Travel Tips & Info
As the MVT is situated in the Holy Dham of Sri Vrindavan there is a recommended standard of dressing that should be followed. Women and men should dress conservatively. Traditional Indian clothing is recommended. Women should cover themselves and appropriately and should ideally have their head covered when visiting a temple. This can be done with a simple shawl or piece of cloth.
Of course you can walk to many of the shops and sacred places in Vrindavana. A bike rickshaw to Loi Bazaar, from the ISKCON, MVT Bhaktivedanta Ashram, costs around Rs 20. To visit the 7 major temples in Vrindavana takes about three hours and costs Rs 40/hour. Many of the rickshaw-walas know where all the major temples are located.
To shop properly in India you have to give yourself at least 50% more time than in the West, so you can bargain properly. The longer a merchant spends with you, the more likely you are to work the price down. A merchant does not like to totally waste his time, he wants to make the sale. So even if you are in a hurry, you should still act like you have all the time in the world. You can and should bargain when on the street. Never accept the first price given. Many times it can be four to five times the normal price. Many times it is a matter of pride to bargain for a lower price. Government emporiums, expensive shops, and department stores often have fixed prices and you cannot bargain. When there is a fixed price, many times you can get a price discount if you purchase more than one item. Shopping in Vrindavana: The important judgement on which merchant to purchase from is good communications and consistent good quality. This means getting what you asked for without wasting time. Getting a money back guarantee, in case there is a defect in any of the products is important. A good merchant will do this, as they will not want to ruin their reputation. These are a list of merchants recommended in Vrindavana:
- Ganga Prasada, end of Loi Bazaar. Cloth merchant.
- Rasbihari Lal & Sons, across from Ganga Prasad. Devotional items, pictures and books.
- Dinesh, Loi Bazaar. Cloth merchant.
- Mahesh, Loi Bazaar. Cloth merchant.
- Khadi Bhavan, at the beginning of Loi Bazaar. Government cloth merchant.
- Rajendra Tulasiwala, Loi Bazaar. Bead shop.
- Radheyshyam Puja Bhandar, Loi Bazaar across from tulasi bead shop. Brass puja items.
- Heera Jewelers, beginning of Loi Bazaar. Silver, etc.
- Gopaldas Emporium and Shriji Jewelers, both on the left side of the road as you go from Loi Bazaar to Banke Bihari. Silver, etc.
- Six Fingers Narayana, go right at the intersection at the end of Loi Bazaar. Tailor
- Matang Perfumers, across from ISKCON Temple. Incense and oils
- Shishu Kumar Agarwal, next to Ganga Prasad. Trunks and shipping.
- Rambabu Bartan Bhandar, at the beginning of Loi Bazaar. Stainless steel cups, plates, etc.
Here are a few tips:
- In India people use their right hand to eat, as well as to offer and take things from people. The left hand is considered unclean, as that hand is used for the toilet. It is considered impolite to give or accept something from someone with your left hand. It is considered unclean to serve food with your left hand or to put your left hand in your mouth.
- Women do not generally shake hands with men. Also men and women should not touch each other in public, especially in holy places and temples.
- To greet someone, it is good manners to put your palms together and say “Namaste” or “Hare Krishna”.
- When you enter someone’s home you should take off your shoes.
- After someone has begun eating, they should wash their hands before serving themselves or others more food. You should not take a bite out of something and then hand it to someone else to eat, or eat off the same plate as someone. After eating, Indians wash their hands and mouth.
- It is best to dress conservatively. Women should not overly expose themselves. Women should ideally have their head covered in a temple. This can be done with a simple shawl or piece of cloth.
- You have to leave your shoes outside temples. One tip is to use an inexpensive pair of sandals when visiting temples or pay someone a rupee or two to watch your shoes for you. In most temples it is all right to keep your socks or stockings on, but not always.
- A number of temples are off limits to non-Hindus. Other temples may allow non-Hindus to enter parts of the temple, but not the inner sanctum where the deities are located. Temple authorities can be very strict about this and can be violent if you do not follow the rules.
- You may have to pay a small fee to take pictures of a temple. Many times you can take pictures of the temple building but not the deities. You should ask permission to take pictures of the deities and of persons in the temple.
- Smoking is strictly prohibited on temple grounds.
- You may be approached by persons asking for donations for you to take photographs. Do not blindly accept that these persons are bona-fide.
- Leather items should not be taken into temples. At Jain temples they are strictly forbidden.
- Men and women should never touch each other in a temple and great respect should be shown in the temple.
- You do not have to make a donation in a temple, but even a small donation will help both yourself and the temple. You can consider it like a donation fee.
- If you take any items in the temple from a priest, such as a flower, prasada (food), etc., expect to give a donation. In many cases no matter how much you give it will not be enough. So give what you think is correct and smile.
- If you circle the deities (circle the temple) this should always be done clockwise.
- If you bow down before the deities (pay obeisances) you should bow down with your left side to the deities, not your right side.
- While sitting in a temple, you should not point your legs toward the deities.