Sanatan Mandir, Crawley makes us feel at Vraj

Yes, You have read it correctly, Sanatan Mandir in Crawley (West Sussex, UK) makes you feel like you are in Vraj Dham (Gokul, Mathura & Vrindavan). Or at least, it did let me feel like I was somewhere in Vraj Dham on Gujarati New Year day (Govardhan Puja/Annakut). I must admit that the deities there are so beautiful and attractive that they remind you of any holy place of India, but they don’t remind Vrindavan, Gokul or Mathura, as in these Dham, except Krishna-Balaram Mandir, hardly there is any other mandir with such big deities. So, if it is not the deities, then what is that, that makes you feel at Vraj?

Well, if you go to Vraj Dham, the most popular activity is to visit Holy Places and sites where Krishna had performed Lilas (Pastimes). Being Krishna Bhakt I have visited Vrindavan several times and have always set on voyage of visiting such holy places. It is quite common there for the priests/Chobas/Pandas to close the curtain when they cite you entering their property or business premises (of course the temple, which they hold as property and/or business site). This forces you to sit down with them, and listen to their stories about the temple. When this routine lecture is done, you are presented with the options to donate different sums to the temple, and the curtain is only raised according the donations you offer to the priest. If you’ve run down on Money by having Darshan in all your previous temple visits, you must not dare to enter the sites, as you may get verbal abuse and sometimes curse (doubt very much about their efficacy though) for not donating properly, and you may be forced to leave temple without having Darshan.

One such beautiful experience I had once in Ranganath Mandir in Vrindavan. I was there few years back, with my wife and daughter, in the evening. This Mandir is in a huge campus, and the main entrance to the temple precinct, is like a Fort Gate. There were some touts (in sober language Pujya Chobajis or Pujya Pandajis) right there on the entrance, offering you the chance to empty your pocket for performing one or the other Puja, or selling flowers/Prasad. We refused to do any of them, so next offer was to leave our shoes/chappals and they will protect it for a small sum. I was fed up with such loot, so refused for that as well, and left our shoes on our own risk and entered the temple premises. One choba ran ahead of us to the temple, so obviously when we reached main temple, curtains were off. The Pujari there again canvassed us to perform some puja and donate, and also ascertained us that if we wouldn’t do so, we would rot in hell. We accepted that option to rot in hell but not to pay for Puja. Result? What can it be, we were on Satyagrah (after all I am from Mahatma Gandhi’s karma Bhumi, Gujarat) and sat there for more than half hour waiting for the priest to open curtain. He was so devoted to his business, that he didn’t do so. At last, he got another customer, who fell victims of his or his agents’ marketing tactics, and donated some amount. Now, we were hoping to see the deities behind curtains. But do you think that was possible? In Mafia world, we were forced to get off the temple hall as we were not the Yajamans, and ultimately we had to leave the temple without having Darshan. So this is all about what you experience in Vraj.

You would have, by now, got an idea of how we felt like in Vraj at Sanatan Mandir in Crawley. On Saturday, 6th Nov 2010, as it was Bestu Varsh for us, we decided to go to Mandir. We had been to Sanatan Mandir on Dhan Teras and had read notice on the board stating Annakut Darshan was from 8 am till 9 pm with Aratis at 10 am, mid day and 7 pm. We reached there just after 10.30 and to our surprise, curtains were off. Annakut was still being arranged and the flow of various Bhog items continued. As we visit there frequently, few people know us as well. So, we got a chance to volunteer for the Annakut arrangement. Around 11.30 everything was ready and Priest started offering Bhoga. The curtains were closed all this time, and Mandir was getting filled up by Shraddhalu Bhakts. Regular Arati time is 12.00 noon, so everyone was hoping to have Darshan that time. But, around 11.30 temple spokesmen and their assistants started selling Arati plates for £5 each. They got amazing response and they ran out of the thalis they had prepared with estimate. They had to rush to prepare more thalis and eventually they completely ran out of the stock. By then, it was already 12.20. Priest came out to ask the ‘Spokesman’ a few times whether he should open the curtain and perform Arati, but the he was refused. I was surprised about what was going on. Now, it seems that the fund that they had raised through ‘selling/renting’ aratis wasn’t enough. At 12.30 they started useless speeches and donation appeals (exactly the same as it happens in Vraj Dham). After few speeches they decided to auction the raising of curtain, and devotees were asked to bid, which started with £51 and reached the winning bid was £ 501. I was feeling happy that, at last we were close to have Darshan. But, it seems even insufficient to the temple committee to just let Deities appear against Devotees. They then decided to auction the Arati, now; this was a limit for me and few others. It was already 1.00 pm then, kids were bored and feeling hungry, and we were tired of the useless auctions and money collection. We left the mandir and saw few other families leaving as well. When i left the temple, I was telling Krishna in my mind that he has truly brought Vraj Dham in Crawley. I felt sorry for the lord that he himself was helpless with these money minded committee members.

I have seen them raising funds in almost each and every event held there at the mandir, but this was really a limit of blackmailing public. I have heard that the temple was built at the cost of £ 4 million, and they had raised r million prior to opening in May. And as they still needed the deficit, they kept on appealing for donations, and auctioned various events. But there are many other temples in UK, and in London, I have never seen such loot or Mafia culture and blackmailing in any other temple. Sanatan Mandir in Wembley is 10 times larger than this, Neasden Swaminarayan Mandir is also enormous. These temples must be having giant cost to just maintain, but they never “make you feel like you are in Vraj Dham“.

Jay Shri Krishna!


વિશે ધવલ સુધન્વા વ્યાસ
ખાડિયાવિસ્તારના નાના સુથાર વાડા (ઘણા નાના સુથારવાડાની પોળ પણ કહે છે)નો એક અમદાવાદી ગુજરાતી...

આપના પ્રતિભાવ જણાવશો.....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  બદલો )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  બદલો )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  બદલો )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  બદલો )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: