The answer to this question really depends upon what is your definition of a holiday. Is it just to relax, explore the destination or get a new experience? Each one of us will have our own answers. IN 2019, I got an opportunity to visit Vrindavan with my elders. The trip was a family ritual and I did not have an option to say no.
I am glad I din’t have the option. I would like to talk about this trip to set things into perspective. We started with a trip to Rajasthan to visit our Kul Devi in the small town of Jhunjhunu. I have visited my Kul devi many times in the past. What I like about these trips is the pace at which life moves here. Coming from Mumbai, everything seems to slow down considerably in Jhunjhunu. I get see peacocks in the verandah of the temple. I have always enjoyed this sight since childhood. Then sitting on the khatiya sipping tea, sleeping on the same khatiya under the sky on the terrace, gazing at the stars. There are wonderful stories about the goddess worth listening as well and makes you wonder – How is that possible?
After spending 2 days here, we took an 8 hour train journey to Mathura. From Mathura station, we took a rickshaw to Vrindavan – the land of lord krishna. Next day, we visited the Vrindavan temple. The moment we entered the temple, hoards of monkeys greeted us, trying to snatch our bags, spectacles, cap etc. It was scary for some and fun for others. Then we took blessings of lord krishna and had lunch at a local dhaba. The food was great.
The elders then took us to visit “Nidhivan” – the forest of treasure. You have to hear what is coming up. Nidhivan had several trees and monkeys with a narrow passage to reach the temple in the middle of the forest. According to locals, Nidhivan was settled by guru Haridas, whose deep devotion, penance and meditation compelled Lord Krishna to visit this place. Locals believe Lord Krishna comes every night to this temple to play Rasleela with Radhaji and all the gopis.
When i visited Nidhivan late afternoon, I saw the trees with red sindoor. My guide told me the trees become Gopi’s in the night. I got curious. When I reached the temple, it was almost closing time. My guide told me that the temple caretakers prepare a sandalwood bed, a jar filled with water, Neem datun to brush teeth and pan (betel leaf) next to the bed. The temple is closed in the night and nobody is allowed to enter the Nidhivan. Locals say those who tried to secretly hide inside the Nidhivan to experience the Rasleela, lost their speech, sight or even worse mental soundness. Locals also say those close to the Nidhivan can hear the sound of music every night and they close their windows to avoid losing their eyesight.
If you visit the Nidhivan first thing in the morning at 5am, when the temple opens, you will see the water jar half full, pan eaten and brush on the floor. I thought of experiencing this in the morning, but honestly was too scared to enter the Nidhivan at that hour. But on the other hand, I was glad that I came here.
Next day we drove to Taj Mahal (about 2 hours drive) and came back the same day to take our train back to Mumbai next day. When I came back to Mumbai, I read a lot about the stories of Vrindavan. It was a completely different experience, something which I wont get partying in Goa, or relaxing in my beach resort in Kovalam or similar other stuff.
When I came back to Mumbai, I realized that my definition of true holiday was to experience the place and culture. I have travelled several continents, but this trip was definitely a great experience and made me think about the various other stories India has to tell the world. You may not do a pure religious trip but instead club it with other cities nearby which will give you the real travel experience.
As I love to say, guys go and #DekhoApnaDesh. #2021 belongs to India