Green activists of Braj Mandal have demanded protection of the original Sri Krishna land, with mangroves, water bodies and the Yamuna river restored, as described in ancient texts.
The right bhakti and tribute to Sri Krishna would be to save nature, save the environment of the area and return to pre-development days, said local green activists who are alarmed by the mad race for urbanisation.
The so-called 'development lobby' has created havoc in Braj area by disturbing the ecological balance.
"Now you see concrete structures everywhere. The holy land which was once decorated with a cluster of trees, attracting a variety of flora and fauna, is now covered by ugly looking structures and garbage heaps," said Jagan Nath Poddar, Friends of Vrindavan convener, who has been waging a relentless war against deceptive beautification projects by various government bodies.
The 84-kos, roughly 150 kilometre area around Mathura, is described as Braj Mandal, the leela bhoomi of Sri Krishna. Each year millions of devotees from all over visit Vrindavan, Goverdhan, Barsana, Gokul and other shrines associated with the Sri Krishna-Radha lore.
On Saturday, as lakhs of devotees line up for a darshan of little Sri Krishna in the temples of Mathura and Vrindavan on his birthday, nature lovers, river activists and heritage conservationists have sounded an alarm over the frenetic pace of development that is eating up all the green spaces and gobbling up water bodies.
Braj or Sri Krishna land, is losing its pristine glory and tranquility, thanks to a spurt in construction activity and illegal sand and stone mining.
Once upon a time there used to be more than a dozen dense forests from Vrindavan to Agravan, from Kaamvan to Mahavan, Kokilavan to Kotvan. All have disappeared, only the names remain to make way for 'demonic' concrete structures in a most haphazard and out of sync with local ambience manner, say locals.
Acharya Sri Vats ji maharaj, Vrindavan's eminent spiritual leader, rued that "Sri Krishna was an environmentalist. He consumed Davanal to cool off heat, eating mud he purified the soil and by killing the Kalia Naag, he purified the Yamuna water."
"Lord Krishna was an environmentalist. He was a protector of hills, ponds, rivers, forests and animal life. The mor pankh (peacock feather, tulsi, bansuri, love for cows, these are all manifestations of his bonding with nature. But his followers in the holy towns of Mathura, Vrindavan, Goverdhan are doing just the opposite of what Krishna symbolized," lamented a Sri Krishna bhakt Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, in Agra.
Along with physical assaults, there were attempts being made to foist a spurious culture by transforming an essentially religious centre into a tourism hub. The intellectual, musical and emotional wealth of Braj is under stress and on the verge of extinction, say activists.
Music maestro Acharya T.N. Jaimini says "Haveli sangeet parampara of the Sri Krishna temples appears to be already gone, replaced by a loud filmi CD culture. The lanes of Vrindavan no longer reverberate with divine music, its all cacophony at the loudest, shops selling spurious music to lakhs of tourists."
Vrindavan and Radha Kund are now attracting hordes of foreign devotees of Sri Krishna. Locals feel that though the ISKCON has been doing a splendid job through its various social welfare projects, the white bhakts have also brought in a lot of cultural change, not all good.
In Goverdhan, the 21 km long parikrama marg is not only heavily encroached upon but large scale construction has destroyed the original ambience and nature. Fortunately, the National Green Tribunal has now woken up to these threats and is addressing the issues promptly.
Environmentalists active in the area point out that there were more than a thousand water bodies in the Braj area, now you can count them on your finger tips. Most of them have been encroached, others heavily silted while a few others have been reduced to waste water disposal holes.
With ongoing urbanisation and the influx from outside, the sensitive ecology of the area is under threat. Effective pre-emptive steps to stall further encroachment and safeguard the natural assets are required to preserve the heritage values of Sri Krishna land, say activists.