Bridge Construction Threat to Yamuna and Vrindavan

By Harmonist Staff

Note: At the bottom of this article is a series of links which can help readers stay informed and participate in the effort to halt the construction of the bridge over Sri Yamuna River. Particularly everyone is encouraged to sign the petition linked below.
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The government of Uttar Pradesh, along with private contractors, has begun construction of a bridge that will cross Vrindavan’s Yamuna River in close proximity to the historic Kesi Ghat. The project is an effort to facilitate further growth in the area, nearby parts of which are already overwhelmed with buildings and people, particularly during certain times of the year in which pilgrims from all over the world flood Vrindavan to celebrate and honor various holidays.

In recent days it seems that the issue is coming to a head with many devotees and environmental activists speaking out against the construction. One of the more prominent voices involved in the protest is that of K.P.S. Gill, former director general of police, who has previously been credited for cleaning up and helping to reduce crime in the area surrounding Kesi Ghat.

Many are pointing out that the portions of Vrindavan that are already inhabited, polluted, and neglected are where money needs to be invested, whereas more expansion will only further degrade both the physical condition and the sanctity of the dhama.

On December 25, a kirtan/protest procession and Yamuna puja were organized. Residents of Vrindavan and Vaishnavas from various institutions attended, but apparently not without opposition. There are reports that police were sent to the Sandipani Muni School in an attempt to prevent the five hundred students therein from taking part in the protest. Additionally, the police are said to have threatened to cancel the visas of foreign teachers in the school. Despite the threats and actions of the police it seems that the children did indeed participate. No word has come as to whether the protest has had or will have any impact, but some feel the effort is likely to be too little too late, considering many have known about the bridge plans for years now.

There has at least been some encouraging news circulating on the Internet in the form of a message from Vaishnavacharya Chandan Goswami of the Goswami family of Sri Sri Radha Raman temple. The message reads as follows:

We have been protesting since day one and asked everyone to join with us. Sad to say all the gurus agree that this construction is wrong, but no one wants to protest against it. In a couple of days we are having a meeting with Satish Chandra Mishra, who is the second strongest person of the state because of whom Vrindavan got the package of reinnovation.

According to the law of the archeological department of India, the area up to 100 metres from a monument is designated as a prohibited area and up to 200 meters as a regulated area.

“No development is permitted within 100 metres of any monument preserved by the State Archaeology Department or by the Archaeology Survey of India.”

There is a Jugal Kishore Temple which is situated on the back side of Kesi Ghat. Because of this law now we have made them stop the construction work and filed the FIR against them.

JP Group, the contractor, has called back his project manager and half of the labor has left. Now three things can happen:-

1. Either they make bridge after 300 meters radius which will make this bridge far from Kesighat.
2. Or they can stop the work altogether.
3. Or they can work on our idea which we have proposed to them.

The result will be out in few weeks as we are taking serious actions against them.

It must be noted that a significant number of those involved in the effort to reverse the bridge construction do have some involvement, to one degree or another, in its inception. Not only has the sheer number of pilgrims to Vrindavan increased, but more and more of those pilgrims are coming from Western cultures and expecting some degree of Western accommodations. All of this translates into business opportunities, which the government and others are seeking to capitalize on.

There are some efforts taking place on social-networking site Facebook to unite concerned parties and keep the flow of information steady. One such group can be accessed here.

There has also been talk of raising money to place an ad on Facebook itself, particularly in India, in order to promote awareness and support of the opposition. It is not completely clear who is organizing this effort, but interested parties can start here.

Lastly, there is an online petition available to stop the Yamuna Bridge construction, available here.

Pictures of the protest procession can be seen here.


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31 Responses to Bridge Construction Threat to Yamuna and Vrindavan

  1. Contrary to what some sections would like us to believe, the well-being of the people is not the aim of such type of development. The bridge over the Yamuna serves only the interest of the builders who will make a good profit and then leave. This particular project is being protested because of the value the dham has to us vaishnavas. But all over India such “developments” go on with terrible consequences for the poor – aggravated unsanitary conditions, diminishing of water sources, dislodging of families and whole communities, added pollution, etc, etc, etc.

  2. Thanks for this very informative article…

  3. Instead of spending money on destroying national monuments of great historical and religious importance, it is better (if the government is interested in a profit from tourists as well as keeping the local citizens happy) that instead of building this bridge,
    all funds should sponsor the cleaning and repair of all such holy monuments.

    There is a policy for the Taj Mahal which is also a very important monument, which states that no autorikshaw may be allowed a certain distance of the Taj Mahal in order to keep that historical tourist attraction attractive and clean.

    Equal importance should be given to other famous historical sites which are found in abundance in the holy land of Vraja. There is so much potential for tourist attraction and money for India if the holy places are lush green, clean and pleasing to tourists.
    Every westerner who visits India is always GREATly disappointed by the lack of environmental awareness and filth especially in the holy places of pilgrimage.
    Education must be arranged for the awareness of the environmental dangers of pollution in India, especially holy places. Education also must be arranged for the awareness of the general public in environmentally sound SOLUTIONS and ALTERNATIVES to the gross ignorant neglect of the environment and especially holy pilgrim sites and sacred historical monuments.

    This lack of education in environmental issues and this neglect of the land is embarrassing to India and shocking to all the tourists who go and often do not go again. India must catch up with the times and start environmental education of the people in general.

  4. Hmmm, I wanted to sign but petition says about my right of doing so as Indian citizien… Since I am not Indian citizien I guess I should not sign it… Any other way to protest?

    • There are hundreds of Indian citizens signing that petition. But another way to protest is to write directly to officials in India. Names and addresses to be provided at Save Yamuna to Save Vrindavan along with model letters:

      http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&ref=mf&gid=219561754957

      • Hladhini-shakti dasi

        Base in my personal experience with governmental issues similar to this one, it is a highly effective method when the public in general, and private organizations directly write to the government officials, who would not easily opposed thousands of letters coming to their direct attention.
        What we have here is not only a situation of environmental protection. It is a direct attack to the Vaisnava faith.
        The government should act with proper religious sensitivity.
        The government has a natural duty to serve the public, and when developing the land maintain it’s natural context. Additionally, the government should act for the protection of the spiritual and cultural activities of its people.

        Is it there in Vrndavan a Community Board? The Board should be strong and work directly with the government so that situations like this one, can be presented by representatives of the general population of Vrndavan.

        We must not forget that Vrndavan was founded by the Goswamis. It is a sacred place. The aim of Vrndavan is to develop our bhajan, no economic development. If we are not careful, we will destroy the original reason that people come to visit Vrndavan. Tourists are coming to Vrndavan. But mostly no tourists but pilgrims are coming to Vrndavan. They are searching for the spiritual land of Krsna. I am a westerner, I can speak for westerners. I have being coming to Vrndavan for over thirty years. Vrndavan is my refuge, where I can spread tears of love and prayers asking for the mercy of the great vaisnava acaryas. Vrndavan is the place where I can feel the presence of the spiritual pastimes of Krsna and His eternal associates. I come to Vrndavan to roll on the dust that covers Vrndavan, praying that one day, by the mercy of Sri Radha and Krsna I will see Their acting pastimes. We must preserve the mood of Vrndavan. This is everyone’s duty and is number one priority. Otherwise you will destroy the most spiritual place for devotees of Krsna for future generations to come, and the chance to obtain the blessings of the Land of Vrndavan. Where are the forests of Vrndavan? why not to restore their beauty. Plant Kadamba trees,flowers, creepers, create a place where devotees will feel closer to the real beauty of Vrndavan. Indulge yourselves in Vrndavan seva, Yamuna seva, and your life will be successful for you and your descendants.
        I am not oppose to economic development. By creating Hotels outside in the outskirts of Vrndavan, and building retirement communities for foreigners and Indian citizens with upgraded facilities you will do seva, and it will also increase employment and generate commerce while preserving the natural environment of our Vrndavan, clean, green, beautiful, and humble. All Glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga!

  5. Dear devotees please don’t lose heart, lets save our beloved Yamuna now! For those who have never been to Vrindavan, the construction of this bridge on the Yamuna right across from Keshi Gath means basically the end of Vrindavan as we know it.

    When Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada first brought us here, Vrindavan was still peaceful and village-like. One could actually swim in the flowing Yamuna waters. I have been coming to Vrindavan since the 80s. Like so many who come yearly, its been with a heavy heart that I have seen gradual development over the decades. The paving of the parikram path was a warning to us all. But unfortunately we always left the issue of protecting Vrindavan for later, or for someone else to deal with. But when I arrived here this time, right before Christmas, what I saw horrified me. It was the appearance day of Srila Jiva Goswami, I decided to walk down the parikram marg to the math for the celebration held there. When I arrived at the math’s gate, dear Lord of my heart – there was no celebration for me! I literally stopped on my tracks: The Yamuna is dried up artificially, mud and garbage pushed into a makeshift dam by the builders to divert the waters. Huge, ugly cement pillars erected right in the middle of the dried Holy River bed; there is no holy water touching Keshi Gath but sewage and chaos instead. Those pillars look and feel like spears right in the heart of a dear mother. The construction materials and equipment around the area literally look more like weapons of assault than tools of development and progress. The local young man who accost visitors offering boat rides literally speak in a whisper, “boat ride?” I turned to one such whisperer and could not help replying loudly, “Ride on what? On garbage? Where is the water? Where is our Yamuna?” I heard the voices over from some friends inviting me to come in to the math for the celebration, I was so sad to have to ask them, “celebration of what?” Suddenly it was clear there is no other sadhana at the moment for any of us but to protest this construction. Its not too late, we must stop this construction!

    If we fail Vrindavan, we fail Mahaprabhu. And if we fail prem, there is no meaning in this world and any other world for us at all, forever. That is the meaning of hell. Don’t doubt it.

    Sign the petition, please.

    • I felt like crying reading your report. YES, there is no other sadhan right now than to SERVE the holy dham, and stop expecting Her to serve us. Hai Hai!

      • Suchandraji,

        You are not the only one crying. I have seen devotees crying everywhere. The devotees come to the horrible, horrible cosntruction site (we call it the crime scene), and you can see the heaviness of their hearts in their faces. Its too much to bare. I saw an Iskcon devotee standing by the gath staring and just so sad I could feel his sadness all around him. I saw others too, men and women alike, holding back tears. People refrain form saying in words but their hearts are screaming in pain. At the site of this monstrosity, the locals, you can tell, they too feel the heavy hand of the greedy ones above them imposing their ways even in this most sacred place, the sacred space of lila, of true love, of giving. They are not fooled. They know this bridge is about taking. You can see in their eyes they understand it.

        There is another sweet girl here who, like you, is very expert at singing the bhajans of the dham, and like you she was so sad and feeling helpless. And like you she also thinks that we have taken Yamuna for granted and now somehow we should save the situation. There are in Braj right now groups acting at the official level. But this does not mean all of us are not needed. All help is needed, any help, any action – prayers, writing letters, communicating with friends, spreading the word and begging, begging for support from everyone you meet is very helpful. We might not see the results yet, but it does help. I was thinking that in Hawaii and around the world a symbolic Keshi Gath wall can be built in front of the local temple, or even your own home, and devotees should hold kirtan/vigils for stopping the construction of the bridge. Banners and signs with peaceful appeals for the cause can be placed in these walls. Also kirtans/demonstrations in front of Indian Embassies around the world should be held. If the media reports these peaceful appeals, then more people will support the petition signing and letter writing action.

        This is an evrironmental cause too. The world is ripe for protecting natural resources. And the world is always ripe for service of the sacred, even indirectly. This is an opportunity for the whole world to serve Yamuna, to serve the dham. Lets act!

  6. Za Yamunu!

  7. We should find out what is motivating the builders of the bridge and defeat that. If for some unfortunate reason we loose this battle, it is not the end because there is the entire Vraja dham to consider.

    More people are becoming conscious of this situation in Vrindavan and are getting MAD. And that is good, because we need all the voices serving Vrindavan for future preservation. Not just Keshi ghat but the whole dham.

    The whole dham should be protected under the government and devotees and public. It should be cleaned and alternative solutions should be given It’s time to EDUCATE about the importance of the environment!

  8. I have been discussing this issue with my sister Candrakanta. We have come to a very intense conclusion.

    1. The CONSUMER is who the businesses are serving.

    2. THe businesses are responding to INCREASED CONSUMER DEMANDS

    3. Increase in TRAFFIC and Businesses means CROWDED streets.

    4. Government is simply supplying needs on the demand of the people and situation.

    THEREFORE it is the FAULT of the CONSUMER who,

    1. Likes a nice hotel to stay in
    2. Likes to buy paper towel, sanitary napkins etc
    3. Likes PAPER AND PLASTIC CUPS DURING FESTIVALS RATHER THAN BIODEGRADABLE LEAF PLATES
    4. Needs Air Conditioning
    5. DOESN’t want to spend time gardening and so covers everything with cement.
    6. Rides in Buses that run over cows FREQUENTLY
    7. Prefers an AUTO RIKSHAW to a bike riksha or horse driven carts or ox power.
    8. Prefers indoor bathroom to traditional burrying or outhouses thus causing an INCREASE in CONTAMINATED SEWAGE…

    The list goes on, but you get the idea……..

    MANY DEVOTEES ARE SADLY……………………………. >THE CONSUMER.

    Many devotees are westerners and live a very spoiled luxury life, but WE CAN BE STRONG.

    ( We can put on our safari clothes and camping gear and be hardcore..
    can’t we?)

    We need to start boycotting auto rikshaws and demanding BIODegradable PRODUCTS.

    We need to start being environmentally EDUCATED.

    We must also RESPECT the holy DHAM AND NOT TREAT IT AS A LUXURY RETREAT, BUT THE SACRED LAND OF KRISHNA.. (to be worshiped and respected )

    It’s a holy place of pilgrimage not a luxury place of retirement.

    Boycott fancy hotels!

    Boycott anything that isn’t biodegradable.

    Bring good walking shoes, a face mask, or WHATEVER IT TAKES but DON’T ride AUTO RIKSHAWS.

    THE POWER is in KNOWLEDGE and EDUCATING the CONSUMER on WHAT KIND OF DAMAGE WE ARE DOING, WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP, and WHAT are SOLUTIONS?

    Because as long as the consumer ignorantly CONSUMES, then the BRIDGE WILL BE BUILT.

    DON’T CONSUME VRINDAVAN!! RESPECT HER!!!

  9. Suchandra dasi,

    Pranams dear girl. Its true what you and your sister are thinking: We devotees, at least partially, brought this upon Braj. How? First by our mixed bhakti; like you say, we come and visit with a desire for devotion but we bring our anarthas with us, especially attachment to comfort. But the greatest anartha we have kept has been disrespect for one another, i.e., we never united strongly against the material energy and ceased to be sectarian. Lack of love and affection for one another has caused us to not see the urgency in protecting the dham. Vaishnava aparadha has caused dham aparadha. This is so unfortunate, but it is not too late. When Keshi charged into Vrindavan, demage was done until Krishna came and made it right in a few seconds. According to our acaryas, Keshi, the horse demon, represents the vanity of thinking “I am a great devotee and guru”, and also the false ego arising from attachment from wealth and material accomplishments. Big projects and large number of followers can be risky in the world of bhakti. Its risky when its not pleasing to devotees, all devotees. Its obviously not an easy thing to accomplish, but all vaishanava groups should as much as possible consult with one another and see that all at least to some degree are satisfied with the activities and mood being generated in each group. After all at the root of every vaishanva activity, at least in principle, is the same pure element: desire to please Krishna.

    We need to unite, no matter what, and in all humility invite each other in our plans for affection and servitude. And so symbolically and in effect invite Yamuna devi back in front of Keshi Gath.

    So, of coure, NO RINGROAD, NO BRIDGE!!

    MORE LOVE AND AFFECTION!! MORE VAISHNAVA SEVA!!

    • Yes, in fact I think that because of this catastrophe the devotees will unite.

      Why? Because no matter which sanga or group you are in, if you are a devotee of Krishna, then you SURELY care about VRINDAVAN!!!!!!!!! JOIN HANDS AND SERVE!

  10. I must admit I am appalled by the lack of interest this topic has generated on this board. Unless of course lots of actions are going on behind the scenes of which I am unaware.

    There were a few emotional appeals and then the discussion ceased. I don’t understand: Why isn’t this issue important to devotees? Why isn’t Tripurari Swami commenting at all, perhaps encouraging his followers to sign the petition, to write to officials protesting the destruction of Keshi Gath, to offer to help in some way, to offer a word of consolation?

    My understanding has always been that the manifest dham in this world is the source of all tirthas around the planet. And that all the beauty, sweetness and charm we can possibly aspire for springs but from the eternal land of Krishna. Srimati Radharani said that Her mind and Vrindavan are non different. If the original Vrindavan on earth is destroyed, can a self-sufficient spot in paradise replace it? Should we settle for such?

    Please dear devotees help the dham, speak up on this, protest that construction!

    • Of course I am against the bridge. Everyone should do what they can to stop it, but it is spiritual practice that manifests the Dhama more than anything else. And this is what is lacking in the international community of devotees, that and meaningful sanga devoid party spirit.

    • I’m trying to understand how what I see here can be charaterized as a lack of interest. The number of posts looks pretty healthy to me. I have to admit that seeing the pictures of the construction and its effects on the river rather short-circuited my brain. I agree that we must all do whatever we can to stop this rape of the dhama. At the same time, we should intensify our efforts, as Swami Tripurari says, manifest the dhama through our spiritual practice.

      • Babhru Prabhuji,

        I think the psychology in this situation is kind of like a mirror effect: some devotees look at the pictures and can’t even react, so shocked they are. And those who begin to react, especially those who are seeing this crime live here in Vrindavan, turn around and in despair cry to those still in shock, “Please lets do something!!”

        But of course all are unanimously outraged at this absurd assault.

        Thank you to Tripurari Swami for having made a public statement and for calling for more inward dham seva as well. Very insightful, very helpful.

  11. It was Mahaprabhu’s command to the six Gosvamis to reveal the lost holy places of Vraja dham, for the ultimate good of the devotees and the nondevotees alike. Living in Vrindavan, I have seen what wonders contact with Vrindavan *in this world* has done for many devotees and tourists, in the way of awakening their bhakti samskars and nurturing their bhakti latas. If we really want to follow in the footsteps of the six Gosvamis I believe it is our duty to be custodians of the work they have done, especially their service of the manifest Vraja Dham.

  12. Bijaya Kumara Das Brian D Grover

    I hope they were not able to pave the Parikaram as was suggested in 1996 for the Buses of people to just drive and not walk and I hope this campaign will stop the bridge.

  13. Having my professional back ground in construction I am surprised to see that only recently there is some protest to this bridge being built. The construction has been going on since the first half of 2009. Construction equipment, workers, and groundbreaking was well under way when I was there in June 2009. Which means permits, planning and funding were taking place well before actual ground breaking took place -2008 or earlier. Surely there had to be some foreknowledge that this was going to take place without getting to the point of JP Group actually breaking ground? And now only after the construction is well under way their is an organized and publicized protest?
    On a related note, I know personally that their are some quite powerful business families who have taken residence in Vrindavan to do business. They are aligned with the mafia/police, and are infuential with local politicians as well as throughout India, Bombay particularly. They have bore children, and their children now capitalize on their ‘divine vrajavasi birth’ in order to freely exploit the dham unimpeded by those lesser beings of ‘non divine birth-rite’.
    I would be interested to know what is the ‘idea’ proposed to ‘them’ by Vaisnavacharya Chandan Goswami?

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