By Patita Pavana Dasa
(Lord Brahma said) “Then also when the cowherd boys and their animals drank the poisoned water of the River Yamunā, and after the Lord (in His childhood) revived them by His merciful glance, just to purify the water of the River Yamunā He jumped into it as if playing and chastised the venomous Kāliya snake, which was lurking there, its tongue emitting waves of poison. Who can perform such herculean tasks but the Supreme Lord?” (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.28)
India’s sacred Yamuna River, whose sanctity is considered by devotees to surpass even that of the Ganges, has today become a dead stream of poisonous chemical waste, plastic bags and sewage. What a crime and ecological disaster for a river that is not only glorified throughout the Puranas and Mahabharata, but which throughout history has been described as Diamouna by Ptolemy, Jomanes by Pliny, and Jobares by Arrian, The Yamuna rises from Himalayan glaciers near Bandarpunch where Hanuman extinguished his burning tail after torching Shri Lanka. No place is more sacred along its banks than in Vrindavana where Lord Shri Krishna, the Son of Nanda and Supreme Personality of Godhead, enjoyed the association of His devotees—whether gopis or gopas. Along the Yamuna’s 860 mile course to meet the Ganga many other rivers join her including the Banganga, Chambal and Betwa.
Today looking back I remember my first visit to the Yamuna in 1973. As I emerged out of Vrindavana’s woodlands by way of the sandy parakrama trail, my first glance of this gentle stream as she curved through Vrindavana took me aback. Bearded saints whose physical ages defied estimation sat meditatively on the shore, or stood waist-deep in the fresh waters absorbed in prayerful mantras. The serene atmosphere was surcharged with a strong sense of sanctity that I can feel to this day.