I am almost an atheist, but that didn’t prevent me from making a trip to Vrindavan and Mathura, the holiest of holy places for Hindus all over the world. While idol worship and mantra chanting are not my cup of tea, the curiosity of the great Indian mythology, the Mahabharata is too powerful to resist. With Janmasthami (the birth event of Lord Krishna) just around the corner, I made a trip to these twin-towns , hoping to experience and capture the mega conglomeration of almost one million people that gather here every year.
Shops sell gulal (color powder) for taking inside the temple
For a place that can barely handle a hundred thousand people, this event is completely overwhelming for all local authorities, especially the police and civic bodies. Truckloads, busloads, cartloads and jeep loads of people from small town India offload themselves here purely driven by faith, hoping to witness the events recreated around the birth of Lord Krishna and his playful childhood.
Mathura boasts a mind boggling 4000 (i.e. four thousand in words) temples, most of them devoted to Krishna, the most famous ones being Banke Bihari and Ranga ji. Banke Bihari is situated in the midst of incredibly narrow lanes, that carrying oxygen cylinders is not a bad idea, should you get asphyxiated due to the thronging crowds.
Here is a series of pictures I captured over two days at this place.
Horse carts are still the preferred means of commuting in Mathura and Vrindavan, especially during festive season when no vehicle entry inside the town
Beggars on the narrow streets of Vrindavan and Mathura are very common, as tourists prefer to give them money during religious festivals
Women folk wash and dry clothes on the steps of the kund (man made water tank) in front of Janmabhoomi mandir in Mathura
The place gets overcrowded during Janmasthami and all tourists gather in open areas
Entrance to a house in Vrindavan, probably leading to Lord Krishna
Haggling is very common on Indian streets, It brings immense joy to the buyer and probably secret satisfaction to the seller too
Just short of creating a stampede, the narrow streets of Vrindavan and Mathura require highly skilled maneuvers to make progress. This is the lane leading to Banke Bihari temple
Flags of various colors are on display by tourists, probably showcasing their affiliation to different deities
Pilgrims spread themselves out on the road to cook food and sleep for the night. Either most accommodations are full or the poor can't afford the rates.
Buses are multi-purpose modes of transport in India, not just when they are moving, but even when stationary.
While the temples brim with pilgrims, life for some locals is as-usual. A man walks through the vegetable market in Mathrua while vendors set up their stalls
Sitting and doing nothing is a good pass-time probably
Especially when you are seating opposite a similar row of women
Dwarkadheesh temple, one of the several famous temples in Mathrua and Vrindavan. Most of them have complex timings when the God is asleep or feeding. In over a couple of visits, I have never been able to make it into any of the temples, they are either closed or too crowded.
A man sets up temple offerings outside his shop
A sadhu enjoys time off as he sits on the bank of the flooded Yamuna. He deftly converted to this pose as he noticed my camera come out, otherwise he had a big hukka (~cigar) in hand.
A man takes bath in the flooded Yamuna on the occasion of Janmasthami in Mathura & Vrindavan
A sadhu reads his scriptures on the occasion of Janmasthami in Mathura
A man sits on the banks of Yamuna, lost in thought. Yes, life is difficult for everyone:(
Catching up with each other after a holy dip in Yamuna
A woman dries her saree on the steps of a water-tank in Mathura
A group of young me take off their clothes to take a dip in the holy waters of the tank outside Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura
A view of the holy water tank outside Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura
The spirit of these boys was definitely uplifting my spirit amidst the massive crowds outside the temple
A boy prepares tea in his street stall, my last cuppa in Vrindavan before leaving for Delhi
And he gave me company even as he agreed to get clicked.