Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Yamuna River: Ghats of Mathura - Vishram Ghat

After freshening up at our hotel room, we head towards the first place in our Mathura itinerary - Vishram Ghat - the chief ghat of Mathura on the banks of the river Yamuna.

The way to the river front is through narrow lanes and a fleet of stairs, lined by shops selling all kinds of religious paraphernalia on both sides of the pathway.


Entrance to the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Vitthal Dwar - Entrance gate to the Vishram Ghat

After ignoring a dozen calls of the shopkeepers to the tune of – ‘Yamuna maiya ko Prasad chadane kuch le jaiye (Take something as offering for Mother Yamuna)’, we finally buy a flower diya (lamp) to float on Her waters as an offering. As we make our way forward towards the ghats (ceremonial steps on the river bank), the first thing that strikes me, thankfully not literally, are monkeys - loads and loads of them! True to their mischief monger image, they can be seen jumping from one terraced-top to another landing with huge thuds on the other one, screeching and squealing while staring at you and your belongings waiting for an opportune moment when they can snatch some worthwhile stuff from you! They all look hungry and they love your gadgets, so it’s better to stick to the old adage that says, prevention is better than cure and avoid carrying unnecessary valuables and gadgets while in the vicinity. Evading the monkeys carefully, we step into the main ghat area.

Monkeys at the Devotees taking a dip at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Monkeys at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Monkeys on the ghats of Mathura

A microcosm of colors and symbols, the ghats open your view to a different picture than the town. Strewn around the area are small-big shrines, touching the sacred river banks; blankets of colorful antic haveli-type structures sweeping over the entire area, and there is a sea of humanity and a swell of spirituality; everything blending together contributing to the reflective beauty of Mathura.

Pilgrims at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Ghats of Mathura

The main ghat, the Vishram Ghat is positioned centrally at the 13th point out of the total 25 ghats of Mathura with 12 of them lying on one side of it while the remaining 12 on the other side. This fact is very well reflected in the flurry of goings-on that one can observe on this ghat, the moment one is here.

Boats stacked up at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
View from the ghats of Mathura

The sun has turned into a burning blob of yellow, the early morning ritualistic hustle-bustle has long subsided, but this has not deterred the enthusiasm of the pilgrims. The river front is dynamic and vibrant with ritualistic colors and effervescent activities of pilgrims coming from different cultures and traditions.

Pilgrims flocking the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Pilgrims on the ghats

Men in saffron robes and dhotis aid the devotees in the performance of traditional ritual prayers,

Pilgrims praying at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
A Priest aids pilgrims in performance of rituals

... some sit deep in meditation eyes closed with prayer beads in their hands chanting mantras of the divine while some others solicit travelers like us to take them in order to please the river.

A priest praying at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
A priest reading a holy text at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
A priest with a tilak on forehead at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Priests, Ascetics and sadhus at the Yamuna River Ghats

Devotees are everywhere your eyes can see, performing various rites and rituals. They laugh and giggle while taking a customary dip in the Yamuna, they offer water to the Sun God through cupped hands,

Devotees taking a dip at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Devotees taking a customary dip in the River Yamuna

... and they pay homage to their ancestors by performing profound and deep rites of passage like the tarpan, shraddha, etc.

Devotees performing rituals for ancestors at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Believers doing shraddha at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
A prayer ceremony being conducted at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Devotees engaged in performance of various rituals

Several wooden boats are neatly harnessed in a pattern waiting for its customers;

Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Wooden boats lined up at the Vishram Ghat

... the boatmen look out with eager eyes occasionally asking if you wish to be taken for a ride.

A Boatman waits for customers at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
A boatman waits...

In the pillared porches, with cymbals in hands and devotional hymns on lips, sit devotees singing glories to Lord Krishna and the Goddess River Yamuna where He’d rested after killing the demon king Kansa.

All in all, the entire place is alive with colors of humanity in its various avatars – moments of laughter, reflection and contemplation, prayers and petition and all the intercultural bindings taking place. I savor the feel of all the sights and sounds bopping around me, and finally descend the final few steps to make it near the Goddess river. Our priest cautions us to first sprinkle some drops onto ourselves, ask for Her permission and only then put our feet in. We do likewise. I set afloat my flower diya in Her gentle waters and say a silent prayer...

Elements of faith at the Yamuna River Ghat, Mathura
Sit down, blank out and listen...

Though the image of the town is very much tarnished for scams and cheating but a few moments here and I realize, its holy currents are way stronger... It is a place of different vibrational frequencies where some hundreds of believers, assembled at the same place, coming from different walks of life, belonging to different economic stratus of society, rooting in different cultures and traditions; speak the very same language – the language of love for the divine – the very language that dissolves all physical boundaries and sends out the universal message of inner peace. There is a different dimension to it all, a facet that is better experienced than understood. All one needs to do, perhaps... is sit down, blank the mind out and listen......

Tips, Points to be kept in Mind:

1. On the auspicious occasion of Bhaiduj or Yama Dwitiya (the fifth day of the festival of Diwali), keeping in accordance to a popular legendary tale, brother-sister duo descend on the ghats by hordes to bathe in the River Yamuna. On account of this, the ghats witness a huge crowd on the day. If you plan to be here on this day, then make sure to reach the ghat and perform the prayers early in the day.

2. Be careful of Monkeys near the ghat area. Try not to carry valuables and if you do, hide or cover them under some cloth or wraps for safety.

3. Remove your footwear before venturing near the water area.

4. Be careful of priests as it is a city known for cons and cheats. Best advice would be to trust your instincts; I don’t think there is any other way to check on this.

5. Be wary of shopkeepers as they might quote higher prices for things than reasonable. Check out the prices in a few shops before buying!


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49 comments:

  1. Another wonderful, fascinating tour, Arti! Terrific, colorful captures! I always look forward to your posts/trips and I'm never disappointed! Thanks for sharing the beauty of your country! Enjoy your week!

    Sylvia

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  2. Wow, love these photos. Those monkeys! Little thieves :-)))

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  3. Lovely, lovely pictures. Did you go up to Yamunotri?

    Thank you very much for the purrs and prayers. EJ's mom's surgery went well and is recovering.

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  4. Hi Arti,
    I love your narration. Excellent pictures. This place is on my wish list.
    I was travelling and could not read any posts. Have missed a few. Shall catch up soon.

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  5. Great post, as usual. Love the tips part, though! And the images of the monkeys are cute;)

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  6. It is very interesting to see and read about each country's customs and traditions. We have a Hindu temple here in Malibu, CA, and I would like to go and visit.

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  7. Arti, how come you did not mention about the sweet shops selling jalebi and peda around Vishram Ghat:) Lovely visual post!

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  8. Wonderful post.. Beautifully captured pictures and very well narrated..
    I am looking for the next one Arti..!

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  9. A great post and really smart tips from a seasoned traveler!

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  10. Hi Arti,

    It was interesting to read some more of your Travel Diary, and see your wonderful photographs. Thanks for sharing.
    Sounds like you have to be careful in many ways, especially with the monkeys who do look menacing.

    Happy week
    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  11. It's kind of ironic that such a sacred place is also known as a city for cons and cheats. It says that's a part of life?
    Water seems to play a very important part in prayer. I hear when my brother-in-law went to India, he took a dip in River Ganges. I'm wondering what it was like.
    Thank you,Arti, for introducing another pilgrimage.

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  12. Nice narrative and excellent pics. Off late I think your are giving attention to add more personal touch to your narratives.

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  13. Interesting that the women go waist deep into the water in their saris.

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  14. Oho i love these photography.

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  15. Exceptionally beautiful narration and photos to with it. At all such places I too get lost for all the people seem to speak a common language, a language of love for the divine.

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  16. Very different. I hae read about the ghats of Varanasi, the Ghats of Narmada but not those of Yamuna. So much to see, so much to know :)

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  17. Wonderful pictures and lengthy informative post .

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  18. such colorfull pics :) i loved the whole tour of the place as you have described ..

    Bikram's

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  19. I echo what P.N.Subramanian said in his comment .Excellent .
    Have a great week Arti ,love and hugs:)

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  20. I love it how you talk us through your travels step by step, it truly feels as if I'm walking by your side.

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  21. Both monkeys and human beings look so energetic and happy. I learned a unique culture. Thanks for sharing.

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  22. You are doing a great job Arti.
    Nice description with beautiful pictures are stealing the heart.

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  23. beautiful pictures as always...thank you for the virtual tour...I love the photo of the lone boatman most...and the priests look colorful in their garb...

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  24. Hey Arti,

    Beautiful narration and pictures as always. Very useful tips to keep in mind in the end. :)

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  25. Good morning, Arti!

    It is so nice to see you my dear! How are your travels and your times of quiet reflection? ENJOY ALL THE SEASONS of life that are coming to celebrate! Anita

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  26. wondeful post...you photographs took me to the place...

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  27. Thanks for this trip to a world that is so very different from mine! Loved all the color and info on the customs. The monkeys were a surprise!

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  28. beautifully narrated travelogue with plenty of photos

    waiting for next post

    thanks for sharing and visiting my blog

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  29. Beautiful pictures & wonderful narration.

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  30. Wonderful photography and narrative as always! It’s interesting to know the monkeys there look more interested in valuables or gadgets than foods. I guess Japanese are one of the most gullible people, so your information is very useful.

    Yoko

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  31. lovely post Arti..

    i am archiving all your posts in my mailbox so that one day when i grow old, i'll go to all these places on teerath yatra :P

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  32. I am glad your travels dear Arti, because carrying me, in another culture and this moves me!
    Your photos are wonderful, with wonderful people, colorful dresses!
    I love the monkeys, but it scares me so close by!
    I hope that your prayers be heard...
    I send you my friendship and lots of kisses

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  33. Vishram ghat is so mesmerizing...I did not realize there are so many ghats in mathura , I presumed only Varnasi had such ghats...I am sure to holy place and off course I will be carefull with all the monkeys : )


    Super Yummy Recipes

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  34. Thank you for visiting my blog!
    Looks like you explore and discover amazing places: love the spirit and the colours of your photography. It must be an amazing adventure.
    Wishing you a lot more of precious moments and encounters with fascinating people!
    Warm greetings from France

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  35. Your posts always make me nostalgic for India, even though I've never been! Thanks for sharing, Arti.

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  36. did you go for the boat ride?

    must visit!

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  37. @Rahul Bhatia Seems like I missed out in generalization.. Thank you very much for pointing it out and a special post on food is lined up ahead :)

    @magiceye Yes, I did! A post on it will be up very soon :)

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  38. Even amidst all the hustle, traveling to religious places is thrilling :) Beautiful narration with lovely pics, Arti! :) Keep going!

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  39. Wonderful description and photos. Thanks for this interesting tour.

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  40. Beautiful shots and great tips. I think we can follow most of those tips in all such places in India.

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  41. WOW! Your blog has everything <3
    A great source of information!

    love
    http://www.meghasarin.blogspot.com

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  42. What a wonderful story you weave of the holy place and the rituals. I was wondering about the monkeys - I would indeed be careful of them.

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  43. Very well narrated post! Felt like I was there looking at every detail you've outlined. Love the photos that accompanied your narration too!

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  44. Wonderful photos capturing the scenes. I would go nuts with so many scenes happening that are so different for me to want to take in. Thanks for sharing.

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  45. Wonderful pics Arti! No wonder Mathura is the spiritual destination of India. People go there with lots of faith and hope. Great place.

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  46. excellent! fabulous job Arti.. that's my hometown .. and u did a great job .. :))

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