for The Times of India on March 28, 2009
Besides changing a dozen dresses a day or taking His pick from more than 100 cuisines on the menu, Lord Banke Bihari of Mathura has become the first divinity to don a bullet-proof cover.
From changing a dozen dresses a day, to taking His pick from more than 100 cuisines on the menu, Lord Banke Bihari of Mathura has always enjoyed a privileged existence. Now, the baby Krishna has stolen a march over Ram Lalla - the resident deity of Ayodhya - by becoming the first divinity to don a bullet-proof cover.
Devotees thronging the 150 year old temple in Vrindavan were in for a great surprise on Friday when the portals opened up to allow them a peek in the Lord’s chamber. Facing the deity in the sanctum sanctorum, they discovered, was a 3.5-feet-high bullet-proof glass sheet which was not there till the last night’s "darshan". Many first thought it was part of the daily decoration till the head "sevak", Khajan Singh, disclosed the truth.
"Then it was a divided house. While some welcomed the timely precaution others were livid at what they perceived as a sacrilege of the holy shrine," says Babu Lal Gautam, a local lawyer and a regular at the temple. "There are already demands for its removal from the rival faction of the pandas who are inciting the visitors," he said.
Whereas the Lord needn't worry about earthly concerns like bullets or the bullet-proofing, his attendants here have their minds firmly made up. "The sheet is here to stay," declares Khajan Singh. "It has been installed by the official order of the administrator civil judge of Banke Bihari temple, Azad Singh," he told TOI over telephone. The purpose behind it is to ensure the safety of the deity which, incidentally, is reported to be second richest, only one after it’s cousin down south, Tirupati Balaji.
The administrator judge is understood to have taken the unusual step after reviewing the growing threat perception of Mathura. Mathura, says its SP (City) Udai Pratap Singh, has been on the terror radar or quite some time. Recent threat received by the DM and the station master have added to the security concerns here. Bihari ji temple, being one of the oldest and the most frequented, needed a special measure that could have prompted the judge to order taking the extraordinary measures.