Ride to Mathura-Vrindavan on Janmashtami

So this is the background of this ride story. Those who know me, also know that I am not a religious persons. So to say a yes for a ride to Mathura-Vrindavan that too for experiencing the Janmashtmi celebrations was close to impossible. But, I had never ridden on the expressway and ‘Mathura ke pede’ were motivating enough for me to go for this ride.
There was not much of planning required. Saturday morning I met Aditya at Dhaula Kuan and the plan was to go via Lajpat Nagar and hit the Yamuna Expressway. We ensured to fill Nitrogen the tyres of our Dukes as we didn’t want to take a chance with our tyres expanding rapidly with the high speeds on the expressway.  I forgot to bring my DSLR, and the tyre pressure gauge so it was a great start already. Weather didn’t support us much too as it became hot on this particular weekend.

After hitting the expressway its just butter smooth ride and with a few stops of breakfast and toll, we reached Vrindavan first at around 10 am and started looking for hotels. More than hotels you will find temples and more temples wherever you look around. So here we observed that the hotels are called ‘ashram’. After enquiring around few places, we found that most of the rooms were booked as it was festive season. Aditya said he will go continue the search and asked me to wait.

I was waiting in the shade near the ISKCON ashram which looked quite green and nice from outside. I saw foreigners dressed completely in Indian attire of kurta and dhoti and women in a very homely saree-blouse. I saw a women walking with the ‘pallu’ of her saree on her head and clinching the ‘pallu’ in her teeth. When she came close I was surprised to see she was not an Indian. It was good to see a foreigner family dressed completely in Indian attire with kids wearing colorful kurtas. I heard few pandits (again foreigners) talking to referring to each other as ‘how are you Prabhu?’ and some even spoke a bit of Hindi.  The streets were so narrow that one had to come out of the street to take a U turn.
Aditya comes with good news that he has found a room at a very good rate of Rs. 850/day. So we moved to this ashram called balaji ashram near Iskcon temple and took some rest in the room from the killing heat. The room was clearn with AC and TV. Although there was no lock in the room so we had to buy our own! Funny.
Then we had lunch in a restaurant very close to our ‘ashram’. I was already craving to have some local food. After lunch we just took a walk around and came back to our room and took some rest. After sometime in evening we decided to first look around in Vrindavan, then go to Mathura and then come back before night. So on our bikes, we rode around and went to Cheerghat which was not very interesting.

Riding in the narrow streets was tough as in the same space there were people walking, cow staring, rickhshaw moving, dogs running and I am sure if you stick your hand out you will pick some stuff up from the shop on your left or right.  This was quite something! Also had lassi to cool ourselves. 
So now we started riding to Mathura which was almost 11km from Vrindavan. The festive season could be seen all over the place.

Riding in UP traffic can be a painful experience and those who have done it know what I am talking about. You can’t teach a rule or two to anyone here. You will find people talking on phone on riding in the middle of the road, no lane discipline; riding on wrong side is completely alright. Amongst all this as we were riding, occasionally I was blessing the idiots with some verbal flowers. Me and Aditya were connected on road via this wonderful Bluetooth headset device and this proved to be very useful for us throughout this ride. I will write a complete review of it very soon. While I was going all ‘abe gadhe, ch***” on the traffic idiots, Aditya said he is able to listen to all of it and hoped it was not for him. I started laughing and I said I am putting this on the blog. Aditya had trouble reading the signboards in Hindi but was able to read ‘Thandi Beer’ instantly. No we did not buy it.
After reaching Mathura our first stop was Sri Krishna Janmbhoomi temple (birth place of Lord Krishna). It was crowded and we came to know that this year the crowd was less. We parked our bikes and started walking towards the temple. There were thousands of villagers who had come from near by cities just to visit the temples during Janmashtmi. The energy of the whole place was worth seeing. As we moved close to the temple entrance, the queue become longer and it was jam packed. I was not going to go inside anyways so Aditya said he will go inside while I waited at a stall with some chairs to sit. The crowd was heavy so it was another good an hour or two till Aditya came back. I decided to sit and wait.

As I waited, I made some observations around. People from all the ages were walking towards the temple with much excitement and energy, kids, adults, oldies barely able to walk. Some even did the crawling thing till they reach the temple. Just next to me was some sort of ‘baba’ sitting selling some glowing toys. He was also reciting some story of Krishna to one of his friends sitting reading from a book. The toys were catching the attention of on goers as it was getting dark and kids were running to him to ask ‘what is this’, ‘how much does it cost?’. On being told the price, they sadly moved away. 

One particular item which was the glowing fibre threads was the special one. One village couple walked to this and the lady lifted this thing in her hands. As soon as she turned the switch on the threads started glowing and she gave a big beautiful smile! I am guessing she had never seen anything like that in her life. Such a simple thing for us and such a simple reason for her to smile. They didn’t buy it as Rs. 60 was too expensive for them. I thought that most of these people are wondering at these small toys and I thought of the daily life they must be living that they are unaware of such things which are common for us.
To my right was a stall serving water and fruits to the people as some family was doing charity work. Soon this turned little chaotic and they had to use a stick to make them appear in a queue to get the stuff. Indians!
Then Aditya came and through the crazy crowd and traffic we moved towards the Keerti Ghat where I wanted to see the aarti. We had to park our bikes little before the ghat as the streets were too crowded. We walked up to the ghat and it was 7pm so we still had 30 mins until the arti started. We just moved around and clicked some pics. I wanted to see the aarti from the boat. The boat man charged us Rs. 50 per head and the view of the aarti from the boat was beautiful.

It was not as grand as the aarti in Varanasi or Haridwar but it was still not too small scale either. As soon as we came off the boat, we knew we had to rush to reach back to Vrindavan quickly. When we came back to the streets it was already full with ‘jhankis’ or moving chariots kind of vehicles decorated with lights. On them were sitting kids dressed as Krishna-Radha. 

Raising our one hand with the helmet in air and making our ways in the crowd, we almost ran to our bikes before these huge chariots overtake our bikes and block the way. We were able to reach before them and quickly moved out of the streets. As it had gone dark and no street lights we slowly rode our way amidst crazy traffic and people walking in middle of the road to Vrindavan and stopped for Dinner at Brijwasi. After that back to room for some rest.
Now the plan was to see the Iskcon temple and another famous one called Prem Mandir. Iskcon temple was very close to our ‘ashram’ and at 11pm we reached this temple in a rickshaw. People prefer shouting ‘Radhey Radhey’ on road instead of honking. Inside this temple I saw the crowd which seemed to be present since evening itself, sitting, singing, dancing songs for Lord Krishna. The crowd was waiting against the curtained idol of Lord Krishna which will supposedly open at midnight as the birth time. The energy at this place was something else and I have never seen anything like this before. There were, again, foreigners completely lost in the moment and dancing while they sang ‘hare, rama, Krishna, radhey’ in all possible permutation and combinations. Occasionally the tempo of the music will go high and the crowd became energized again. I just stood there and observed.

As it got close to mid night, people stood up and started singing dancing even with more energy. So at 00:00 hours they unveiled the curtain to reveal the idol of Krishna and the crowd went mad with ‘Hathi ghoda pali, jai kanhaiya lal ki’. People raised their hands singing this while I raised my hands holding the cellphone to click pictures.
This was good experience for me. After that we came out and walked towards Prem Mandir. At the entrance we saw people leaving their footwear which had accumulated to look something like this-

We didn’t bother and moved inside. First sight of this temple decorated with colorful lights just left us amazed. Looking at it for some more time I found the architecture work, the placement of the lights very beautiful and I had never seen a more beautiful temple in my life (I rarely visit temples, that’s a different story). The whole premise inside is vast and open and its like a big garden. As you walked around the temple they had tabloids of different phases of Krishna’s life. Some pictures below:

 And the temple looked very beautiful to me:

There was a crazy crowd to collect the prashad and we didn’t even bother to join that crowd. We were extremely tired and made our way back to our room in one of the e-rickshaws. I wonder how they charge the batteries with so much of electricity problems. So tired, I was dead as soon as I hit the bed.
Next day saw us waking up at around 9 and the plan was to get ready, check-out, breakfast and ride to Govardhan. I was hell bent on having local dishes now and I managed to convince Aditya as we stopped at this place for breakfast. The ‘poori-sabzi’ seemed to be quite famous here as I saw the guy frying lots of pooris in this big ‘kadhai’ and as soon as he dropped them in the tray they vanished almost in seconds. For 40rs. a plate I got to eat absolutely tasty poori-sabzi and I still remember the taste!

I bought some ‘pedas’ which is an absolutely must buy while you are in Mathura-Vrindavan.
From here Aditya wanted to visit this place called ‘Nidhi Van’. He started telling me the story that Krishna ji used to spend time with Radha in this garden sort of place. We started riding asking our way to this place and again we had to move across the narrow streets. It was already getting hot and we managed to reach this place after asking people. This was a secluded kind of place full of dry bushes with trails inside to walk. There was , yet again, a temple inside and I saw people singing and dancing there.

 This was a quick visit and we clicked some pics and came out of this place. From here we had to go to Govardhan through Mathura.
After we crossed Mathura we stopped at a T point to ask for directions. There we met Ramdas who was also heading to Govardhan. He sat on Aditya’s bike and we started riding again. He told us that he is going to Govardhan to do the ‘parikrama’ which is 21km barefoot revolution of the Govardhan mountain. I am sure you all know the story of this mountain that Krishna lifted this mountain on his finger to teach a lesson to Indra. Well soon we realized we were heading in wrong directions and had to come back to a point which was a 20 km nice road to Govardhan. Ramdas kept telling us a story or two about various water storage bodies called ‘Radha Kund’ and ‘Krishna Kund’ which we saw enroute.

 We stopped to click pics of this good looking ‘Kusum Kund’.

We said ‘Radhey Radhey’ to Ramdas who went ahead for his prayers and then we realized Govardhan, the so called mountain was just a flat flat plateau and it was not even visible until we got close to it. 

To be honest it was very hot and we couldn’t move ahead without taking a break.

After a while we started riding back to catch the road towards the Yamuna Expressway and soon we were on it. I still had petrol in my bike but as soon as I kept on riding high speeds, Low Fuel warning came quickly enough. Luckily we saw a petrol pump soon enough and got our bikes fueled up. And just few km from here we stopped for lunch.
Poor kids had to sit for the whole day dressed up like this

After that it was a smooth ride back to Delhi and Gurgaon.

So considering the fact that I am not religious person, I feel good that I agreed to go for this ride. The experience and observations I had on this trip was quite unique. The festivity and the colorful celebrations all around. This is what traveling does to you, makes you aware of the beauty around you.

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  1. As always good read, very funny.. straight from the heart. Hope Adi was not much of a trouble. U guys are complete opposite with Adi being a complete devotee. Vrindavan can boast about offering the best aloo chaat n lassi in India.

    1. Thanks Sud and you are right. He is always a pain in the ass lol specially with the oily food. But I figured he is a hypocrite in that hahah.