After going through the chaotic Calcutta, the incredible Manipur that broke our principles and the obligatory Mumbai, we decide to leave a bit of the normal route to get lost in a couple of towns. The elect, on the way to Delhi, are Mathura and Vrindavan. During Krishna Janmashtami Vrindavan, Gokul, Mathura, Nandgaon, Mayapur are decorated with lights, flag, and lamps as a bride in a wedding dress.
In each temple comes hundreds of devotees who fast all day long and wait until the midnight to worship Krishna in the form of Bal Gopal placed in the jhoola covered with flowers. Krishna was said to be born in Mathura and spent his adolescence in Vrindavan. In Mumbai in Maharashtra the Janmashtami is popularly known as Dahi Handi.
The day of flight finally arrived. It seemed so far away and was now there, with all the nerves above. We arrive at the New Delhi Airport at 12 noon. There our car driver was waiting for us to take us to Vrindavan, our first destination, four hours from New Delhi. The car ride was a little worse than what they told us.
I decided to close my eyes as it was too much for the beginning. On the way we munch on almonds, cereal bars, fruits and water. At 5.30 pm we reach our guest house in Vrindavan. It is a nice, comfortable place, with security, with a zone of silence, but expensive in relation to what we had read that we could pay.
The prices are higher as tonight begins the Krishna Janmashtami, a festival held to commemorate the birth of Krishna. When it is a festival like today, which is Janmashtami, a night vigil is held in the temples and then they offer consecrated sweets. We really wanted to live that experience up close, so we decided to sleep early. For dinner we have rice with dal, shahi paneer and papad and a bit of mango juice. Within half an hour of arriving, we were already sleeping as the trip had been exhausting.
We put the alarm clock at 1.45 am and we set out to live the experience at a well-known temple that we had already seen on the internet. We went down to the ISKCON temple (still half asleep) and we saw the moon and all the people prepared for their usual spiritual task.
Everything was amazing from the low lights, and different sounds with horns. There were women who throw water drops on our heads. We hear super catchy chants and mantras, and see people jumping. There was happiness and devotion all around.
In a moment of the ritual men and women separated to water a small tulsi tree with a small spoon. This tree was on top of a table on the side of the temple, and around it, we all walked, praying with flowers that some women give us in our hands. We lit candles that we touched above the fire and then we passed our hands over the head.
Although we did not know the exact meaning of each ritual at the time we did it, we submerged ourselves and let ourselves go. The ceremony ends when everyone finds their place to pray. At that time some women came and gave each of us a rosary, which they call japa and which has 108 beads. With each of the beads is said the maha-mantra of Hare Krishna Hare Rama. We prayed from 6 am until the sun began to appear.
At 8.30 am we went out for breakfast at a restaurant. Coincidentally, it was inside the ISKCON temple. The breakfast was comforting. There was coffee, pineapple juice, and toasted bread with butter and sugar. There was also a kind of rice prepared with tomatoes, peanuts, raisins, and red peppers. It was delicious but a little spicy to start the day.
I walked practically all day. For hours I get lost in Gokul and the streets that smelled of a thousand and more varieties of incense and food that I had never seen before. Those places are wonderful with the old houses, the monkeys that take care of the place, and the particular rituals. We found a place to eat and we went for a walk around the ghats of Vrindavan towards the kali ghat.
Allegorical floats filled the streets and loud music was present everywhere. A group of devotees sing along the streets dancing with their drums and small handheld cymbals. They seemed always happy and very devoted. From the houses come the smells of spicy dishes and freshly cooked chapati.
The women light the candles in the cavities of the walls where there are statuettes of Radha and Krishna covered with turmeric and silver. The reality was that before coming we had no idea of anything. We did not even have expectations about the place. In Vrindavan, we immediately feel part of that collective and powerful energy that in fact, mobilized us a lot.
We met young men and women, people from the temple community, devotees, and also foreigners. They told us about Krishna with a love that overflowed from their eyes and their body. When I heard it, I confess that a smile was outlined on my face. Anyway, we surely know that this experience for us will be hard to forget. We met a girl from Italy who was a devotee of Krishna and she was telling us myths and legends of Krishna's life there. It is moments like these that happen by chance we remember more intensely.
It is a very spiritual experience. And it's worth more when you think from a distance. In Vrindavan, Krishna is in the air. After touring the temples like the Banke Bihari Temple and the Rangji Mandir and the old city we went to look for our car but before entering the car we were crossed on the way a baba or a kind of semi-god. The devotees crouched and kissed the ground where the man passed.
After surprising ourselves with the religious scene we continue on our way to Mathura where Krishna was said to be born. To enter the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi, where the god was born, all belongings must be left in the hands of the police. Three security checks are carried out and everything is reviewed.
We left the temple and went to the Vishram Ghat. We meet some nice children and not so friendly monkeys. In the evening when the wind rises, there is a serenade of the bells on the spiers. After the long day, we return to the hotel to see if we had dinner, since they had told us they would prepare dinner. We have a plate of mixed vegetables of carrot, green beans, peas, paneer and roti with butter. It was delicious!
To get back to the car we took a rickshaw. We took the car again and went directly to the train station. We had to wait until 10:20 for our train to leave. When the train arrived with backpack in the back we picked up speed and jumped to the train. Finally we went in. The 12-hour trip to Varanasi had just begun.