Vrindavan: Bhaktivedanta Asharm
Get There: Take a rickshaw from Mathura Railway Station, and ask for the Bhaktivedanta Temple in Vrindavan.
Cost: Varies due to season, but less than $15 pp per night
Open: All year round. Reception open until midnight.
Bhaktivedanta Ashram is located in the dusty, dirty and quite run-down town of Vrindavan. Through the gates of Bhaktivedanta though, you have a luscious green resort guarded by men with rifles (bit intimidating).
Most of the people who stay at Bhaktivedanta Ashram have flown across the world to live in serenity for a long period of time. It is also joined to the town’s largest temple (with a Bhaktivedanta resident VIP entrance!). The main attraction is worshiping the dead guru that used to live in the tower in the middle of the complex, but never actually came out… of the tower, that is. This doesn’t mean that if you don’t even know his name (me) you too cant get a slice of the action by booking yourself in to this little slice of serenity.
Vrindavan is your average type of Indian town: dusty, dirty and quite run-down. Through the gates of Bhaktivedanta though, you have a luscious green resort guarded by men with rifles (bit intimidating). These men are accompanied by a bunch of pictures of Western Yogis that have disobeyed the rules of the ashram. I didn’t get to see one of these faces try and enter, but I’m hoping that if they did the rifles wouldn’t come into use and they would just be politely asked to leave…
Taken from Bhaktivedanta’s website, here are the rules: “To uphold the spiritual atmosphere of the Ashram we request all of our guests to avoid the following while on the premises: meat eating (including fish or eggs), intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex.” Few hungry, horny little yogis I guess!
You have two choices of accommodation, the standard twin-share with ensuite and kitchenette, or the private lodge for longer-staying pilgrims. There is also a 100-seat vego restaurant inside the complex, so really, you don’t even have to leave!
It takes a bit of getting used to but the phrase for hello in this town (slash mainly just this Ashram) are “Hare Krishna”, and you’ll be glared at if you use anything else. The place is full of different types of people who are all on their own quest of self discovery. We actually happened to meet this 20-year-old girl from Sydney who was studying Architecture at UNSW but then just bailed. Allegedly her and a friend went for free dinner at their local Hare Krishna hangout in Sydney, and after making friends with everyone, she was hooked! Couldn’t get enough of their mantras. So she pinged off uni, packed a bag and was just chilling the fuck out in Bhaktivedanta ashram for six months. Then there are your classic live-in-the-hills-of-Byron-Bay-and-change-their-name-to-something-earthy 50+ types, and also your absolute trippers that walk around frantically chewing their faces and talking to themselves.
Surprisingly, the couple that manages the whole place are a pair of really normal 20-somethings with the cutest little interracial kid. I didn’t get to meet the guy, but he is from the US, and the girl – who I did get to meet – is from The West Indies. She is actually the most amazing person; she is bodacious in all the right places, just like Beyoncé. She wears bright pink saris and is the most charismatic, bubbly babe ever. To my total and complete surprise, she even had a conversation with us about how hilarious she thought the “big boned bitches” on Jerry Springer were.
Staying at Bhaktivedanta Ashram was quite possibly the weirdest and most hilarious experience of my life. I highly recommend it: five stars!