The sacred land of Braj
Erupts with countless
Pustules of plastic
Chancres of garbage
Cicatrices of trash
Covering the sacred dust
That God Himself walked upon
So many years ago
That land
Now desecrated, veiled in
Sullied robes
The detritus of our appetites, stupidity and greed
A pestilential playground
Upon which romp
Hordes of mangy menacing monkeys
Grubbing, fighting, copulating
Upon the wasted fetid plain
And like that land
I too am covered
My true self obscured
By the exudate
Of sins innumerable
Committed life after life
Since time immemorial
O lord
When will Braj and I
Again be pristine pure and clean?

So after negotiating fares with various proprietors of conveyances, we at last come to Govardhan hill, that hill which long ago Krishna lifted and held up for six days while the people of Braj sheltered under it from the torrential storms sent by Indra.
There is truly nothing to compare the outpouring of devotion that the pilgrims demonstrate as the circumambulate the hill. The entire route is about 26 miles. Most pilgrims do this route barefoot. Some especially devout, do this one prostration, after another, slowly making their way around the circuit.
As one begins the route one can purchase bags of coins because it is of course particularly meritorious to give alms on the way and one has 100s of alms seekers to choose from (although none manifested any particularly alarming or grotesque deformities). There are also people who have set up make shift roadside shrines in the hopes of attracting donations. And there are innumerable stalls catering to any conceivable need one might have upon the way; the inevitable and ubiquitous chai stalls, beverage stands, snack shops, trinket and amulet stands,vendors of devotional prints and CDs numerous hawkers of cures and nostrums for a variety of ailments, all lining the route. Incongruously amongst this atmosphere of piety, there was also a golf course!
At various intervals there are temples. One particularly noteworthy one featured a wall festooned with swastikas made of cow dung! (the swastika is actually an ancient symbol of goodness appropriated and perverted by the Nazis). At another site, libations of milk are poured copiously and continually over a rock, the mouth of Govardhan hill and to service this pious act, the alley leading to this site is lined with sellers of a variety of milky, frothy concoctions.
As i allude to in the above poem, I also saw the greatest concentration of monkeys I have ever seen. There were hundreds and hundreds, possibly a 1,000 all picking over what is all too sadly prevalent a large field, completely carpeted with garbage, most perniciously with plastic cups, water and other beverage bottles, aluminum plates etc. abandoned and left to sit there for longer than our life spans; rising higher and higher above the plain. It is so sad to see this sacred land scarred and desecrated this way!
What is less beguiling to me, where the various usually portly supposedly religious people who would block the way or attach themselves limpet like as I walked along, soliciting donations, either simply for being there or for mumbling a few prayers or incantations. This is a mercantile attitude toward religion specifically condemned by our spiritual master, but which persists nevertheless. It is great contrast to the mass of simple, devout and joyous people that one sees here at Govardhan who come by the 1,000s to show there faith and devotion, that I see daily going to walk the seven or so miles around Vrindavan. I am sad that physically I am unable to join in this joyous pilgrim's procession.


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