John Stratton Hawley, “Krishna's Playground: Vrindavan in the 21st Century” (Oxford UP, 2020)

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John Stratton Hawley's new book Krishna's Playground: Vrindavan in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2020) 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-a realm of love and beauty that enables one to retreat from the weight and harshness of world. Now, though, the world is gobbling up Vrindavan. Delhi's megalopolitan sprawl inches closer day by day-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. What happens when the Anthropocene Age makes everything virtual? What happens when heaven gets plowed under? Like our age as a whole, Vrindavan throbs with feisty energy, but is it the religious canary in our collective coal mine?

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