Yesterday evening Michael and Andrea left the Ashram after a short but very nice stay here with us. We had a great time with them and I even went out with them for a walk to the river. I don’t usually go for a walk here and I enjoyed walking with my friends. At the river I was unfortunately reminded of why I normally don’t go out much in Vrindavan.
The way was nice and sandy, just as I was used to see all streets of Vrindavan in earlier times. We came to the bank of the Yamuna, which is today much closer to Vrindavan and actually the remains of a road that the monsoon flood had torn. We went forward until the end, looked down – and immediately took two steps back again. There was a dead cow lying in the water, belly bloated and legs visible under the water surface. Another dead cow’s body was lying a bit further, already half eaten by five dogs surrounding it. It was not a nice sight, additionally stinking horribly, and definitely not something that I would have liked to show my friends if I had known this before.
It is however impossible to avoid seeing such scenes and similar ones when you are at the Yamuna. You see dead cows and other dead animals in the river, the river is full of plastic, it hardly flows anymore and it is so dirty that you would not even like to stick your little finger into it. Some visitors have even told us of corpses, dead human bodies in the river – the corpses of people who had nobody who could or wanted to afford burning or burying them.
From where we were standing you only had to look a hundred meters down the river though and you saw a man performing rituals at the river. He was clothed in the colours of a spiritual person and was standing knee-deep in the water of the holy river Yamuna of which he and so many other Hindus believe that it is sacred and that it blesses you. Our friends looked at the dead cow, looked further down to him and could not understand why he would dip his hands into the water and then pour it over his face and head.
In my childhood we were drinking that same water. We were swimming in the river, we played at the banks, spent whole summers playing there because jumping into the water was a chance to cool down in the summer heat. Later it was not only a place for playing anymore but a place of worship. Now however I would not put even my little toe in touch with this water.
It is a contradiction how Hindus see this river and what they do with it. On one hand they worship it as a Goddess, they believe that a drop of this water has the power to heal and improve your life and they perform rituals on the banks of the Yamuna and in the water. On the other hand however they dump their wastage water and their chemicals in there without hesitation, they throw their garbage into it and with this all kill any life in the river. They actually kill the river.
It is not only the Yamuna, the Ganges is in a similar state and I have written before about the government plans to improve the situation. I hope that someday I will be able to take my friends down the way to the river and show them our Yamuna with pride again, seeing it flow strongly and clear, fish playing in there and turtles swimming around as it was before.