When a voluntary group launched a project last winter to restore a mythologically significant pond that lay under heaps of garbage in this temple town, the public reaction was largely indifferent. Some even called it a "waste of effort".
But the activists of Braj Rakshak Dal and Braj Foundation went on and today the resurrected Brahm Kund is the newest attraction for the thousands of pilgrims who visit this town in Mathura district every day.
Situated near the northern gate of the famous Rangji temple, the Brahm Kund finds mention in Varah Purana. It is also associated with Shiva, Yog Maya and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Meera Bai is believed to have spent her first night in Vrindavan by the holy pond.
However, callous neglect and lack of concern had reduced the water body to a pile of debris, with local residents having virtually forgotten about its existence. There are many such great octagonal ponds in Braj Mandal - the land of Krishna and Radha that is revered by millions of Vaishnavites the world over.
According to local seer Sant Ramesh Baba, the pond was lying in a shambles for decades, buried in heaps of garbage, till Braj Foundation volunteers took up the task.
"What they have done is truly laudable," added Radha Nath Swami, another seer of the city.
After desilting the pond and renovating its periphery, including the stairs leading to it, the volunteers put a fence all around the pond and landscaped the surroundings. A nine-foot tall statue of the four-faced god Brahma, seated on a lotus flower, was installed at the centre.
From each petal of the lotus, there emerges a stream of water, while sprinklers have been installed all around the pond for the plants, project director Raghav Mittal, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur, told IANS.
Mittal recalls the initial hurdles and opposition from several quarters to the project.
"The local politicians raised all kinds of reservations and speculation. Encroachments on all the sides had made movement of machinery very difficult, but we persevered and kept our cool," he said, adding they finally achieved their objective with the help of all their associates and sponsors.
Mittal noted they had done the conservation with utmost care and passion. "The way we managed to preserve an old peepal tree was really an achievement. The landscape designer has developed an attractive rockery at the corner. We are hopeful after the next rains, the whole place would be lush green," he added.
Vineet Narain, the chief inspiration behind the project, said they had set up a proper system to manage the pond and safeguard the conservation efforts. He said they had instituted a ticket for entry to the premises and intended to use the proceeds to employ permanent staff.
A public address system has been set up to relay songs, and music of the Braj are relayed as well as a commentary on the relevance of the holy pond.
Acharya Jaimini, a renowned musician from Vrindavan, has commended the effort for the facelift of the pond and called for the experiment to be replicated in other parts of Braj Mandal.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at email@example.com )