8 Nov 2023 7:00 AM GMT
In the ongoing hearing in a bunch of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) pleas filed before the Allahabad High Court concerning the safety and security of pilgrims visiting Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, the temple sevayats (Goswamis) told the HC that they are ready to shift the diety somewhere else and construct a new temple if the UP Government gives them land for the said...
In the ongoing hearing in a bunch of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) pleas filed before the Allahabad High Court concerning the safety and security of pilgrims visiting Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, the temple sevayats (Goswamis) told the HC that they are ready to shift the diety somewhere else and construct a new temple if the UP Government gives them land for the said purpose.
The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker and Justice Ashutosh Srivastava by the Counsel for the Goswami-Sevayats, Sankalp Goswami. However, an objection was raised to this suggestion by the Counsel representing the state government by submitting that the temple cannot be shifted under any circumstances.
The argument was advanced before the Bench after the Petitioner's advocate Shreya Gupta raised the demand to withdraw the decree passed by the Civil Court concerning the Banke Bihari Temple. In response to this, Advocate Goswami submitted that the temple belongs to them as they are its owners and that they are willing to shift the diety as it would prevent the Kunj Galis from getting demolished.
For the uninitiated, Bankey Bihari Temple is situated in Vrindavan, Mathura and it is dedicated to Bankey Bihari who is believed to be the combined form of Radha and Krishna. This temple was established by Swami Haridas.
It may further be noted that the Goswamis of the Saraswat Brahmin community have the right to serve in Thakur Banke Bihari temple. They perform puja-archana and shringar in the temple and are called Sevayats. It is their specific plea that since the Banke Bihari Temple is a private temple, no external interference should be allowed.
The Sevayats have been opposing the UP Government's proposed scheme for the development of the temple area and its proper management inter alia contending that the project would entail the destruction and demolition of various temples and 'Kunj Galis' for the construction of public toilets, gardens fountains etc.
On the other hand, the State Government has maintained that it is only concerned with building a corridor and managing the security matters of the temple.
As mentioned, the HC is presently dealing with a bunch of PILs filed by devotees of Lord Krishna seeking directions for the management of public order in and around the Shree Thakur Banke Bihari Ji Mandir, Vrindavan.
In one of the petitions, it has been submitted that Swami Hari Das Ji, who established the temple, did not create any trust or endowment in favour of anyone. Goswami Onkar Nath and Goswami Phundi Lal proclaimed themselves to be the legal heirs and were entitled to do the Pramukh Seva of Thakur Ji.
The petitioner has contended that the judgment given in 1939 in a suit filed by Goswami Onkar Nath does not hold good in the present times. Other than the fact that the judgment records the fact that there is no trust or endowment in favour of anyone.
Further, various disputes between Goswami and their heirs and various criminal cases against the Goswami have also been brought on record.
The petitioner has specifically pleaded before the Court that due to the lack of management inside the temple, it becomes difficult for the devotees to offer their prayers. The petitioner has also brought forward specific instances where devotees had died due to the unmanaged crowd. It has been contended that the inaction by the State and its authorities is violative of Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
Accordingly, it has been prayed that the Court may issue directions of the State for framing the proper scheme of maintenance of the temple and for facilitating proper darshan of Thakur Ji to protect the rights of the citizens under the Constitution of India.
An intervention application has been filed by about 250 shopkeepers and residents of the area against the proposed expansion plan by the State. It is their case that ‘Kunj Galis’ are sacred galis where Lord Krishna and Radha Rani still carry on their ‘leelas’. According to the intervenors, there are two temples which are protected by the Archeological Survey of India, in the vicinity of the main temple. Thus, it has been pleaded that no expansion construction can be done within 400 mts of such temples.
Before the Court, the State has already come up with a consolidated action plan for the development of the corridor around the Vrindavan temple. However, the plan requires the temple to give Rs. 200 crore out of Rs. 700 crore needed to build the corridor. To this, strong objections have been raised by the Counsel representing the Deity. Further, counsel for the intervenor has also raised objections to the entire expansion plan as it would result in the destruction of the sacred ‘Kunj Galis’ which are of religious importance.