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HERITAGE COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENT www.brajfoundation.org News from the land of Sri Radha Krishna Vol: 4

The Embassy of Braj opens in New Delhi

entrance and makes people bow their heads in reverence. Exquisite handcrafted wooden pillars in the foyer display traditional Indian designs and carry the name “Radhey” as if purifying the essence of even the wind that enters the space. Adding to the already harmonious and lingering ambience is the folk music of Braj, that flows into ones ears in every corner of the office. The overall experience at the office is one of serenity and inspires all who visit, to give their best towards the great task of restoring to the land of Lord Krishna and Radha Rani, its original grandeur. For one reason or the other, one feels like visiting the place again and again, just the way one feels like visiting Braj,

Every year millions of tourists and pilgrims flock to Braj to catch a glimpse of their beloved Sri Krishna, and return clueless about the real state of the land. The Braj Foundation has emerged as a vital link providing essential and true information on the various aspects of B r a j t o p e o p l e . The Braj Foundation's office located near the IIT campus, in South Delhi literally brings alive the ambience of rural Braj, in the centre of a busy metropolis. It is frequented by visitors almost as if they are paying a visit to the holy land itself. The overall ambience of the office starting from its appearance to t h e p a s s e r s b y , to its décor, both from outside as well as inside, enthralls and enchants everyone. The charisma of the office becomes twofold especially when keeping in mind the purpose for which the foundation is dedicated. The walls of the office remind one of a traditional rural home, painted with a paste of cow-dung, mud and water actually brought down from the holy land of Braj. Borders have been decorated in a traditional rural style with murals and motifs depicting cows, tulsi leaves and conch shells, all three of which are considered very auspicious in our tradition. The middle areas in the walls

are used as spaces displaying the different stages and phases of the mammoth work of restoration, regeneration and revitalization being carried out by The Foundation in the Braj region. Right at the entrance one comes across the tulsi plant, which adds a sacred touch not only to the surroundings but also to a visitor's first impression. A tall flag carrying the name of Radha Rani – the eternal consort of Sri Krishna, flies high up in the air intriguing the passing people. A beautiful hand painted image of Sri Radha Krishna which adorns the office altar is visible from the main

Cultural attache of Japan, Mr. S Shimamori at the office

again and again. Renovation of the office has been done with generous financial help from Sri Kamal Morarka, CMD Gannon Dunkerley Group, who is also the Chairman of The Braj Foundation. Various diplomats, bureaucrats, politicians, representatives of international organizations and corporates have been visiting the office from across the country, for information and insights on Braj that they feel they cannot access anywhere else. The Braj Foundation's New Delhi office has truly become the embassy of Braj – the land of Sri Radha Krishna.

Inside Stories Pg-2 Action in the field Pg-3 ‘Rescue in the land of Krishna’


Editorial Dear Readers, You are aware of the growing water crisis in the country. To meet this challenge, revival of traditional water bodies is on top agenda of the government. For this purpose Rs. 4,000 crores have been allotted in the budget. This money will be spent on the repair, renovation and restoration of about 20,000 water bodies with a command area of 1.47 million hectares that has been identified in the first phase. The State Governments too have the inclination and the desire to work in the environmental restoration sector. Further, the planning commission too advises that more interaction with the civil society is needed for programme implementation, since they understand the local ethos better and are more committed to results on the field. With major players in place, the strongest link in the delivery mechanism thus becomes an organization with the expertise, motivation and credibility to show results. The Braj Foundation is such an organization.

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Anjani Kund, Chameli Van, Bhulwana (Hodal) Anjani Kund at village Bhulwana in Hodal block of Faridabad district of Haryana covers an area of over 2.5 acres and is located within the 180 acre Chameli Van. With the financial support of Gannon Dunkerley Group, the desilting of this huge water body is nearing completion. Due to the silting the carrying capacity of the water body had reduced dramatically. Post desilting done by The Braj Foundation, the water retention capacity of the kund has been augmented by 100 times. Efforts are now being made to fill the entire water body with pure water from the adjacent Ujjina Drain. “The filling of the Anjani

However, our experience in the past year points to the absence of a proper mechanism which can coherently and successfully identify credible organizations, and integrate the efforts at all levels, in a way that quality results can be prominently seen at the grassroots level. In the face of our country finally waking up to warning calls like the gradual disappearance of the Ganga glacier and rapidly depleting water tables, The Braj Foundation has, in the short span of two years, done exemplary work to address the crisis through its efforts to restore traditional water bodies in the Braj region. The Braj Foundation urges the State Governments of UP, Haryana and Rajasthan to come together for the region and device a mechanism which can ensure result oriented quality participation from organizations like ours. It is only through fruitful interaction between the Government and civil society organizations such as ours, that an exemplary model can be created and the sacred landscape of Braj be saved from unprecedented destruction. We request experts, bureaucrats and leaders to give their response on our suggestions on how we can take this further. Write to us at: vineetnarain.braj@gmail.com

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Action in the field Kund would prove to be instrumental in restoring the ecological balance of the Chameli Van forest which is an abode to a rich variety of flora and fauna. The drying Kadamba trees would also get revived”, said Raghav Mittal, Project Co-ordinator of The Foundation. According to legend, during the Maha Raas, when Krishna disappeared, the gopis of Braj came to this place in search of Krishna. Department of Tourism, Government of Haryana has shown its inclination to develop this entire 180 acre chunk of land into a Krishna Theme Park. Since the grove is located on the Haryana-Uttar Pradesh border and is located near the Dabchik Tourist Resort, it has the potential to attract a large number of tourists and pilgrims on way to Vrindavan.

Anjani Kund restoration being carried out by The Braj Foundation

Restoration of Garud Govind Kund and Shadang Van at Chhatikara, Vrindavan At the strategic entrypoint to Vrindavan from the National Highway, there is a 27 acre grove known as Shadang Van which inhabits the famous temple of Krishna popularly known Garud Govind. The presiding deity of the temple is a rare marvel where Krishna is seated on Garud. The entire complex houses two large water bodies, one of which was ‘pucca’ and the other one ‘kuccha’. The water

bodies are located near Vrindavan Minor, an important canal which used to bring water up to the Vrindavan t o w n s h i p . The kuccha water body had completely silted up while the pucca one was not having optimal water retention capacity. Despite efforts made in the past to restore the pucca kund, the de-siliting couldn't get done at that time without which the entire


Garud Govind Kund: Stages of Restoration

Desilting in progress

Water being brought from Vrindavan Minor

Garud Govind Kund after restoration

investment was wasted. With the financial support of Mr. Kamal Morarka, under the Braj Foundation's integrated plan to augment the water retention capacities of both the water bodies the kuccha and pucca kunds were desilted and interconnected so that the water from the Vrindavan minor comes first to the kuccha kund and then overflows into the pucca kund. So that they remain perennially f i l l e d w i t h w a t e r . Both the kunds are now completely filled with fresh clean water and have added to the grandeur of the entire Garud Govind temple complex and its environs. On your next visit to Vrindavan you are most welcome to make a stopover at this place.

Media Coverage “Rescue In the Land of Krishna”, by Kavita Charanji, a descriptive on the Braj Foundation’s ongoing efforts in the Braj region appeared in the latest issue of CIVIL SOCIETY MAGAZINE.

Excerpts from the article “Poor city planning has left Vrindavan with neither vrinda (tulsi) nor van (forest)—So goes an old saying. Truly the visitor to Vrindavan and the rest of Braj Bhoomi (the land of Lord Krishna) cannot but feel dismayed at the abysmal condition of the environment... ...The New Delhi-based Braj Foundation has a mandate to restore and revive the kunds (important not just as heritage sites but also because of their water harvesting potential), regreen the forests and regenerate the Braj hills into pasture land. In the process, the Foundation will give a boost to eco-tourism in its area of operation. Says Vineet Narain, the dynamic CEO of the Foundation, “As Braj falls within the golden triangle of Delhi-Agra-Jaipur, the entire region is a buzzing eco-tourism destination. In fact even at present, Braj draws 50 million tourists annually, while the Taj Mahal gets two million visitors a year.” ...(At Anjani Kund), one is face to face

with noisy earth movers and tractors engaged in de-silting the water body. There is a little water in which some young boys are merrily frolicking. Communications Officer of The Foundation, Rajneesh Kapur, points out: “The de-silting of phase two is over. After that we will repair the ghats and when we reach water level we will stop desilting. And of course the kund will be full up during the monsoons. Once the kund is full, the water table will go up in the surrounding areas.” This is in stark contrast to the picture some years ago when the kund had become a piece of flat, barren land, while the ghats were submerged and silted. Now showing signs of recovery, Kapur says that work will be over by June this year making it a project completed in six months. ...Ram Singh Tomar, member of the gram panchayat of the Bhulwana village, describes the community's close link with the environment. In his words, “Our lives are closely connected with the environment. There are about 1000 nilgais in Chameli van along with deer, mandi (a different kind of goat) and rabbits—and they will all benefit from the kund and van.” ...In Brahma Kund the organisation has fenced off the kund to deal with such problems. One blue building had encroached into the kund but after a sensitisation programme of The Foundation, the owner agreed to its

demolition and relocated it to outside the boundary wall. In other villages, efforts are on to move rural denizens to other areas within the village if they are in too close proximity to the kund. With all its hectic lobbying with the government, the district administration has been helping the foundation remove encroachments and issues clearances to go ahead with its restoration efforts. The Foundation has so far restored 33 kunds in Braj. Of course there are some hurdles on the way, such as delay in getting clearances or resistance by those who have encroached upon kunds.” Read the full article at: http://www.civilsocietyonline.com/ May08/may087.asp

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Forthcoming Events Braj Mahotsav 2008 Historically, as well as spiritually, the cultural legacy of the Braj region is intrinsically woven into the web of Indian art and culture. The Braj landscape has been the backdrop of most of the Indian poetry based on Krishna, and consequently the content of numerous art forms. Various folk and semi classical art forms, also present themselves on the Braj canvas. The kajri, hori, chaiti, styles of singing, have Krishna leelas as their content; many folk dance forms and painting styles too depict Krishna leelas, all carried out in the kunds, vans, hills, and banks of river Yamuna. The state of the Braj landscape, so beautifully depicted in much of our traditional poetry and scriptures, is 'pitiful' as of today. In the drying kunds,

Donor's Space Mr. Rajan Sanghi donated a brand new Toyota Qualis in the year 2004 to the Foundation. Mr Sanghi has s p o n s o r e d t h e procurement of satellite images of Braj hills from NRSA, for the research wing of The Foundation. He is constantly spreading the good word about the Foundation amongst his batch mates of IIT (B) and IIM (A), and other prominent industrialist of Jaipur.

Kuchpudi Dancer, Arunima Kumar

which will be held in October. Prominent classical dancers like Geeta Chandran and Arunima Kumar are going to be a part of this maga event. A unique aspect of the festival would be a programme of devotional songs composed by Muslim writers like Nazeer Akbarbadi, Taj Begum,

Mr. Sanghi has also been lending invaluable advice and expertise to The Foundation. . Dr. R P Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. sanctioned a grant to revitalize a grove in Vrindavan. The Braj Foundation is developing a detailed plan for the same.

Folk Artists of Braj

vanishing forests, and stinking Yamuna, we are losing a very important side of our cultural heritage. Development agenda sometimes bypasses or overlooks cultural heritage and ignorance is the real reason behind the ruthless destruction and gross irregularity in the preservation and protection of this invaluable heritage. Ignorance is the real reason behind the cheap commoditisation of spiritual heritage and rich culture. The Braj Foundation organizes periodic programs to sensitize people towards this crisis. In the coming Kartik (October 2008), The Foundation is planning a series of events which will bring Braj to New Delhi and not only recreate the magic of the past, showcasing the Braj culture and rural life, but also address developmental, environmental and other cross-cutting issues centered around Braj. Prominent figures, experts and authorities from the world over will be participating in a three day seminar

Raas Leela

Raskhan, and others. This would bring out how religion was never an obstacle to the path of the divine and how people from all religions, castes and cultures embraced Braj as the land of the Lord. The Foundtion is planning this mega event in collboration with organizations and groups that have been in the forefront of developmental activities in the area. If you also know of any such organization in your city and would like to collaborate with us on this please contact: Shilpa Narain The Braj Foundation C-6/28, SDA, Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110016 Ph.: 011-2656-6800, 2651-9080 shilpanarain.braj@gmail.com Web: www.brajfoundation.org

Published by Rajneesh Kapur for limited circulation only. Media colleagues are welcome to use this material for their stories.

NTPC joins hands with The Braj Foundation. Uddhav Kyari in Nandgaon is a protected forest under the UP Forest Department. Unfortunately, there is not a single tree in this so-called 'forest' of 54 acres. NTPC has sanctioned a grant to the Braj Foundation to revive this forest. Clearance from the UP Forest Department is awaited for restoration work to start at the site. Mr. Pradeep Puri, CEO of IL&FS has sanctioned the sponsorship of The Braj Foundation newsletter by IL & FS. We thank all our donors and look forward to more such colaborations for this noble cause. Newsletter Sponsored By:

Braj Foundation News Letter 4  

The Braj Foundation's News Letter 4

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