Vrindavan.
How could it all be stopped, you ask?
- By striving to foster a deeper connection with the holy shrines and streets of Vrindavan instead of seeking validation from the online world.
- By embracing responsible, sustainable tourism and promoting preservation rather than exploitation.
- By rekindling the genuine spirit of exploration with empathy and appreciation for the unique culture, spirituality and the legendary history that the place offers.
Reviving Vrindavan’s Sacred Essence
To preserve the sanctity of Vrindavan and surrounding areas, there is a need to follow sustainable tourism practices and promote responsible tourism awareness.
The local authorities must implement measures to regulate the influx of tourists and control the commercialization of the destination which is slowly suffocating the vibe that this place stands for.
It is now more important than ever to strike a perfect balance between the economic benefits of tourism and preserving the town’s spiritual heritage.
Moreover, awareness campaigns on topics like conservation, responsible tourism, mass tourism, etc. must be promoted to educate the visitors about the significance of maintaining the cleanliness and tranquility of this magical place.
Waste management, eco-friendly transportation and promotion of cultural exchange programs might help restore the losing charm of Vrindavan to the world.
Lastly, as travelers and travel lovers we ourselves should be conscious of our actions and the impact it can or has already have on places like these. Remember Kedarnath? and other places that couldn’t take the influx of tourists and fell off? We don’t want that to ever happen with any city around the world.
By respecting the local culture, customs, traditions and the fellow travelers as well who came a long way to experience the same thing as you. Avoid creating a ruckus or acting stupid by pushing or hitting others.
By being mindful of our behavior, we can ensure that our presence also contributes to the overall restoration of a city’s religious or spiritual essence.
To wrap it up
The major problem with the destination is nothing more or nothing less that the Crowds of Vrindavan. The overcrowded streets and diminishing spirituality of the place are clear sights of the adverse effects that mass tourism can have.
Not all the places in the world can stand hundreds or thousands of people coming over in large Crowds of Vrindavan.
I have always believed in Krishna, in Radha and in their legends. I love them. And I love Vrindavan. And it breaks me to witness things like overcrowding and more happening all around the city – specially in the premises of a temple.
With this blog post, I urge every reader to try and do their part, to spread the word that even places need to breathe. Preserve our heritage and the home to Radha Krishna.
As visitors, it must be our duty and responsibility to preserve the sacredness of these lands for future generations to witness and learn.
This can only be achieved if we all work together to bring back the peace, reverence, respect and magic that once defined this holy place. Only then can we continue to seek the divine and find solace amidst the divine love of Radha and Krishna.
Had a similar experience in Vrindavan? Make sure to tell your story in the comment box below!
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