Vrindavan's Temples - old ones for Prayers, new ones for Tourism - 4 Jul 12

When coming home from Delhi on Monday, we entered Vrindavan when it was already dark, maybe around 8 o’clock. Entering Vrindavan, we saw the colourful lights of the ‘Prem Mandir’ that Kripalu and Prakashananda have built and the crowds in front of it as well as in front of the ISKCON temple. Looking a bit more closely however, you could see clearly that it was tourists going there.

Vrindavan is known as the town of 5000 temples. Obviously not all of these temples are big buildings into which dozens of people can go. There are a lot of small temples, tiny shrines and the truth is that every house has its own temple, too.

I grew up in Vrindavan, playing on the streets and in front of all these temples. In our childhood my brothers and I saw how many new temples were being built, including the enourmous palace-like temple of ISKCON. When we had guests at home, we then took them to go sightseeing at that temple and told them how much money had been invested to build it.

The Prem Mandir, which was opened to the public only recently, was built in the last few years, too. I wrote about it in 2009 when it was under construction and mentioned it when it was being opened.

Last year, when we heard that Kumar Swami wants to build his own huge temple in Vrindavan, I talked with friends and more people and many of them asked what we need another big temple for. So I did some research and wrote my article.

It is true, why would local people want another religious monstrosity in front of their door? It would just be another cause for hundreds of religious tourists flooding the town who just want to see a big golden temple into which a lot of money was put. I anyway don’t believe in the number that he mentioned – five lakh crore! That would be a 5 with 12 zeros. It is just a figure that Kumar Swami used to impress people, just like he used the names of Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth or just like he says he has healed more than 500 million people.

All these figures are just there to get more people, more popularity and in the end more money. Those big temples are not being built in order to help and support people and put money into society for good but in order to take money out of society! And this is not right.

Instead of all those big temples people should have started schools or hospitals and run them for poor people who need it or, if not that, establish an industry so that the unemployed can get work and earn their living to support themselves. If Kumar Swami had taken his money and had really supported the poor, he would not have any problem now and people would not be against him – I had definitely not written my article had I not seen such claims in the newspaper advertisement. It is not only me, a lot of people are against this.

Local people use those new, big temples only as an attraction that they show to visitors. Tourists go there. Already in my childhood, we, my family and friends and the people around went to the old temples for worship. Bihari ji, in the heart of Vrindavan, for example, Radha Vallabh ji, Madan Mohan ji or Radha Raman ji. There is where people had and still today have their real belief. The center of people’s love and belief is old temples. They don’t go to pray in the ISKCON temple or in the Prem Mandir. They go because there are colourful lights, they can buy snacks in front of them and they can take pictures and say ‘I was in a temple which was built with so much money!’

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