Wednesday, September 7, 2011

{ VRINDAVAN: A holy city }

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare.
Radha Radha Krishna Krishna!

September 5, our American labor day, is also Radha's birthday!
And what do the Hindu Indians (the majority) do?

We spent the day in...

or Vrindaban!
What a beautiful, historical, rich city!
Vrindavan is known as a holy city. 
It is the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
And where Krishna spent most of his childhood.

This was one of the most incredible days of my life!

As we entered the city, we first went to the famous ISKON temple - made of beautiful, white marble - right in the middle of the city. It was adorned in gorgeous orange and pink flowers - everywhere! I can't even imagine how long the preparations took for the festival. Everyone was plastered against each other jumping up and down with their hands in the air singing "Hare Krishna!"

We then visited the first ashram.

Maitri has an ashram in Vrindavan where hundreds of widows live. I loved visiting with each of them, learning their name (apka nam kya hai?), and feeling their sweet, genuine spirits. One beautiful widow told me about her pain (our sweet cowork Shicka helped translate!) and how she suffers day in and day out but it is our visits that help keep her happy and positive.

Next we went to serve lunch to the widows. At another local ashram, their Project Jeevan helps to provide a mid-day meal, as well as nutritional supplements (calcium, iron, and zinc) for hundreds of widows, every day. They also run an ashram where some of the women live and spend the rest of their lives. As Interns, we had the chance to visit, meet the widows, and serve them lunch!

Let me tell you a little bit about widows in India. It is much different from anything we know in America. Check out this article here. In India, tradition says that when a woman's husband dies, she becomes "bad karma." It is not so much about religion but rather just culture. The women are seen as a financial drain to their families. Sometimes, they lose their bindis and they are encouraged (strongly) to wear white sarees at all times - kind of like losing hope and losing all color in life. Often, their hair is shaved off as well. These widows go to one of India's holy cities to spend the rest of their life - Vrindavan, Varanasi, or Haridwar. In these cities, some will live on the side of the streets but most find their new home in the ashrams. Their hope is that their death in Vrindavan (or a holy city) will free them from rebirth and help them to achieve moksha, or salvation. Widows are provided government pensions; however, because of corruption and bureaucracy, they often never come to those who file the proper forms...Often, they spend the rest of their lives trying to earn enough money for a proper funeral but even if they do raise the money, often when they die, the promises from the owner of their ashram, or whoever, uses the money somewhere else and their bodies are carelessly disposed. They earn money often by singing songs all day - 8-12 hours a day - in an ashram or temple and they make a meager 6 rupees or so a day (about 13 cents). 

Last friday in the office, before our journey to Vrindavan, we watched a film called White Rainbow. It is the beautiful story of a well-off, educated woman who is widowed very young. In time, after she has grieved, she goes to Vrindavan to befriend the widows. She becomes an advocate for these women - to protect their basic human rights. She helps them to get their pensions. She establishes a beautiful ashram in the city that stands in thick contrast to the ashram of an evil man who repeatedly beats and rapes one of the younger widows, Deepti. The movie tells the story of 3 widows - Deepti, Mala, and Roop Mai. It shocked me to see this film (I would encourage everyone to watch it)! My heart hurts. How am I so ignorant? These women are being denied their basic fundamental human rights. 

One of my close friends here told me she hopes she is never widowed and she prays that she will not be. But if it does happen, she will try to start a new life. But people won't let it happen - the culture makes it so difficult.

We ended the evening with a visit to another local temple (about 300 years old!) where I put my life at risk to retrieve three beautiful flower adornments from the gods! They were worth it :) Then we attended theRadha Krishna festival at a local temple (beautiful!) and watched as they ceremoniously cleaned and adorned Lord Krishna and Radha. It was quite the experience and I enjoyed the day in great company.

Breakfast on the way :) Love this group!

MONKEYS! We saw so many on our trip to Vrindavan - this one was cute because it was carry a baby monkey! 

Barefeet in the streets of Vrindavan - preparing to enter the temple!

ISKON Temple. Beautiful! Celebrating the birth of Radha. 

Me with Winnie Ma'am and the General :)

TIKKA - we prepared for the rest of our temple visits and celebrations with this decorative mark.

Markets and streets of Vrindavan - one of my favorites!

The Radha Krishna festival.

Ceremoniously washing and adorning Lord Krishna and Radha. 

My girls :)

Temple at night with the fountains - pretty and so simple!

1 comment:

  1. Ohoh its was a grt trip for me.. sachi!!
    i visited so many times but i never seem this kind of crowd nd decoration. I love you Liz ji for come with us. I always remember this trip. Forever memory. <3