We come across two viewpoints on all aspects of life. 1. Positive and 2. Negative. Both viewpoints will have a bearing with 1) the events that take place, b) a particular state or position and c) having a relevance to circumstances. But due to the angles of observance each differ.
Two friends had visited a third on a full hot day in the afternoon. She gave them two half glass-full of cold Rose water to drink. Both had taken the water. One friend exclaimed "I did enjoy! In these hot condition I received half a glass of water". The other had knitted his brows in disgust and said : "Complete miser! I received just half a glass of water".
Both had received same kind of water. The viewpoint of one was positive; while the other was negative.
When you travel through Vraj, you will go through similar experiences. Indeed you may have to face many inconveniences. But one Vaishnava with positive outlook will say : "I go through royal experiences even in these travels where one has to face difficulties". The other with negative attitude will say : "All is a waste. There is nothing but trouble I will never make another even by mistake". So saying he may go back.
It is true. That both are right in their own way. Today Vraj requires a lot of improvement in its services. All talk about these improvements. Some express these inconveniences in a sharp tone. While there are many who feel sorry for these short-formings and consider about them.
The following question do come before us while considering all facts :
1. Polluted water of Sri Yamunaji :
Sri Mahaprabhuji has expressed the following beautiful sentiments about the waters of Sri Yamunaji : "The water were sprinkled with sweat of the bodies of Vraj Bhaktas and Sri Thakurji. While they played on the banks sportively. If you take a dip in it and seek a sip of water one would assume a new divine self. These waters are not just water. They represent the very flowing nature of Sri Maharaniji i.e., Sri Yamunaji".
Now a days we observe that the polluted water of whole of Mathura is diverted into the waters of Sri Yamunaji. This may be taking place at the point of Brindavan. but even from far of places the pollution is carried into the water.
The inhabitants of Mathura and Gokul chant merrily : "Jai Jamuna Maiyaki", and in the same breath add pollution by washing their bodies and clothes in the water. Lakhs of people visit these holy places adding to the pollution every year by throwing flowers, the materials of worship and the dirt of their bodies. No one understands the value of keeping the ghats pure and clean. People visiting these places never contemplate in terms of keeping the waters fresh. There is no wonder the holy waters of tirthas remain polluted.
The govt. is building a barrage very near Gokul. The stream of Sri Yamunaji is carried to a place one to one and half miles away from "Govind Ghat" and "Thukarani Ghat". There is only one pit of polluted water there. In to this pit the drainage is allowed to join. You will find some water on the ghat only during rainy season when the river is spread.
But if you have the energy to go a little distance away from Sri Gokul to Sri Vallabha Ghat, you may find some pure water.
People have attempted to draw the attention of the govt., towards the pollution in Sri Yamunaji. The govt. had composed a Board of Control pollution is still there.
2. The shouting beggars on the ghats of Sri Yamunaji :
Take it : Whether it is the Visram ghat of Mathura, Govind Ghat or Gokul or Thakarani Ghat of the same place; beggars of all ages - children, aged people, buzz around the moment they see any sentimental devotees - who come from long distances to worship at these ghats; all these beggars are local people.
They do not allow these devotees to offer prayers to Sri Yamunaji with concentration, nor do they leave them free for a moment so that they can recite Yamunastakam at least one time. Those who desire to offer donations will be swept clean off their pockets. You will find many who will give dirty oaths but the devotees take them as blessings only.
Many the devotees arrive at these places with a fond hope in heart that they will be able to recite Yamunastakam nine times before Sri Yamunaji; we will offer delicious dishes with a sentiment of "Yugala Swarupa on the ghat"; at sun set we will sit on the ghat and with a quite mind will sing Sri Yamunaji's 41 padas or sing "Araties" and experience quietude. But it is difficult to get these wishes fulfilled.
Where there are crowds you cannot avoid noise pollution. Add to this the shouts of beggars. The pollution of waters of Sri Yamunaji is already there - thanks to the callousness of the govt. machinery. Hence the Yatries try to run away from these places.
3. Pollution at the "Mukharavinda" in Sri Jati pura and at "Sri Girirajji" :
In Jati pura, in front of the Sri Mahaprabhuji's Baithakji at "Sundar Sila" (a monument) you will find the Mukharavinda of Sri Girirajji. here sentimental devotees gather and make a line before Mukharavinda, so that they can bath Sri Girirajji Bawa with milk right from morning till evening. The milk they offer adds into hundreds of maunds.
Where there are ling queues of people are involved. Where there are people there is bound to be noise. People jostle around to gain priority. In this tustle people also quarrel. Linear indicates an absence of peace. When spoil the sanctity of the place. When you open your mouth to protest you may use foul language. All this before Sri Girirajji who is none but a form of divine being. Every day we are offering this divine form in our mindless behaviour.
We wash him with milk and our feet touch the offerings. HIS delicate body is hurt b the touch of the vessels with which we try to bath when we are jostling with each other for priority. He is indeed much harassed by our non-thinking acts. We go there to offer seva and return with lots of dosha (there is no appropritate alternative word in English to my knowledge unless I want to express it as blame or discredit). Mind is vitiated.
Hundreds of maunds (gallon) of milk flows down the drainage. Children, men and dogs drink this water in the same line. There is no proper machinery to wash this drain effectively clean. The foul smell due to accumulation of milk for a period of time in the drainage makes us sick.
A dog is considered to be an impure animal. These animals wander without hindrance at the feet of Sri Girirajji's taleti. Everybody simply bears with this incongruity silently. If some one dares to protest, the contractors men will try to brow beat you.
It is said this particular place is under the control of temple board of Sri Nathadwara and the contract is transacted through the board. Thus it is observed that people earn money by giving away the properties of Sri Thakurji on contract so that they coo can make money out of it. When a contractor is interested in only making money there is no question of attempting to service in right earnest. The outcome can be seen by going to these places.
The milk sold at Sri Girirajji, which is used to bath Sri Thakurji, is only milk for namesake. It is otherwise mixture of water. Even the milk they supply is of low quality - mostly adulterated. But they sell at high price. It vassilates on the theory of demand and supply.
At the end of the corner of the Taleti of Sri Girirajji we have a place called "Sankari Gati". On either side there are number of milk vendors shops-who also produce milk products. The products prepared here are offered to Sri Girirajji and to Sri Mahaprabhuji by devotees. How much sanctity is maintained at these two places only Sri Girirajji and Sri Mahaprabhuji know. these preparations contain mostly sugar and the sentimental devotees have no other alternative to offer same to Sri Girirajji.
People are harassed by the hecklers (hawkers). May be a little more than what you experience at Gokul. Unfortunately if you desire to concentrate and recite "Sri Girirajstak" or "Sri Giriraj Namavali" even for ten minutes in front of Sri Girirajji, it cannot be fulfilled.
There are many Vaishnavas who go to "SurabhiKunda" - where Chappan bhog was offered initially - to offer milk to Sri Girirajji in stealth. But even there the beggars and those who vitiate offerings are ready to create unpleasantness around.
Hundreds of people with deep sentiments of devotion take a round of Sri Girirajji daily. Bharat is a predominatly a hot country. It will be hot for nearly five months in a year. The heat of Vraj is unbearable. Even if you try to finish the rounds as fast as possible it will take four or five hours. If you are not accustomed to walk without foot-ware your feet will be scorched by heat. Hence many travel either in night or get away early in the morning.
Women must be wearing a few ornaments like bangles, necklaces, etc. Men folk must be wearing watches on their wrist and carry some currency on them. As such there is no doubt of miscreants who will not hesitate to loot the travelers in night. If some one is bold enough to confront he is bound to be attacked. Where will the travelers go to complain against them to police ? Even the department is alleged to have in glover relationship with bad elements. There is no chance to receive justice. If some one persists in reporting to police he will be forced to come to Vraj again and again, but the matter will never be solved.
If you are rich enough to engage four or five strong men to keep along with you to provide security then may be you can be saved from any positive attack on life.
On the other end of the narrow gath of the "Milk Vendors" there is a small "Chowk" (yard). Here liner of vehicles ladden with all kinds of eatables mushroom in time. People eat these dishes with relish and through the package on the side and drink water and wash their hands there only thus adding to the dirtiness all around. No one can garantee to the purity of the products presented on the "Larries" (Lorries). Even those Vaishnavas who prefer that they will not eat any dish outside their home will gulp down these eatables saying "everything can be taken in Vraj". This kind of violating vows of religion is also a kind of pollution.
Sri Chaturbhujdasji praised Sri Girirajji in these terms : "LalitaVraj - desa Giriraja Rajae" - means that this king of mountain stands in great grandeoise ! "Even if you search around with a magnifying glass you will not find any of the grandeoise there". Modernity has put an end to the natural surroundings and turned the unnaturalness created by pollution and increasing crime.
4. The Mismanagement of Sri Baithakjies :
According to the records mentioned in 142 Baithakjies, we have 23 Baithakjies of Sri Mahaprabhuji and 15 Baithakjies of Sri Gosainji and other 22 Baithakjies of others. In addition there are 10 to 12 Baithakjies in Vraj. Of these around 65 Baithakjies are under the control of Temple Boards. Many of these are situated in such distant places that generally Vaishnavas do not visit them.
Barring these there are other Baithakjies that are under the management of other Goswami Balaks. (Vaishnavas address their Gurus lovingly as "Balaks") People visit these places only if a special "Yatra" is taken out by particular Goswami Balaks. Otherwise one or two Vaishnavas may be going there. Many of these "Baithakjies" are handed over to "Thekedars" (contractors) for management on annual biddings. One who offers highest bid will get the annual contract. And many uncivilized elements had taken into their hands all the other unclaimed Baithakjies and turned into lucrative business using all kinds of tactics of snare travelers. These are used as a source of earning unlimited money. As a consequence the very greatness of the form of Sri Acharyaji has been brought down to gross materialism. This statement may appear exacerated. But it is the honest truth. It is hard to express these thoughts more politely.
In a way the process of seva is very simple and short. Only the lord knows exactly how much sentiment is added to the seva by the people present in these places. It is seen that they care less for cleanliness. They put Tilak on the "Elevated Platform" and put garland of Tulsi. They should use copper "Jhaniji" for water. But if they do not use it we will not be surprised. A small opening (Gokahda) is all you will see there. Chobeys wie with each other in garnesing money. Everywhere mismanagement is rampant.
It has also come to our notice that many of these Baithakjies are opened when there is a scent of any approaching Yatra. The contractor collects what ever they lay their hands during Yatras and disappear.
If there is any question of renovating any of these Baithaks the local element want all the funds to be given into their hands so that they can spend the minimum on repair works and pocket the rest of the funds. The Baithakjies will remain where it stood before.
During any Yatra or when a busload of Yatries visit the place, there will be a rush to offer seva first. No one has any real sense of offering seva. they come in wet clothes dirtying the place and jostle around to the first to do whatever little seva is possible in those hasty movement always in a hurry to go back to their places of comfort. How much enjoyment it could be for the "Nayak of the Baithakji"" We do not know.
We ask : "Does this all add to the prestige of the system of Pusti?"
5. Dilapidated condition of the places of Vraj :
All most all the temples, kund (tanks), lakes, buildings, Baithakjies and other are in a crumbling stage. For want of proper maintenance the beauty of these places is lost forever. The surroundings are not clean. Vraj was famous for its various forests known as "Vans". At one time they must have been the most beautiful spots in their own. The beauty of these forests is the fauna and flora. We are told that these were never inhabitated by carnivorous animals. As such safe to roam about. But all these forests were cut by vested interests. Everywhere you see around destruction.
The water of these kunds is polluted and dirty.
The central and state governments had never given any importance to the sanctimoneous aspect to this place. The neglect of the govt. machinery can be seen all around. The policies of the govt. do not encourage any traditions to hold their religious concepts forward.
People of other tradition have lifted the surface of Brindavans to great heights. Individual efforts have limited affect on the place. The physical side of Vraj is gradually turning from bad to worse. Leaving ugliness behind. Those who go there with a mental picture of grand Vraj return disappointed. Particularly the people of younger generation adopt a negative approach after their return.
Vaishnavas belonging to Pusti system claims rights to the land of Vraj. Every year the descendents of Vallabha dynasty attempt to take out Vraj Yatras. But they too never show any interest in renovating these delipidated constructions. When we assert that these places belong to us, is it not our duty to give attention to the burning topic of revigourisalison. As a result oft he negligence many places of importance have gone out of our control. The rest are slowly slipping out of our hands. Or regrets do not end by being a bit of sorry about it.
6. The bad economic state of Vraj vasies :
There are no big industries in Vraj worthy of any mention. Nor is there any comprehensive business. Even agriculture wise they are poor. Most people are without any work that can provide solid sustenance. Their condition is indeed pityful. Families are big and income is small. Leaving aside self-pride and cultural background there is no alternative occupation to fill their stomach barring begging or stealing or looting travelers. There is nothing materially to mitigate the humdrum life of Vraj Vasies.
The rich visit Vraj. Some well-to-do might have provided meals for them depending on the weight of their purse and offer some money as Dakshina. Barring this stray generocity nothing is done to enhance their dwindling economy. What can any one anticipate from the people whose moral is down the drain due to poverty ?
Even then we call ourselves Vaishnavas. We are such Vaishnavas about whom the great poet has sung : "Je Pide Parayi Janae Re" - meaning that he is such a person who understands the sufferings of others. It is also said that : "Para dukhae Upakar Karae To Ye Mana Abhimana Na Anae Re" - meaning that he helps in suffering without feeling pride of it.
7. Is three a solution to the question :
There is a proverb in the language of China. It says : "You cannot paint the sky. But you can definitely paint that portion of your roof which is in bad condition". We may not be able to find a solution to all the factors considered herein individually. But if the whole community of Vallabha tradition joins shoulder to shoulder, and express in single voice with depth then may the Vraj can once be converted into a beautiful place. i.e., if the God's grace is also with us.