Ascetics march to save Lord Krishna’s Braj

May 25th, 2009 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, May 25 (IANS) Thousands of Hindu ascetics and farmers reached the Agra city border Monday afternoon, demanding a separate state of Braj - the land of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha - and protesting the ecological degradation of the area at the hands of the forest and stone mafia in Uttar Pradesh.
The 200-km-long political and eco-conservation march started five days ago from Bateshwar, 75 km from here, and will reach Barsana - the village of Radha - in Mathura district June 3, two days before World Environment Day.

Programme chief Baba Vandan Das told IANS: “Right now there are 4,000 marchers, the number will go on increasing as we cross Agra villages and enter Mathura district.”

The marchers are demanding a separate state of Braj, comprising the districts of Agra, Mathura, Bharatpur and Palwal.

When asked why the march began from Bateshwar, Vandan Das said the old Puranic texts define the boundary of Braj Mandal from Bateshwar, which was the capital of Soor Sen, the father of Vasudev whose wife Devki gave birth to Sri Krishna in Kansa’s prison in Mathura.

Bateshwar is also the birthplace of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former prime minister, and is famous for its 101 Shiva temples in a row along the Yamuna bank.

Radha Krishan Shastri, chief organiser of the march, said the whole of Braj Mandal which draws hundreds of thousands of devotees round the year should be saved from environmental degradation and heritage structures conserved.

The march by the ascetics has been launched to draw attention to ecological problems in the area, he said.

The marchers are holding banners and placards. They have their own cooking arrangements and water trolleys. Villagers are generously donating food and money to support the long march against ecological degradation of the Braj area by the forest and stone mafia which have eaten chunks of the Aravali ranges and denuded the forests.

The marchers are avoiding the urban areas and focusing on the rural belt.

The marchers halt every 15 km at a school or a community hall where ‘kirtans’ and ‘pravachans’ are held and villagers are exhorted to protect their natural assets and water bodies.

“Ramesh Baba of Man Mandir in Barsana has launched a multi-dimensional movement for the conservation of the Braj area. The old Puranic ponds associated with the Sri Krishna legend are being renovated. An effort is also on to re-develop green patches,” said Braj Foundation project director Raghav Mittal in Vrindavan.

Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, said: “It is a unique effort to involve villagers and Sri Krishna followers. Once there were 12 dense forests like Agra-Van (Agra), Vrinda-Van, Kam-Van, Kot-Van and so on. Now unfortunately all have disappeared, making way for concrete jungles.”

The spirited marchers are being led by a jeep fitted with a public address system to inform villagers about the objectives of the march. There is a chariot with photos and posters showing all the shrines of the Braj area associated with the Sri Krishna lore.

A dozen ascetics of the Braj area, including Baba Vandan Das, Sheshanand, Sarswati Nand, Makhan Das and others, are leading the marchers.

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