I am no fitness freak. My weight loss resolutions always get carried over to the next year and I can NEVER be on a diet. So when mom asked me to join her for the Goverdhan Parikrama I thought twice. Reason 1: It meant walking 22 Kms at a stretch. Reason 2: it meant walking barefoot. Goverdhan and Vrindavan visits have always been part of my childhood vacations. I remember accompanying my grandparents to the Banke Bihariji Temple in Vrindavan ,always cribbing about walking barefoot in lanes filled with cow dung and chasing peacocks. According to Hindu Mythology, Goverdhan Parvat (Mountain) is the mountain lifted by Lord Krishna on his little finger, to protect the Brijwasis (Locals in the area are called Brijwasis) from torrential rains. The Brijwasis refused to worship Lord Indra (The rain God) and evoked his wrath. Krishna the saviour , saved them and from that day onwards they started worshiping Goverdhan Parvat which provided them shelter.
Goverdhan is about 45 km from Vrindavan and 36 Km from Mathura. The Goverdhan Parikrama begins at Daanghati (Parikrama Marg) and the first 13 km is walking around the mountain. The rest is the parikrama of the two lakes: Radha Kund and Shyam Kund. What may surprise many, a lot of foreign devotees (mostly from Iskcon) have made Braj Bhoomi their home and do the parikrama monthly. If you think this post is only about the religious aspect of the parikrama, sorry to disappoint you, because there is much much more to it.
It was a winter afternoon, and I was apprehensive to do it. Because I felt I wouldn’t be able to complete it.Also I was fully aware people throw ‘kulhads’ on the road making it tougher to walk. A local suggested we take the inside route. What is this inside route? I ask him. It is the route closer to the mountain, so you don’t have to walk on the road, you will walk on the sand. The inside route can be only taken during the day time, it isn’t safe at night. Winters being exceptionally cold, it was advised to walk during the day. So we began the parikrama at 12 pm, me armed with my camera and a stick (to scare of pesky monkeys eyeing my cam) (To be honest I was petrified of them) The first 3 Kms were a breeze, there were monkeys, peacocks, Nilgai all round. The trees were ancient and beautiful. I loved the way their branches sprawled into different shapes.
Its another world, you may feel the area is so arid, but there is lush green vegetation as well. There was a spot where people were making houses of the stones. It is believed people who make houses of the stones here get to buy their own house 🙂 But theres a catch: You cannot break someone’s house for making your own 🙂
After 5 Kms we spotted a Sugarcane Juice vendor, a blessing for all those walking.
Walking on sand was easier and the mild breeze made it less tiresome.
There were many ancient temples on the way, each had its own story, like Jatipura, Mukhaarvind, Puchri ka lota. We passed through many houses , beautiful minarets and old doors which was a delight to capture.
Almost at the end of the mountain stretch (13 km) I spotted many parrots in their tree houses. This made all that walk worthwhile. The second stretch was sans the mountain. Alas! There was no sand as well. So we walked on the road. There were many markets on the way and lots of sweet shops selling radbdi, jalebi, samosas and lassi! We reached Radha Kund (lake) where people are found taking a dip and doing poojas. Radha Kund has many ashrams and is home to thousands of widows from Bengal and Orissa. It is extremely unfortunate to see old, helpless ladies begging on the streets , disowned by their own family.
We are 3 kms away now. I am panting and puffing and taking breaks at every possible distance. When I am just about to start complaining, we reach the Kusum Sarovar. Beautiful, ancient minarets and their reflection glistening in the lake water. It is believed to be thousands of years old and the depth is unknown.
The last stretch was more of an end spurt. It was already 6 pm and pitch dark. As we reached Daanghati , the place where we began I felt an usual sense of satisfaction. There were so many stories discovered, mysteries unravelled and splendid sights to behold. I wondered if all that was true, whether one could really buy their house after building it from stones there, whether Krishna really visited the place and all those stories were true. As I wait for the Goverdhan Arti , thinking I wouldn’t be able to click at all, A priest sees my camera and walks up to me, will you please click me doing the Arti? I am amused. The Aarti begins, 7 of them doing it simultaneously, amidst the sounds of conches and bells. The experience is ethereal. Suddenly I don’t feel tired anymore.
I get the answer to the questions I was pondering on: It all boils down to faith. Doesn’t it? All I hope is people stop littering and dirtying such ancient places.This architecture deserves to be preserved. If you wish to do the Parikrama here are some tips: Tips: 1. Hire a local ( No not a priest) Most of them are thugs. Maybe a school boy who is ready to show you around. He may ask for some fees. Make sure you decide on it beforehand so he doesn’t take you for a ride. 2. Do the parikrama from the inner route ( this is closer to the mountain and on the sand) making it easier on the feet, The outer one is further away from the mountain and you have to walk on the road. 3. Make sure you do this trip in the winters, summers are terribly hot and you wouldn’t want to burn your feet! 4. In winters the parikrama is done in the afternoons, making it convenient to click pictures and walk with ease. 5. Do not forget to see the Arti in the evening! Where to Stay: Try and stay either in Mathura or Vrindavan. If you wish to stay in Goverdhan there are quite a few Ashraams. I would recommend Teerth Vikas Sthal for the budget traveller , they have tokens for dinner and provide simple and clean , hygiene meals. If you are ready to burn a hole in your pocket there is the Radha Brij Vasundhara resort, a 5 star resort, very close to the Parikrama Marg. Do not forget to greet everyone you meet with a “Radhe Radhe”. This is a customary greeting in the area. Until the next post, Radhe radhe 🙂