What remains of Braj today has survived because factors that have lead to its destruction have been counterbalanced by
efforts of restoration. The Jat rulers of Bharatpur, the Scindias of Gwalior and the Maharajas of Jaipur continued their
patronage of Braj after the reign of Aurangzeb. Their work to rebuild Braj is visible today in the art and architecture of
the kunds, jal mahals, temples, ghats, and chatris that bear the distinctive imprint of their native Rajasthan. The kings
of Jaipur also provided assistance when the worship of the deities was threatened and many of the sacred images were relocated
to places in Rajasthan.
The Braj landscape saw much urban and agrarian development during the nineteenth and twentieth century. Nevertheless,
there are some areas within Braj where both the landscape and culture have resisted major change.
At other places, however, in the absence of any systematic preservation, and after the decline of royal patronage,
there has been much decay and stagnation of the kunds, groves and ancient shrines.
The threat to Braj does not come from outside invaders and tyrannical rulers but from the negligence within the
devotee and pilgrim. Much of the Braj landscape has changed into obtrusive unplanned modern constructions, ubiquitous
phone towers, encroachments and absence of proper infrastructure and sanitation.
Will the millions of pilgrims and devotees visiting Braj every year ever realize that none of the revered Krishna
leelas were performed in the magnificent temples, lavish ashrams or guests houses that are mushrooming in the area?
However, devotees surprisingly find the ability to look beyond the destruction and concretization, and be ensconced
in something far greater than themselves, feeling the enduring spirit of this sacred landscape even in the face of such
large scale deterioration and destruction and in the midst of disease, despair, and filth.
The sacred landscape is rapidly disappearing!
Only 3 groves or forests remain out the 137 associated with the legend of Sri Radha Krishna. Most of the kunds or water
tanks, originally believed to be more than a thousand, have either silted up, been encroached upon or have been reduced
to mere sludge tanks. The heritage hills of Braj, like the popular Goverdhan, are being reduced to dust through illegal
mining, and large scale deforestation. Innumerable heritage buildings of Braj remain in a dilapidated condition in the
absence of proper restoration efforts. Ignorance is the real reason behind this gross irregularity in the preservation
and protection of this invaluable heritage.
The preservation of Braj’s natural sites, in their natural state, is the only means to uphold the memory of Krishna’s
activities. As the sacred spaces of Braj were reclaimed over the last five hundred years, primarily through the efforts of
Chaitanyadeva, Vallabhacharya and their followers, many of the groves and clearings around the kunds became the habitats of
saints who renovated, restored and preserved them for posterity.
Without the existence of the forests, the groves, the water bodies, and the Yamuna, which are intrinsic to the legend
of Krishna, the tradition that has endeared itself to millions of bhaktas or devotees will not endure in it’s original form.
It is an ongoing effort of The Braj Foundation to restore this significant and sacred landscape of its due sanctity by another
phase of renewal and renovation.
“Efforts are being made by The Braj Foundation, a voluntary organization towards the revival of the 5000 year old holy region
of Braj. The Braj Foundation, is dedicated to the all round development of Braj – the culturally vibrant region lying in close
vicinity to Taj Mahal and associated with the legend of Sri Radha-Krishna. The Foundation works directly on projects to restore
Braj as an idealistic rural society by conserving its 5000 year old heritage and environment through planning, conservation,
renovation and encouraging local community participation.
The current focus is on the restoration of 1000 ancient water retention tanks (kunds), revival of 48 important sacred groves,
regeneration of around 18000 acres (73 km²) of hilly terrains into lush-green pasture lands & forests and the resurrection of River
Yamuna. Till now the foundation has restored 46 ancient water bodies and 1 sacred forest out of the 3 forests left in the entire region.
A small group of dedicated professionals has achieved all this in a period of 9 years.
The Foundation is making several interventions in areas like organic farming, dairy industry, rural education, health care etc.
towards the realization of its broader mandate.” – As Per Wikipedia