Vrindavan and the dying Yamuna

I can hear the  distant sounds of Krishna Bhajans sung in the nearby Ashram as the boatman oars through the silent , calm waters of the Yamuna.


It is an ordinary, routine day at the holy town Vrindavan. “Radhe Radhe” The boatman calls out to his comrade , oaring the passing boat.

 Through the misty November morning, I can see the hazy version of  Kesi Ghat. The ancient heritage building looks dull and gloomy.

The boatman calls out to me as he sees me trying to focus and click the Ghats.

You came at the wrong time Madam.The sun is up now. You should come again in the evening. The sun will be on the other side“.

I smile. He had a point. He looks at my camera and says ” Many photographers come here. Mostly Firangs. They love clicking these old buildings.But they often complain, its too dirty.”

Sadly, I cannot disagree.

While getting in the boat I had almost cringed. The stench of the Yamuna was unbearable. It was as if the entire sewage of the town was let out here in the heart of the dying river.


Human and animal feces were strewn all over the place while crows hovered around the garbage piles.

Sadhus sat in groups huddled together smoking beedis. Cows mooed, stranded in the lane till a local came and pushed them out of the way. Pigs were a common sight.


 My heart broke. This was the other side of Vrindavan. Where heritage buildings were far from being maintained and the river that gave life to so many civilizations in the Indian plains was struggling for its own survival.

For a person who found magic in its temples and divinity in the age-old remnants of the Dwapar Yug, this was heartbreak.

The Vrindavan in books is full of stories and ancient lore.

Of Krishna and his childhood. Of beautiful gardens and kingly palaces.

Of  Nidhivan: Vrindavan’s unsolved mystery and best-kept secret.Of  Chir Ghat: evidence of Krishna’s childhood pranks.

Inside Kesi Ghat
Inside Kesi Ghat


My reverie is broken as the boat suddenly jerks. As we approach the Kesi Ghat , the boatman tells me how the Yamuna in front of the Ghats is reduced to the size of a nullah.

There is no Yamuna left here, at present.It is all sewage. I am shocked.” But there is an Aarti every evening!” , I exclaim. He looks away, as I understand the Aarti is done religiously unlike the cleaning.

As the boat traverses through the waters, I see birds at different marshy spots. The degradation of The Yamuna has certainly affected the flora and fauna in it.

There was a time we could see the tortoises swimming beneath the waters. Today I only saw flowers and filth floating aimlessly.


 There was irony. A huge one. On one hand, we worshipped the River, calling her ‘Mother’ , singing praises. On the other, we humiliated the same mother by throwing dirt right at her face.

I don’t have a heart nor any inclination to go further.


On our way back , I see a sadhu washing his hands and feet, gargling and spitting incessantly into the river. 


Right next to him I see another Sadhu, cupping his hands and filling them with the river water. My eyes widen in apparent horror as I see him drinking the water, as he said a prayer.


 There were visible extremes in faith here. One which revered yet did not deter to dirty, the other which revered no matter how dirty.

The boatman teases the bathing sadhu, telling him I am a photojournalist who will publish his photo in the local newspaper.

He screams hysterically,” where will I take bath then? They (The local administration ) don’t make arrangements for us! We have no choice!

I return with a single prayer and hope in my heart. I wish we would save the Yamuna. I wish the crowds which thronged the Ghat for the aarti, the same number would start caring for her too.

She flows silently. Extremely slow, as if exhausted. As if tired of pleading for help. Surrendering to the same mankind for which she sacrificed herself.

A graffiti on the walls of Vrindavan , urging people to protect Their Yamuna
A graffiti on the walls of Vrindavan, urging people to protect Their Yamuna

31 thoughts on “Vrindavan and the dying Yamuna

  1. What a sad story of the mighty Yamuna. Your pictures say this could be such a great place. Let’s hope something is done sooner that later and this sorry state is reversed.
    Your photographs are really good. And the write up clearly conveys you were pained by the sights.

  2. I hear you! This blind faith without any regard for the environment or community is something I detest about our religion. Here is the inspiring story about two young girls who have cleaned Prabhu Ghat in Varanasi against all odds! I have faith in our educated young yet 🙂

  3. Lovely yet sad post. Hopefully, one day soon, there will be a shift in the mindset of people and the government to start cleaning things up. Thank you for the read!

  4. My god! Why can’t we keep our rivers clean? This almost reminds me of the stretch near Madh in Versova, the water stinks like anything and you have kids swimming in it with glee.

  5. I feel sad about the state of our rivers, although various NGOs are doing some good work. But all of us need to stand together to bring a much needed change. Nice POst !

    1. Thanks Vijay! I strongly believe it is a collective responsibility. With all due respect to religion , we should realize that rivers aren’t dumping grounds for religious waste. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  6. It’s a sorry state in India that neither the government nor the people care much about the environment. Ii hurts to see Yamuna drying up. May be it will have a similar fate like the River Saraswati unless the govt takes proper action for cleaning and restoration. Thank you for coming up with the post. Boat photos are so colorful and vibrant!

  7. A beautiful and soulful post, capturing the reality that often gets ignored in our urge to seek out the romantic or celebrated. I really wish all of us could appreciate the fragility of nature, and how our actions take a toll on nature in unimaginable ways and to an irreparable extent.

  8. The environment is crying out for help. But sadly our blind faith doesn’t even let our eyes stay open. The same is the case with most other rivers in India wherein we use it more as a dumping yard for all kinds of waste without a care in the world. All of us have become litterbugs.

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