This insightful article capturing the essence of Vrindavan was written by Bhakti Shakti Devi, a longtime practitioner of bhakti yoga and lifelong member of the Vrinda family. She has led many tours to India and sacred places of South America. She has performed important volunteer work at the Vrinda Kunja Ashram in Vrindavan as well as in other holy places around the world. She is originally from Bulgaria but now resides with her family in Sweden.
To visit Vrindavan is to experience reality of the transcendental plane, merging deeply into the mystery of ancient India.
Vrindavan is situated three hours by car to the south of Delhi, on the banks of the Yamuna River, a beautiful town with more than 5000 hindu temples, enlivened with a spiritual enthusiasm that touches the heart of every visitor. Vedic culture is the only surviving ancient culture in the world today, and here it has been preserved throughout the centuries.
When you witness the everyday life of the people here, you may feel like you have been transferred 5000 years back in time, as the raising of consciousness and the beautiful relationship between people come into focus.
The welcoming atmosphere and feeling of acceptance come mainly through the greetings of the local people: “Radhe Radhe!”, which is used as a greeting, agreement, gratitude, or shouting from the rickshaw drivers to get out of the road. You will also be charmed by the joyful laughing of children playing in the street or by the enthusiastic invitations of vendors from the small shops.
Radha is the divine female entity who completely rules here in this tiny piece of the world, which is also considered a manifestation of the spiritual world here on Earth. All the inhabitants of Vrindavan see themselves as her surrendered souls, and they worship this female divinity for her gentleness, shelter, motherly care and mercy. Here you can encounter many special saintly persons who come from all over India and the world, each with markings on the forehead indicating the spiritual lineage to which they belong. You can see people with huge turbans and distinct facial features, all here to experience precious time in the manifestation of the spiritual world, here on earth. You will see many pilgrims, who circumambulate the holy hill of Govardhan, fully prostrating themselves continuously as they complete the parikram (sacred journey around a holy site) until they finish the whole path of 22 km.
In contrast to the western tradition of receiving an invitation before entering someone’s home as a welcome guest, here nearly everyone naturally invites you with a smile to be their special guest. Even if you accidentally enter someone’s yard, you should expect to receive a joyful welcome and be treated like royalty. This spontaneous and natural hospitality is so pleasing that one may feel much more at home here as a guest than even in his own house.
In front of every temple there are plenty of holy men and women begging for alms, and everyone has lots of small coins handy to give a little something to as many people as possible. Here the atmosphere of giving predominates over taking, and everyone is competing to offer his service and favour to do something good. This is the true nature of the soul – to give. We observe this from the seller of vegetables, to the seller of clothes, who all bargain with us until we get what we want. Everyone lives by his faith, and it is always evident.
Here the laws of nature seem to operate differently because one often gets immediate reactions to one’s thoughts, words and actions. It is like having a direct line to God. Here whatever the mind meditates on or prays for seems to come true or something happens which enthuses us or illuminates the path for us. We know that to enter through the gates of the spiritual world one needs permission to enter into the sanctum sanctorum, and one needs special mercy to enter there where only few have access. For that reason every pilgrim offers his prayers to the guardian of this holy abode, Gopishvara Mahadev or Shiva. After receiving this benediction, the veil of material illusion is lifted, and we can see the real spiritual dimension. Without this mercy, our visit here will remain just another physical presence in a geographical place devoid of the transcendental vision of divine beauty which is imperceptible to the mundane senses.
Each moment of the day offers an invitation to enter the world of eternal love, from the joyful inhabitants who greet us with a smile shouting the names of the lord to the beautiful and colorful celebrations in the temples, where every morning and evening they go to see the lord of their heart as if embarking on a secret rendezvous with their dearly beloved.
The temple is the meeting place of the souls, to escape mundane existence and merge into sublime reality, listening to the music and celebrating the ultimate experience of the day. It is also the social meeting place for all important activities in the community, eg. family celebrations such as weddings, religious rites for newborns or the deceased, and rituals for new businesses. The temple is the place where everyone comes together to celebrate each day because life itself is a constant celebration if we have the right vision.
It is not uncommon to see a middle-age woman on her way home from market carrying bags of vegetables, stop by the temple to set down her load to dance the most joyful and loving dance in a spontaneous and unique way for the lord on the altar.
Everything feels so close and dear to the heart, that people have the sense of belonging to the same family, and we are invited to feel at home, back in our own place. It is as if we have been on a long trip for decades in foreign lands, suffering a lack of familiarity, being spoken to in foreign languages we do not understand, treated as foreigners. Then magically, after all this, we go back to where everything is so familiar and so dear and precious, where others are happy to see us and we will be offered the warmness and friendship after our long sojourn through unknown lands.