Vrindavan, 2014.08.30 DJ: The effects of the drought in the Dham are being felt in Vrindavan, as the Yamuna has moved quite far from the ghats. The boatmen on the river are disturbed and devotees are inconvenienced in their bathing and worship.
Because there has been so little rain this year, the Yamuna’s water levels did not increase to the extent that they usually do in the rainy season. A few days ago water that was released from the barrages north of Delhi, which was very good for the Yamuna boatmen who had plenty of tourists going for rides on the river. There were even kirtans and other religious observances conducted on the boats. But in the last two weeks, the Yamuna water levels have dropped off completely, so that they do not even come up close to Keshi Ghat.
Vraja Mohan Khandel of the Panda Sabha said that in the last ten days, all the ghats where the boats usually embark passengers like Keshi Ghat, Cheer Ghat, Bihar Ghat, Jagannath Ghat, Shringar Bat and Kalidaha Ghat, are waterless.
This is also inconvenient for the evening Yamuna arti and other such pujas. Those who offer lamps to the river at dusk have to walk a fair distance to get to the riverside. For devotees wanting to bathe, it is also troublesome as they have to walk quite far to get to the river.
Of course, this is the usual situation in the wintertime, but in the month of August, the river is usually at its high point. The boatmen are particularly troubled as it means that their livelihood is being adversely affected.
Vrindavan has about 60 boats in all, which are the main source of livelihood for their owners. Over the past few years there has been a general diminishing in the Yamuna’s water levels, which makes running their business difficult. One boatman, Ram Sewak, said that they always hope that water levels remain high enough to interest people in taking a pleasure ride along the river.
“This is our high season. During the month of Bhadon, we have both an increase in pilgrims and tourists who come for Janmashtami and Radhashtami. When they see the river brimming with water and the beautifully decorated boats, they are attracted to going out for a boat ride. We depend on the high season to make up for the dryer times to make ends meet,” he said. “Unfortunately, this year it is not happening.”
Generally speaking, water levels in the Yamuna during the rainy season depends greatly on rain further north which feeds the river, so that water is released from the Hathini Kund barrage. This year, there has been little than usual rain in Braj, but there has been a shortfall upstream also.