Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #44 – Vrindavan the Beautiful!

November 1st, 2021

Vrindavan the Beautiful![1]


February 25, 2019

I recently renewed a cherished old daily practice. Early in the morning, before dawn, I walk out into Vrindavan to experience its beauty. And what is that beauty? Is it the visuals, what I see as I negotiate through the meandering streets to the town’s center, or circumambulate the city on the path now paved around it? Is it the dilapidated structures, open sewers, and sleeping street dogs, or piles of trash with the pigs feasting on it? What exactly is the beauty of Vrindavan?


In the far distance I periodically hear the start of a kirtan, and then another and another. I can’t see them, but it’s so mystical to witness a city gradually awakening to the sweet sound of the holy name.


An elderly bābā sits on the side of the parikramā path in the cold. He sits in the same spot every day without fail, beautifully chanting the morning melody of Hare Krishna on an old harmonium. His smile reflects the beauty of his heart. I read his mind: “I am the most fortunate person in the world!”


I pass through the narrow corridors that embrace the once grand but now in-disrepair Kesi Ghata. I step over the small powerful stream of sewage rushing toward the river. I continue down the long dark corridor where on my left the path finally opens to the river in descending sandstone steps. A smattering of small rooms and platforms in the palace wall house sadhus and paṇḍitas huddled for joyous worship with incense and mantras. I pass a family sleeping together on the side of the path under a pile of thick blankets. The father’s head pops up—“Haribol!” The children follow suit, and they all smile—a blissful family in a most unlikely place.


Thank God the celebrated, nasty eyeglass/hat/purse-snatching monkeys are still asleep as I walk the narrow street to the center of town, carefully negotiating my stroll around the resting bulls and sleeping dogs. Even I, Venus and all,[2] am overwhelmed by the thick ambrosial fragrance of devotion surrounding me. I whiff what I feel is the heart of the vraja-vāsīs’ offering of incense to their Lord. My heart is buoyed by their devotion.


An old sadhu bathes by the hand pump in just his kaupīna.[3] A barefoot shopkeeper throws water on the ground in front of his shop to clean it, then waves incense before baby Gopala[4] on the shelf. I see the same souls every day. What happy hearts with so little!


A simple man on a bike passes me on my right, singing odes in joy to Krishna. An old widow scurries past with soft, deep prayers to Radha under her breath. I pass full-throttled maṅgala-ārati kirtan and peer into the various temples behind worn, intricately carved entrances. A few temple-hopping souls rush past me to catch another ārati on their morning rounds. A whole city gradually awakening to devotion—a joyous sight!


I meet a simple mālī (gardener) as I walk through the beautiful flower gardens just minutes from town. Hundreds of acres of lush floral acres spread out before me, a splash of color if I ever saw one. The real Vrindavan is still there, hidden behind a secret black gate that seems to preserve its beauty. Amidst the paradisiacal Vrindavan, the mālī tells me his woes. The floods have wiped out his crop. As he is complaining, I am puzzled; his eyes and body still sparkle with immense joy. I ask a simple question: “How can you be so happy?” His answer is like a mantra revealing the true glory of Vrindavan, whether walking through its run-down town or strolling through its splendid gardens: Happiness is a heart filled with devotion.


Ah, Vrindavan the beautiful!



[1] This is the first time I posted two articles in a row that were posted previously. I was working feverishly to complete this Monday Morning Greetings, but with my kārttika-vrata and people also visiting me after so many years there is not a minute to spare and I just couldn’t complete it on time. However, it really expresses what I am experiencing here.

[2] I sometimes joke about the weak Venus in my astrological chart, which is not overly sensitive to refined things like fine scents.

[3] Loincloth.

[4] Deity of baby Krishna.

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