New Delhi, 9 January 2020 – Oxford University Press, the world’s largest university press, launched Krishna’s Playground: Vrindavan in the 21st Century by Professor John Stratton Hawley on 8th January, 2020. The book was launched in the august presence of Mr. Purushottam Agrawal – renowned writer, academician and former professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
The event began with a musical rendition by Padma Shri awardee, Shubha Mudgal who was accompanied by tabla maestro and classical harmonium player Aneesh Pradhan and Sudhir Nayak respectively. The evening saw the celebration of this book and of Professor Hawley’s meticulous scholarship. This was followed by a brief presentation by the author and conversation and remarks on the books from eminent panelists including Ms. V. Mohini Giri – Chairperson, Guild of Service and Ma Dham Ashram; Mr. Rimpesh Sharma – Director, InGenious Studio and Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir; and Ms. Vishnupriya Goswami – Jai Singh Ghewra, Vrindavan.
This book is about a deeply beloved place – many call it the spiritual capital of India. Located at a dramatic bend in the River Yamuna, a hundred miles from the center of Delhi, Vrindavan is the spot where the god Krishna is believed to have spent his childhood and youth. For Hindus, it has always stood for youth writ large. Now, though, the world is gobbling up Vrindavan. Half the town is a vast real-estate development – and the waters of the Yamuna are too polluted to drink or even bathe in. Temples now style themselves as theme parks, and the world’s tallest religious building is under construction in Krishna’s pastoral paradise. Professor Hawley’s book is based on over forty years of visiting and working in Vrindavan, especially the last decade and a half, when it became clear that the town was being dramatically, perhaps irreversibly, transformed. His talk is structured, in part, as a walk through this startling new landscape, evoking questions about the town’s status as a heritage landmark.