Ritualism and traditions, once going out of fashion, are back in favour in Braj Mandal, the ‘Leela Bhoomi’ of Sri Krishna-Radha. Each year the religious processions are growing longer and the noise pollution higher.
According to Pandit Jugal Kishore Shrotriya of Sri Mathuradheesh temple in Agra, immersion of Durga is the first opportunity, after Ganesh Chaturthi, for hundreds of devotees to line up along the Yamuna in trance and high mood. The immersion marks the end of the nine-day puja which climaxes on Dussehra.
In another sign of the fervour associated with the celebrations, Ravanas of all shapes and sizes are available in the market for those who want to burn its effigy at home. “Ravana will get killed not only in the traditional Ram Lilas but in homes of the elite who have purchased the models from the market. These days religious festivals have been reduced to events, from Dandia dances to Ravana burning hysteria, as catharsis,” says social activist Devashish.
Another ritual of the Braj area which had gone out of circulation, is back with a bang. The Tesu and Jhanjhi puja, a folk tradition inspired from Mahabharta involves worship of the two idols for ten days followed by their immersion .
Thousands of children all over Braj mandal march to ghats and village ponds to immerse their idols, along with Durga on Dussehra.
While ‘tesu’ stands on three legs, ‘jhanjhi’ is a multi-coloured earthen pot with holes and has a lamp or a candle lit in it. Tesu is worshipped by the boys while jhanjhi is for girls who also pray for a good husband.
“It’s not just tesu and jhanjhi, we saw renewed interest in Ganesh and Durga puja also. Many old customs of Hindus seem to be in revival mode,” noted Mathura’s academic Dr Ashok Bansal. “This year, groups of boys and girls were seen moving around mohallas and streets singing songs and asking for donations,” said a Mathura panda Devendra Chaubey.
According to Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, “democratisation of hinduism” allows vast majority of dalits and other under-privileged sections to join the “mainstream of religion” which in turn had led to revival of religious fervour.
“Hitherto only the upper castes practised religion. A large segment of population was not allowed entry to temples and denied the right to participate in festivities. But now all this has changed,” he said.