Mumbai

A chronicle of Vrindavan, from a U.S. author

John Stratton Hawley, who has authored or edited over 20 books on Hinduism.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

John Stratton Hawley, who has authored or edited over 20 books on Hinduism, India’s bhakti traditions and the comparative study of religion, has now written Krishna’s Playground: Vrindavan in the 21st century.

Mr. Hawley is a Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University, U.S.A., and his new book traces the transformation that the city has undergone over the past 15 years.

Mr. Hawley says, “In 1975-76, the ISKCON temple was coming up in the city. The liberalisation of the Indian economy in the early 90s had made all kinds of investments possible which were not possible before. Due, to this the ISKCON temple is now at the geographical centre of Vrindavan,” says Mr. Hawley.

In September 2016, Mr. Hawley visited Vrindavan and found that he was in the middle of a series of very heated controversies. “[It was] about development, buildings and water which is no longer in the river Yamuna,” he says.

“The [most recent reportage] in the book is [from] early 2019. It is about Prime Minister Modi coming to Vrindavan to celebrate the three billionth lunch served by Akshaya Patra.”

John Hawley has authored or edited over 20 books on Hinduism. (Right) The cover of the latest book.

John Hawley has authored or edited over 20 books on Hinduism. (Right) The cover of the latest book.  

Mr. Hawley was introduced to Indian religions and mythologies late in life. “I was almost 30 years old. I grew up with a kind of love-hate relationship with religion. I was worried about it on one hand but was deeply attracted to it on the other,” says Mr. Hawley. “I took a course on the religions of the world. It started with India and I just never escaped.”

Mr. Hawley says he grew up as a Christian but was attracted to Krishna. “As a Christian you would only think about Jesus. In one of the courses I took on religions across the world, I was introduced to Krishna through the Bhagavad Gita,” he says.

Mr. Hawley finds Jesus and Krishna a broad contrast to work with. He says on one side there is Jesus who really doesn’t know his identity in his early stages of life while on the other, there is Krishna, who has a royal side. “But on similarities, both are concerned about matters of state and issues of justice,” he said.

“The childhood of Krishna is full of play. This was the vision of divinity I never expected,” he said, stressing on the fact that religion [Christianity] is all about struggle, love and dealing with the Romans. “So, as in the case of love, sometimes the most unexpected person is the one who is going to attract you the most. And that’s kind of what happened with me to Krishna,” he said.


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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 11:01:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/a-chronicle-of-vrindavan-from-a-us-author/article30638208.ece

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