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Friday, November 14, 2014

Take off your glasses - President Pranab Mukherjee told .. simian trouble at Vrindavan

The epic  Mahabaratham is replete with rich moral stories and life instances.  It extols  the living of Lord Krishna at every stage of his life – right from his birth in prison cell, to moving across river Yamuna during the heavy downpour; to his growth of every stage at Gokulam, his plays at Vrindavan to the Great battle at Gurukshetra and more……….and one among the many is ‘Lord Krishna dancing on the hood of the deadly Kalinga’.   Periyazhwar in his ‘Periyazhwar Thirumozhi’ sings: “காளியன் பொய்கை கலங்கப் பாய்ந்திட்டு * அவன் நீள்முடியைந்திலும் நின்று நடம்செய்து*”

Kaliya  [also Kalingan] was a poisonous Naga living in the Yamuna River, in Vrindavan.  Over the years, the water had turned totally poisonous, thereby causing trouble to fish, cattle, birds and all living things.  Legend had it that Kaliya had chosen that place as Garuda was prevented from entering there. Lord Krishna was playing with cowherd colleagues, when the ball fell into the water source.  Krishna playfully jumped into it.  Kāliya with his anger, rose up emitting  poison and wrapped himself around Krishna's body.  The folk around and all others were mortally afraid and started praying.  Lord  Krishna subdued him,  sprang into Kāliya's head and danced on its head.  The serpent king’s wives came and prayed to Lord Krishna with folded hands.  Kāliya, too,  recognizing the greatness of Krishna, surrendered, promising he would not harass anybody.  Lord Krishna pardoned him and showed him the divine path, once he vowed to eschew violence and fell at His Lotus Feets. 

By the accounts we hear in Tamil, somehow always had an impression that ‘Kaliyan poigai’ was a pond where the serpent Kaliya lived. In North, the belief is little different – at Vrindavan [Brindavan] – a few kilo meters away from Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna, people firmly believe that  it was at a particular spot at Yamuna river, that Kaliya lived and Kalinga Narthanam ~ the dance atop the hood of Kalinga took place at Yamuna river.  One can easily reach this place preferably hiring a cycle rickshaw from Ranganji Mandir in Vrindavan winding through narrow gullies, which probably retain the same charm as of the days of Lord Krishna and Balarama, when they played around.

As of date, the Yamuna at this place is not clean, made worser by bridge construction activities going on.  At this very place, is a small temple where it is written as the place of ‘Naga Kaliya’ and the idol of Lord Krishna on Kalinga Narthana posture is being worshipped ~ and I had an unforgettable experience here during my visit in 2012. Before that you read this report that appeared in Times of India, Chennai edition titled ‘Take off your glasses, Prez, or the monkeys will’

Residents of Vrindavan in Mathura have a piece of advice for President Pranab Mukherjee -he should take off his spectacles, or wear contact lenses, when he visits the temple town on November 16.

That is because the monkeys at the famous Banke Bihari temple, which he is scheduled to visit, are known to have a particular fascination for snatching eyeglasses. The threat from the simians is so real that the district administration has deployed 10 langurs to keep the monkeys at bay during the visit. The temple, said to be built in 1862 by Swami Haridas, is infested with monkeys adept at snatching cameras, prasad, food items, and above all shades and glasses, from visitors at lightning speed.

Sachin Gupta, a businessman from Kanpur who recently visited the temple, had a scary experience. “I was about to fall from the stairs as a big monkey snatched my glares. As I stood numb, the monkey wore my shades and actually posed in front of the crowd who were all amused. A few minutes later, it crushed my glasses and threw them towards me. “Snehlata Jai Singhani, a 68year-old devotee who had her spectacles snatched by a simian recently, has a word of caution for the President. “I will advise him to wear contact lenses or keep his spectacles inside the pocket during his visit.“

President Mukherjee will be visiting Mathura-Vrindavan on November 16 to lay the foundation for the world's tallest Chandrodaya temple. The district administration and police authorities are working overtime to ensure a smooth visit. “As the President wished to visit Banke Bihari temple, we have ensured special security in every nook and corner near the temple. Besides CCTVs and additional police personnel, 10 langurs have also been brought in to curb the monkey menace in the city , especially near the temple,“ district magistrate Rajesh Kumar said.

Residents, who are forced to keep their doors and windows locked all the time due to marauding simians, have a grudge against the district administration though. “If langurs can be deployed for the President, then why not for the locals and other tourists,“ asks Rajesh Mishra of Govind Nagar. Local businessmen have raised the issue with civic body and district administration many times, but to no avail. During his visit, President Mukherjee will be accompanied by UP governor Ram Naik, CM Akhilesh Yadav and scores of other politicians.

Now getting back – as me and my family got down to Kalinga Narthana spot at Yamuna, the rickshawalla advised me to be careful about monkeys.  In places like Sholinghur, we have seen hundreds of monkeys and I was wary of not keeping our bags or camera in open.  As I was walking in the narrow lane nearer ‘Naga Kaliya’ mandir – I saw a big monkey couple of steps in front of me – before I could realise, I saw it on a moat to my right, then on a branch of tree and in a split second, it was on me. Yes, it was sitting on me with legs on both shoulders and with its hands removed the spectacles, I was wearing. Dumb-found, I was late to react, which perhaps saved from any possible injuries. The monkey removed the specs, sat on a building nearby and slowly chewed of all non-metal content of the eye-glass. With the prodding of the rickshawman and other locals, I offered the monkey couple of biscuit packets – the monkey then threw the specs down – it was no longer the eye-piece that I used to wear – with a mangled frame and scratched glasses (man)handled by a monkey – I abandoned the relatively new glasses which I had bought less than 5 months earlier for Rs.7000/- +

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th Nov. 2014.

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