Krishna Janmastami Mahotsav 18th Aug 2014
Any region or city requires a visionary plan to steer it into the future so its citizens can prosper and be peaceful. However, most developers offer plans that require investments that aid the investor and/or the building and real-estate industry with some spin-offs to other ancillary industries.
This proposal however, aims to offer much more than this.
When we look at any particular destination we must take into consideration its history, its present condition and its future. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. When looking at the past of the Mathura District or ‘Braj’ – as it will now be called, one can see many changes that have occurred that have led to its present state of affairs – thus leaving the District in dire need of something to ignite a brighter future.
When we speak of the history of this region in relationship to its listing as a National Heritage City we can clearly see that any plan must be geared to developing the region as a destination for the seeker of spiritual truths and lifestyle, in relation to Lord Sri Krishna and Sanatana Dharma.
The heritage of this area, the reason why it has flourished, is based on the Krishna tradition. This is after all Lord Krishna’s land and this truth must be the most important aspect to the proper development of this region.
There have been and are many development plans for the region and they all begin with identifying that this land is all about Lord Krishna yet their actual development plans do not take this into consideration. If the land is Krishna’s land then it is imperative that the development plan, such as this Heritage listing, must see through the eyes of the Lord. How He would desire His land to be developed – and it certainly won’t be through Commercialism, High-rises, Skyscrapers which are all hallmarks of materialistic thought and practice.
The most profound mistake that has caused this land to be in its present state is the leaders’ failure to operate from the principle that this land is Lord Krishna’s Land and so no future development plan will ever be properly realized until and unless this is again reinstated.
Every person has a spiritual aspect, whether fully or partially realized, and every family has a spiritual aspect and so does every community, society or nation. Spirituality is very close to every Indian’s heart and it has dictated their daily life for millennium after millennium.
This modern secular world has deemphasized the nation’s, the State’s, the District’s, the community’s, the family’s and the individual’s spiritual life and has made it seemingly unimportant for its future development. This must be changed and this change must come from India, the most ancient of ancient nations, which also possesses the most dedicated people to religious life.
In the west we have centers of religion intimately connected to the heart of the country. For example the Vatican which is the center for the Roman Catholic faith and we have Jerusalem which is the center of the Abrahamic religions of the world or Mecca which is a center for the Islamic faith.
We have one here in Braj which is the center for the Hindu faith but is it being basically neglected at a Governmental level for many centuries, through the Muslim, British and now secular Governments that have ruled the land.
It is time for a change…
The “Heartland” of India is Braj and it must be looked into for its spiritual potential to bring together the Nation.
It is suggested here that the Braj region be re-classified as a Union Territory – The heartland of India…
Similar to the Vatican but also similar to Chandigarh which evolved into a Union Territory and so in this way it can focus on promoting Lord Krishna to not only citizens but also to the 30 million Indian Diaspora around the world as well as to the rest of mankind.
Braj – As a Union Territory
Just as Chandigarh was granted the status of a Union Territory so too should the region of Braj as it occupies a very special and vital aspect of our heritage as being the birth place and center of the worship of Lord Visnu, or Krishna, who is of course the most attractive, the most popular and the most loved personality in the history of our great land.
In order to preserve this vital heartland of our nation such a bold move will be necessary. In this time of change under the leadership of Narendra Modi and the BJP there is a chance for such a bold move to be initiated.
Most if not all development plans require investors and in most plans the majority of winners are the investors, the property developers, the real-estate agents and the building industry. Here we have the golden opportunity to utilize the heritage of the land to generate funding from Tourism which will not only aid the property developers, real-estate agencies and building industry, it will also generate much needed jobs in the travel industry as well as small businesses, cottage industries, transport services etc.
However, as it needs to be a joint venture between the National, State and Local Governments then budget allocation will need to be made available.
There have of course been many proposals and schemes over the decades to develop the region, however one simply has to take a drive around the Braj area to see that nothing much has changed and in fact the situation is getting worse.
Something has to change in order for there to be change.
Spiritual Tourism has a twofold benefit – it not only benefits the economy but also the spirituality of the nation. To place the focus of the Nation and the Government of the Braj region and Lord Krsna in particular through a sound tourist plan that will touch the hearts of millions, as the one outlined herein will, is the best way forward. So in order to upgrade the destination all Government will have to be involved.
Additional Recommendation –
In order to effectively achieve this ideal, a sound and thorough plan must be developed by an advisory / management body that is comprised of not only qualified locals but also representatives from Local, State and National Governments [ a succinct outline of this body will be given in the body of this paper].
To this end this preliminary proposal aims to set the stage for further discussion in order to formulate a more solid proposal/plan for the future development of the Mathura District.
Tourism and in particular Spiritual Tourism is a fast growing industry that not only provides income into any country but also aids in job creation and stimulates the development of infrastructure and amenities for the local residents. India has a unique niche in tourism, especially the spiritual tourism industry, for it has a heritage that dates back thousands upon thousands of years and is replete with historic literature such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata of which the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita is the most famous and has provided reference and teachings for mankind over the centuries.
So far in India we have impressive tourist attractions/destinations such as the Taj Mahal which represents the Muslim community of India etc and areas such as Goa and Himachal Pradesh which represent the recreational tourist routes but we have yet to develop the potential of the land of Lord Krishna known as Braj Dham. It is important to note when dealing with religious matters and secular Government that in order to properly govern the people and the nation it is vital that the Government not only acknowledges the spiritual aspect of the people but also facilitates it to some degree. There has to be a balance struck between the two.
Therefore just as in each of us there is a spiritual aspect, whether realized or not, and there is a material aspect, so too there must be a spiritual aspect within each family, village, town, City, Municipality, State and Nation. For India, historically speaking it has been the worship of Vishnu or Krishna. As a matter of fact just as the sun shines on all nations so too does God shine on all nations and the people therein and so Lord Krishna is not for simply the Indian person, but for the whole of mankind. However, for the sake of this proposal it is important to note that Lord Krishna, His land Braj and His teachings, are promoted as the spiritual center for the nation, just as the Vatican or Jerusalem or Mecca is the spiritual center for other religions / countries.
The City of Mathura and its environs were also in the past a thriving trade and cultural center for not only the Hindus but also Buddhist etc and since that time it has steadily declined and lapsed basically into obscurity. Now with the listing of the Mathura District as a National Heritage site there is potential for it to regain its previous glory and once again become the jewel in the crown of the Indian Subcontinent. There is a great deal of work that is ahead of us if this region is to become a world class tourist destination, however, it must commence, with a working plan that is both far sighted and true to the heritage of the region.
The actual purpose of Braj is for the seekers of spiritual wisdom and so pilgrims make the journey to Braj to seek spiritual guidance from saintly devotees of Lord Krishna or they would reside here to live the life of sadhu renouncing material life and dedicating their life in service of the Lord. However, as materialistic life has overshadowed the heritage of the land, Braj has become a destination for those who although seeking spiritual life, desire material comforts as well. There is however a growing element of those who have migrated to the urban areas in search of employment.
The Bitter Truth
The environment of Braj is rapidly changing as more and more materialistically minded people are entering. Twenty years ago there was hardly a car but now the roads are jammed with vehicles both small and large and the tranquil mood has now been lost and the noise hustle and bustle of urban life is rapidly overwhelming the tranquil spiritual mood of the land.
This change has increased the population and therefore the load on the already shoddy services, coupled with corruption and greed has turned Braj into a chaotic filthy concrete jungle that will not be attractive to the pilgrim and tourist who is seeking some contact with the spirituality of the area.
For instance if there is up to ten erratic hours of scheduled power blackouts per day; how are the various business and agricultural projects supposed to operate successfully? How is the comfort of the tourist or pilgrim going to be catered for in searing heat of up to 50° Celsius? People are dying from dehydration in the blistering heat of the summer months for lack of drinking water and electricity. How will the local residents be healthy to work or simply look after their families? The streets are filthy with rubbish strewn all over them. The crime rate is rampant and the police are not trained to be able to “Serve and Protect” the citizens? The drinking water wells are all salty water and the tanker delivery water and bottle water will never meet any modern world standards of purity. The milk products are adulterated with animal fats and chemicals in order to cheat the people so how can a food industry thrive when there is an outbreak of some disease because of poor health and quality standards? This is made especially stark when looking at the poor standard of health care for the region. Due to urbanization of investment properties the rural / forest landscape is rapidly disappearing along with ancient groves of trees which have been chopped down to make room for concrete investment apartment blocks.
It is the Local and State Government responsibilities to make sure that there are strict standards for the health and well-being of their people. No future development plan is complete without stating and looking at solutions for the existing problems that will hold back and ruin any attempt to make this region or any region at that productive.
So hand in hand with any development plan will have to be the much needed changes suggested in the “Transform India with Narendra Modi” initiative. For this to be accomplished in the new India the Central Government should be directly involved along with the State and Local Governments. Priority must be placed on this development plan which will spearhead the much needed changes for the future of this wonderful land. This plan should not be simply a business plan or a religious plan of some vested interested party, this plan must be extensive and be spearheaded by bold committed and qualified individuals from both the Governmental and Local communities. Or it will never amount to much. So please give what this proposal is saying a chance to explain itself.
Mathura is the main city of the region known as Braj or the Greater Mathura District. It is a district of the Agra Division and its boundaries are; Aligarh District in the northeast, Hathras District on the southeast, the Agra District on the south and Rajasthan on the west boundary. It is officially dated as being inhabited from as early as the Ramayana period. In the past it was called Madhuvan as it was a densely forested area. Mathura being on the River Yamuna became an important City in the trading industry and flourished many centuries as a major City of Bharatvarsh. It was also a central City for the Jains and the Buddhists, and Lord Buddha visited the City after which it became an important artistic center of Buddhist art. Brahmanism was flourishing in the whole District as it was the birth place of Lord Krishna, especially the township of Vrindavan. However, during the Muslim rule the District declined and many of the Holy Sites, Temples, Buddhist Stupas and Monasteries now lie in ruin and neglect. It is envisioned that the Heritage listing will see this history brought back to life to not only its former glory but more so, and thus be a wonderful example to the Nation and the world about how the Government values it Heritage.
It is important to note that any restoration and/or archaeological work must be conducted by trained and experienced professionals so as to recreate the area in the most authentic manner possible. It must not be haphazard but part of the overall restoration plan that is in keeping with the architectural and anthropological vernacular of the region.
Braj – Mathura District Demographic
The population of Mathura is estimated at somewhere around 2,547,184 from the last census in 2011. The next largest population is in the Township of Vrindavan [Nagar Palika Parishad] estimated at around 349,937. Population spread – 29.68% urban based while 70.32% of the population is rural based.
The religious population breakdown is approximately 83% Hindu, 15% Muslim, 0.2% Christian, 0.1.4%, Sikhs 0.2, 0.2% Buddhist. There are approximately 880 villages in the region.
The urban population has a high percentage of what would be termed ‘slum’ population that have migrated from outside towns and villages or other states seeking employment. As this area is a tourist attraction the population can double during festive seasons.
Industry and Economy
The main industries in the District are; the Mathura Refinery owned by Indian Oil Company, Textile printing, cotton fabrics and the region is famous for the production of various milk sweets in keeping with its ancient history of being a rural dairy farm based economy. Over the last decade or so the real estate industry has boomed, however, this is mainly centered around the Vrindavan area, which has served only to increase the number of vacant land, apartments and homes as buyers are more interested in investment than residence. The real estate industry needs to be regulated for not only the investment aspect of the land but also for skyrocketing the price of the land. Better to bring in outside money in the form of tourism than making money from citizens for profit that will in the end be detrimental to the Heritage listing of the Mathura District.
Although the District is the home of Lord Shri Krishna it has yet to be developed for its full tourist potential which will not only provide much needed employment for its inhabitants and boost the economy but also provide much need infrastructural modifications and improvements to be able to accommodate an increased tourist trade.
The Yamuna River flows through the Braj region and has always been a mainstay for the land of Braj. Today, however, the Yamuna River has been shunted to irrigate agricultural land north of Delhi and the water that flows through the Braj region is more or less sewage runoff from the Cities and Towns that crowd her banks.
Cows were the economic base of the ancient Vedic culture and today mother cow is slaughtered for her meat either nationally or exported to other countries to be slaughtered.
The Braj region can once again thrive economically by becoming a dairy based economy and a model region for the nation and the rest of the world to prove that mother cow is far more productive if she is protected for her milk than slaughtered for her flesh. The Braj region can become a world leader in dairy products such as Ghee, Butter, Yogurt, Cheeses, Milk Sweets etc.
The Yamuna River can be once again used to irrigate this land and bring forth her bounty.
There are many spin-off cottage industries and small businesses such as Cow dung fertilizer, Ayurvedic Medicine and residential Cow dung gas generators.
These can be made locally for use in homes to lower the energy burden on struggling families.
The food industry will need to be upgraded as the existing industry is unregulated and in most cases a health hazard. The street vendors require special attention in this regard as they are usually the most unhygienic and unsightly food stalls in the area.
The street vendor industry will be required to be upgraded to meet world standards.
The authentic ‘Brajbasi’ fare is comprised mainly of watery vegetable subji which is spiced HOT with chilies and a thick roti or chapati which is usually cooked on a earthen wood or cow dung patty fired stove.
The Bengali cuisine is also an important aspect of Braj cuisine as there are many Bengalis who have come following in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his six Goswami disciples.
No matter what the cuisine Braj’s Food Industry must be Vegetarian and must have high enough standards of hygiene and professionalism that will please the discerning international and national tourist/pilgrim.
Sewage Treatment Plant
As it stands today most of India’s sewage and waste runoff is channeled into its waterways. The Yamuna River is arguably the most sacred River on earth and as so deserves to be free of man’s waste products and kept pure. To this end the Braj region needs to develop a sewage treatment plant so that only clean water is emptied into the river.
The open sewers that weave their way in densely built up streets are not only a health hazard but are unsightly for any tourist.
The Municipality drinking water system is not more than a trickle and irregular and so most residents are forced to rely on wells which are now mostly at salt or solid levels outrageously in excess of acceptable health standards. The tanker water is expensive unreliable and its hygiene / health status is not subject to any quality control this is also in the same category as the delivered bottled water.
As most of the building industry relies on well water and with the salinity content at such high levels that building integrity is compromised due to rising damp from high salt concentrations in the walls.
Rubbish collection is the responsibility of the Local Municipality, however, successive Municipal Administrations have failed to keep the streets of Braj clean. Street cleaning has become a private business for NGO’s who raise money through donations to hire workers to keep small sections of streets clean. If the area is to be developed in any way the streets must be kept clean by the Local Municipality.
Public Road System
The public road system in the Braj area is in dire need of a complete overhaul. The areas of concern range from rough and tumble dirt roads to bitumen roads that pot hole after one rain or a weeks worth of traffic. Many of the streets are too narrow and encroached upon by houses built on over 100% of their land which make traversing them near on impossible during festive seasons or the weekends.
Parikram Margs [Paths]
The parikram margs were for pilgrims to make the scared barefoot walks around the holy region and in particular Shri Vrindvana dham and Govardhana margs. Now these margs are being covered over with bricks and/or bitumen and are congested with traffic in the form of private cars, smaller haulage trucks and tractors as well as other public transportation – this has made the margs hazardous to the pilgrim. The historic parikram margs of the region must be restored to their former ‘Braj dust’ standard and traffic diverted to subsidiary roads.
If the traffic cannot be diverted in some areas then the paved or bitumen road can run alongside but the priority, safety and scaredness of the marg must be maintained by keeping it covered in ‘Braj Dust’ and free from traffic.
There is basically no public toilet system in the Braj area and if there is it is in poor state of repair and unhygienic to say the least.
The development plan will have to make sure that the Local Municipality develops and maintains a functioning public toilet system for the tourists, pilgrims and locals of the region. There are self cleaning systems that can be purchased and installed which would remove the need to have workers clean them on a regular basis.
Uttar Pradesh has an appalling history with regards to poor electricity supply and successive Governments have failed to meet the States requirements for energy. Any development plan is doomed to failure if there is not enough energy to turn the wheels of progress so to speak.
The Braj region should look to alternative sources of energy to meet the increasing energy needs if it is going to develop in the short term. There are many options available such as Wind Turbines and Solar Panels.
There is ample transport to the region being that it is located on an already well worn tourist route to the City of Agra from Delhi to meet the current needs of the tourist industry. There are trains that run hourly, buses and taxis that ferry people and there is are extensive courier and haulage companies that service the area. There is a need to bring a more direct train line from the existing Metro linking Metros of Mathura and Agra which will bring people to the region faster and more comfortably than the existing rail system. Already Helicopter transportation is available at a reasonable rate for the more affluent traveler. This service may be expanded upon in the future for select tour groups etc.
Locally there are the regular cycle and auto rickshaws and the new electric rickshaws. There are larger Tempos that transport people at longer distances; say for example between Mathura, Vrindavan and Govardhan Town. There are also many private taxi operators who transport tourists and pilgrims to the various holy sites. Any future planning will require looking into not only regulating the transportation services but also looking into safety issues such as; roadworthiness and insurance, pricing and pollution control.
The newly employed Electric Rickshaw is proving to be a very good alternative to transport people. However, recharge centers at strategic locations will be needed to be installed for them to be practical as well.
The “Braj” pilgrimage tours will require their own International/National Terminus here in the Braj region to cater for the increase in pilgrims. Similar to the “Hajj” Terminal in the Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi. The Airport will also cater for tourists travelling to Agra and transiting road passengers to Jaipur or Hrikesha etc.
As an already active tourist/pilgrim destination there are many small Hotels, Ashrams, Guesthouses and Dharmshalas to accommodate the exiting tourist industry, however, it will need to expand in order to meet the needs of any future development in the area of tourism. It is important that any further development in the area of accommodation must fit into the development plan especially with regards to zoning and local transport. However, it again must be noted that any development in this area must meet with the zoning requirements of the region which needs to take into consideration that the Braj region is not a concrete jungle but a natural forest – hence trees need to be preserved and more planted so as to ‘green’ the area which lends itself to creating a tranquil setting for tourism.
There are approximately 1849 primary schools,643 Middle Schools, 375 Secondary & Senior Secondary Schools, 48 colleges and 16 Technical Institutes. [as given by the Ministry of MSME] However, when seeing the region as a National Heritage region there will be a need to look at alternative forms of education for example Gurukula and Apprenticeships.
The western secular education system is urban based and therefore not suitable for rural communities. The area needs to look at ways in which to educate children according to the vocations that will be developed in the region. Therefore two main areas can be identified that are not covered by the western educational model. One is brahminical schools to educate and standardize the level of purity and skills of the many brahminical roles that will be required for the future and secondly there is a need to develop a system of apprenticeships to get job seekers and school leavers into jobs in the local community.
This can go two ways; either having a secondary school that will train children in the various trades and link them to participating employers and/or school leavers college where a youth may enter into a technical college / Trade School after school and receive part-time work related training as well as supervised apprenticeships – in all fields of employment such as the tourist industry, electricians, plumbing etc.
Several Government, private Hospitals and Clinics service the area. However, as a whole the region lacks not only properly trained professional nursing staff and expert Doctors, it lacks implementation of infection control procedures within all medical services. It should also be noted that the region lacks many of the much needed ancillary services such as MRI, CT scanners etc.
The region of Braj has also been a scared destination for the terminally ill patient/pilgrim and so there is a distinct lack of palliative care facilities as well as proper burning ghats to handle this important aspect of Braj. If the tourist trade is to develop here then there is a need for the medical services to be extensively upgraded. With Medical Tourism rapidly becoming a growth industry in India it is more vital that in order for any plan to succeed that this is catered for.
There is a need to develop the idea that Vrindavan and the Yamuna River is the prime destination for the terminally ill or deceased person and therefore the services in this area will need to be developed to meet the need. This will come under the Medical Tourism component of the plan.
It is also important to note that historically the region has been Vegetarian therefore Vegetarianism must be protected and promoted from the Braj region and subsequently any development plan must take this into consideration.
There are many reasons why vegetarianism is a wise system to protect and promote in the region. Religiously speaking we can understand from the Bhagavad Gita that Lord Krishna only accepts fruits, grains and milk products for his offerings and so His devotees have followed this since time immemorial. However, health wise vegetarianism is the major component of any therapeutic / nutritional diet and this coupled with organic / traditional farming lends the area to be a world leader in creating a healthy environment.
The breeding of cows, goats, pigs or chickens for slaughter is not only cruel it is a waste of grains that can be used to feed humans what to speak of the green house gases produced from their waste emissions. The dairy cow however is vastly more productive as her milk is used to produce delicious sweetmeats as apposed to the flesh of a slaughtered animal.
It must be noted that once Mother Cow has given her milk for the duration of her serving life she must be protected, along with the Bull and not killed for their flesh. Pasturing land must be made available for retired cows and bulls.
However, in the Braj District slaughterhouses must be banned and especially the Cow and Bull must be completely protected otherwise how can we present a religious region when we allow the slaughter of Mother Cow. So Vegetarianism is a vital aspect of any development plan for the future of the Braj region.
Public Intoxication and Smoking
The sale and possession of alcohol must be banned in the Braj region. Public smoking should also be banned and the region should be seen as a ‘smoke and alcohol free region. Tourists and pilgrims must feel like they are coming into a beautiful safe and sacred region. One only has to see the drunken revelers from Delhi who come to visit the dham on festival days to know that this will not be attractive to the discerning tourist / pilgrim.
The area is serviced by the typical law enforcement services that are in bad need of re-training and modernization. Corruption is also a very important aspect that requires attention in this region.
As the region is prime a target for terrorist attacks any development plan will have to take this into consideration and allow for a major upgrade in the regions security services.
The region will require an additional “Rapid Response” unit that will be specifically established to deal with counter terrorist matters.
Fraud & Corruption
Fraud and corruption must also be looked into with regards to the future development of the region taking into consideration not only the Governmental services such as the Legal Justice System but also businesses and private Trusts / Temples / NGO’s who are accepting donations from the public. This latter aspect is a rather sensitive area as many religious organizations are trying their best to help mankind and the devotees of the Lord, however, any planning must take into consideration the crores of rupees being donated to the larger more popular organizations with regards to whether or not the donations are being used for actual Dham sewa and not going to line the pockets of the custodians and/or other private interests.
National Heritage City – Rural / Urban Development
Heritage according to the Oxford Dictionary means – Valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations. As it pertains to National Heritage it means the traditions, values, buildings etc of the country. India has a rich multi-cultural heritage which includes most of the world religions who have assimilated or adopted the Indian way of life while maintaining their own religious beliefs. Although India is a secular country it has not lost its intrinsic identity and cultural flavor which is based on the rich ancient Vedic cultural tradition of bygone years. For example the Indian cuisine is still based on the Ayurvedic system of health with the use of spices and condiments that not only enhance the flavor of the food but also make it more readily digestible and has healing qualities.
The ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ breakdown of the Mathura District is urban [29.68%], with the historic city of Mathura being urban and the rest of the District being rural [70.32%] consisting of villages. The Braj regions historic capital city is still the same today, Mathura, and the environs of Braj which is an area that is 1453 square miles or 2325 square kilometers in dimension and is approx 84 miles or 150 kilometers wide. Braj Manadala extends from Agra in the south through to Banchari in the north with the City of Mathura in the center. Mathura was a large beautiful city and it was surrounded by pasturing grounds for dairy cows and agricultural land for crops.
The Yamuna river as well as being famous for Lord Krishna’s pastimes is well know for its ability to purify ones sinful activity and award liberation. However today her water has been cut off before Delhi and used for irrigating land up north and the water that flows past Mathura Vrindavana is more or less human waste, rubbish, city grey water runoff and factory waste. Her banks are eroded and encroached upon by slums and ramshackle buildings etc that she can hardly be promoted as a sacred river.
In summation concentration solely on urban development is inconsistent with the heritage of the land which consisted of a blend of both urban life for Mathura City and rural life for the Braj environs. So a plan must be implemented that is in keeping with the rural/garden/forest mood of the original land known as Braj environs and the City of Mathura. Therefore zoning must be a prime consideration in any development plan for the region and a thorough plan worked out and implemented before any development should go ahead.
Zoning and rezoning will need to be looked into in order to better facilitate the development of the Braj region. The tendency of property developers is to seek changes in municipality zoning to meet their needs to create large apartment complexes, shopping malls, commercial enterprises etc, however, in keeping with the National Heritage scheme such development needs to be extensively limited in rural areas such as Vrindavan township and the Braj environs. Urban development may be proposed in the City limits of Mathura City however care must be taken to not turn the City into an urban concrete jungle which only serves to increase the urban sprawl of the land.
Residential zoning also needs to be taken into consideration. The main factor should be whether or not to allow the Braj region to be used for investment properties that mostly remain vacant. Already Vrindavan Township and suburbs are virtually empty of long term resident as many people who live in Delhi etc see the area as an investment opportunity. It is a fact that property sales and development has been profitable as many Delhites, NRI’s and foreigners have sought to purchase property or apartments in the Braj region, however, these have principally been investment sales where the land either remains unused or the residences untenanted.
The idea of making money from such sales and the subsequent building industry spin-off must be reconsidered in light of the overall plan of development for the region, meaning – do we really want ghost high-rise blocks filling this holy land or do we want heritage related accommodation for residents. If the intention is to develop the tourist industry in Braj then the staff will require accommodation so zoning and property development needs to take this into consideration.
Any residential permits granted must take into consideration whether or not the development is an investment or an actual residence for the owner and/or accommodation for staff. It also must be taken in to consideration whether or not the proposed building will not encroach on Municipal bylaws restricting building on land more than stipulated. Meaning, in reality most owners build on 100 percent of their purchased land as well as encroach upon roads. Pre-existing properties which do not meet the existing zoning requirement and have built on 100 percent of their land must also be taken into consideration.
There also needs to be town planning which incorporates parks and gardens which are a vital cultural aspect of the Heritage landscape of the region. With owners building on one hundred percent of their land does not leave much room for trees and gardens and gives rise to the concretization of the land.
Town Planning will require a radical change from the concrete jungle of India’s city / suburban landscape, to creating an architectural vernacular that is in keeping with the rural / forested nature of the heritage of Braj.
Agriculture zoning is also an important aspect of any planning and care must be taken to re-zone fertile agricultural land which is vital to not only the regions heritage status it is also vital for the production of crops, timber and pasturing.
The Mathura District as a world example of simple living and high thinking
In a world that is facing extreme hardship with regards to pollution, environmental disasters, poor rainfall and health issues; the National Heritage listing of the Mathura District India can showcase that its ancient past can be relevant in today’s modern world. While the western world is realizing the dangers of chemical / GMO based agriculture and turning towards more natural solutions / alternatives – India too must turn to organic farming which was after all being utilized in India for thousands of years. However, in modern day India the use of natural foods and natural farming techniques, such as the use of Mother Cow and the Bull, have been replaced by modern toxic chemicals, the tractor and GMO seeds produced by huge multinational companies that care little for the people of the land and only for the profit they can exact from them.
We have a great opportunity to turn this around by utilizing and promoting the traditional farming techniques that are still being practiced today in rural India and showcase it in the form of this wonderful opportunity to create a National Heritage City here in the Mathura District. Spin-offs from this are small businesses, cottage industries, growers markets selling local grown naturally organic produce, as well as delicious dairy products that can match any world market, from the proper use of Mother cow. Small businesses based on cow dung – cooking gas plants, fertilizers etc can be a booming concern for the national and international market. Natural alternatives are usually much cheaper to establish and maintain and proper planning will make sure that the Mathura District will not only lead India in a brighter healthier and more value based lifestyle but become a world leader.
Tourism based on the concept of National Heritage with Lord Krishna as the most attractive feature is the best way to fund this incredible opportunity for the Nation. Through tourism many goals may be achieved both on a local front with job creation, peace and prosperity for the residents and also on a governmental level with not only adding another beautiful crown on its achievements but also bring in much needed revenue from national and international sources.
The First Step
For the first stage we must establish the Mathura District with its title as a National Heritage City as a major tourist destination with the focus on the theme of “Braj” similar to the Muslim’s having their successful yearly pilgrimage Hajj.
Following is a Tourist Information “Kit” which can be made available to Tourist Agencies throughout India as well as the world to promote this idea. Please read carefully and think of the possibilities of opening up Braj to not only national tourists and pilgrims but the 30 million Non Resident Indians throughout the world and of course the regular tourist industry.
The idea that Hindus make an annual pilgrimage to Braj must be well established into the psyche of all Hindus all over the globe which will ensure that not only Lord Śrī Krishna is made available to all, but also India’s rich culture and spiritual heritage be given its rightful position as the most meaningful and relevant culture for this modern world.
Indian Diaspora is estimated at around the 30 million mark which includes both NRI’s and PIO’s and they remit back into India somewhere around 50 million dollars US annually, so they are certainly a very important aspect of any tourism package, especially one focused on a well organized plan such as the one outlined herein.
Braj – National Heritage Authority [B-NHA]
Tourism is the best option for employment and the economy of this region and in order to implement any tourism plan it will require a body to oversea the implementation and overall management of the region to best facilitate its development in both the tourism project [as outlined below] and the overall management of the development plan for the region.
This body, should it be considered appropriate, will also look at the transition to developing the region as a Union Territory so the region can be more appropriately managed and developed.
This body should be comprised of members from the Mathura Vṛndāvan Development Authority, Tourism Ministry representing the National Government, Member of the Legislative Assembly representing the State and a Representative of the Local Municipalities as well as members from the community.
However, it is imperative that any such body is comprised of qualified members and a balance of Government / Local Community members in order to make sure that there is no bias in the implementation of the plan and the supervision of its development.
With the National Government’s commitment to the people of India and progressive positive change for the Nation, it is important that this body is transparent and all vested interests disclosed, and that it operates under strict guidelines established under its Charter. How its official link to the National Government is secured is yet to be determined however, it will require enough clout or powers to be able to enforce the plan which should encompass all communities services both statutory and non statutory.
Connected to this body should be an administrative office to handle the day to day management of the region. The exact management structure, staffing and duty statements, accountability procedures, funding etc can be decided at a later date should the overall proposal be acceptable.
“Braj” – The Concept
Of all the ancient treasures that our wonderful country has to offer Lord Krishna is the most famous of all treasures and He is especially made so in the classic treatise on spiritual wisdom the Śrīmad Bhagavad Gītā, yet His land and His pastimes and His teachings are largely unknown as a tourist destination. There are not only National pilgrims that can benefit from a well structured and professional operated Tourist scheme; there are the many millions of Indian Diaspora across the globe.
As with the Muslim worldwide community who have ‘Haj’ in Mecca; and the Roman Catholic community which has several annual pilgrimages, the foremost of which is for Christmas and Easter, to the Vatican; then Bhārata Varsha or India should have Braj! Annual pilgrimage to “Braj” should be on the minds and in the hearts of all Hindus not only the Indian subcontinent but also the world. This annual pilgrimage will be for the birthday of Lord Śrī Krishna on Janmastami.
Within the overall scheme of “Braj” are two main circuits. The first circuit is the main one which is termed Braj which will be the annual Janmastami pilgrimage and the second one is termed The Krishna Circuit which will provide regular tourist packages. Braj will be specifically for Janmastami or the birth of Lord Krishna. The tour will meet in Delhi [In the future the Braj International Airport BIA] where they will make their way to Braj basing themselves in Vṛndāvan Dham and from there specific or group packages will embark to the various holy sites.
It is envisioned that there will be a design built center / pavilion, in Vṛndāvana that could be named the “Braj Sabhāyām”, for the mass celebration of the festival where all tour groups will congregate for the finale festival which will include cultural events such as traditional dance troupes and theater along with sumptuous feasting of Krishna prasada coming from all the principle temples of Braj. This facility could also include a Town Hall which will be the cultural and meeting place for not only the Braj community but also the tourist industry.
A “Holi” Pilgrimage will also be offered where pilgrims can come yearly to enjoy the spirit of Holi in Braj Dham along with all the Brajabasis. This is a very colourful festival time and pilgrims will have to be prepared to wear their ‘Holi in Braj’ clothes.
There will also be a tour offered for the holy month of Kartika which is in the month of October where pilgrims spend as much time as possible soaking in the sacred atmosphere and visiting the holy sites, this is an especially favourable time for the foreign pilgrims as it is not only the most sacred of months it is also a very nice time to be in Braj. At this time thousands of pilgrims make the long Braj Mandala Parikram as a vrat to aid in their bhakti.
For this proposal the main ‘Circuits’ will be the Braj Circuit which takes in the Braj region and the Kṛṣṇa Circuit which takes in the full places of pilgrimage for pastimes of Lord Shri Kṛṣṇa which include Jaipur, Nathdwara and Dwarka will be outlined. The full scope of the tours will be:
1. “Braj” – Janmastami annual pilgrimage – three day tour
2. The Braj Circuit – General Braj region taking all the most sacred sites and Temples
3. “Holi” – The Festivals of Colour – Seven days following the holi festivals in the various towns of Braj
4. Kartika – One month [tailored] in Braj for the Holy Month of Kartika
5. “Kṛṣṇa Circuit” – A general tour that covers not only the Braj region but other regions associated with Lord Shree Kṛṣṇa – Jaipur, Nathdwara and Dwarka.
The Braj Circuit
The Braj circuit will have a special feature wherein there will be several goals to achieve for the pilgrim/tourist. The main one is the achievement of the honorific title of “Braj-ji” which is awarded to anyone who successfully completes visiting the principle temples of Vṛndāvan Mathura; the main holy sites of Braj and both Vrindvana and Govadhana parikrams.
- Janma bhumi
- Banke Bihārī Temple
- Krishna Balaram Mandir [ISKCON]
- Rādhā Damodara Mandir
- Rādhā Raman Mandir
- Kesi Ghat – take bath in the Yamuna River
- Vṛndāvan Parikrama
- Rādhā Kunda
- Govardhana Town – Visit to the famous “Giriraja Sweets” shop.
- Govardhana Parikram
- Ten Question based on Braj Booklet
The Braj Circuit is also tailor made to be available at any time of the year and to be more flexible for the pilgrim of tourist who has the time and inclination to have a more intimate experience.
The Krishna Circuit is a more general circuit for regular tour groups that will take in Braj as well as all areas related to Braj such as Jaipur, Nathdwara and Dwarka. The Kṛṣṇa Circuit is amenable to tailor making your own itinerary for those tourist or pilgrims that have time issues or desire to spend a more leisurely experience. Attendants of the Krishna circuit will also be eligible for the “Braj-ji” title should they too complete the prerequisites listed above.
All tours should be able to be embarked upon depending on one’s budget. Therefore transport and accommodation packages will be organized for one’s budge so as to make this wonderful experience available to all who desire to visit or make pilgrimage to our wonderful Braj.
This proposal is by no means exhaustive and only serves to give one a glimpse of the extent of what is needed in order to develop this region as a Heritage City. The above Tourist plan, should it be accepted in full or part can be made available as an attractive “Kit” for various Tourist Agencies etc throughout the world so that prospective tourists and pilgrims may be well informed and ‘attracted’ to visit or do a pilgrimage to our wonderful Braj region.
Please refer to the following brochures and pamphlets advertising the above tourist proposal.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Advertisement for the “Krishna Circuit” Tours
Krishna Circuit Brochure Kit – Given to all participating Tourist Agencies, Groups & Businesses.
The month of Kartika is the most sacred month in the devotees calendar and it is also a time when many thousands of pilgrims come to the Holy Dham to soak in the sacred atmosphere. This is also a time when thousands of foreign devotees come from all over the world.
Advertisement for the more extended tour – which includes shopping days in Braj & Jaipura.
The following is a 51 page A5 size brochure that explains who is Lord Krishna and decribes the Braj region and its history. It also gives practical advice on visiting the Holy Dham – The Braj Brochure can be viewed from the menu bar on the top of the Home page.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this proposal. Please keep in mind that this is a preliminary ‘ideas’ proposal and a more substantial plan will need to be designed taking in greater detail which will include establishing an Architectural & Vastu design vernacular for the region.
The author of this proposal is the founder of the “Braj – National Heritage Circle, a circle within the ‘Transform India with Narendra Modi” initiative.
The intention behind this proposal is foremost to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna and to serve my spiritual master His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who, in the 1970’s following in the footsteps of the six Goswamis of Vrndavan, made Lord Sri Krishna famous throughout the world by forming his ISKCON society. In early 1970 he brought his American disciples to India and especially to Braj to continue the work of the six Goswamis and made the Holy Dham available to the general public. Srila Prabhupada is the modern day promoter of Braj and it is through his efforts over the last forty years that the land has become famous and has brought not only economic growth to the region but also infused it with spiritual understanding again.
Any further growth and development of this region will be laid at the feet of the honorable Narendra Modi and his BJP Government who through their bold new initiatives and far seeing plans have the best chance to make positive change for our wonderful nation.
May Lord Sri Krishna bless them and all those who desire to bring this glorious and most sacred land of Braj into the world purview and allow Lord Krishna to shine forth for all to have His darsana
Than you for your consideration on this most auspicious day of Janmastami Mahotsav 18th August 2014
Krsnacandra – Temple President, Radha Shyamasundar Mandir, Shyam Vatika,
Vrindavan Dham, Mathura District, UP
[Email: [email protected]]
* The concept of “Braj – The Heartland of India” & “Braj – Annual Pilgrimage” “Braj Circuit” “Krishna Circuit” are the intellectual property of the author – [Copyright pending]