Mathura is well known as the Pilgrim city and Holy city that lies 150 km south of Delhi in the State of Uttar Pradesh in India offering a serene weekend getaway for religious people as well as tourists. This city provides an excellent opportunity to view its beauty replete with numerous ancient and modern temples along the scenic surroundings of the Ghats and the Yamuna River criss-crossing through leaving you with a feel of spiritual accomplishment. It is also known as 'Braj Bhoomi' which literally means the 'birthplace of Lord Krishna' attracting many visitors from across the globe all the year round.
Mathura city is divided into sections, the east of Trans Yamuna Tract which encompasses Baldeo, Bajna, Gokul, Mahavan and Mat and the west of Trans Yamuna Tract that encompasses Barsana, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Nandgaon and the famous Vrindavan, though, the city commences from Kotban that lies 95 km from Delhi and ends at Runakuta, a place associated with the famous Poet, Surdas who was also an ardent worshipper of Krishna.
Mathura was also known as the capital of the Sura Sena Kingdom where King Kamsa who was the Maternal Uncle of Lord Krishna ruled as per the epic story of the Mahabharata and Bhagwata Purana fame. One ancient Temple named 'Keshav Dev' was constructed right on the site where Krishna was born which was an underground Prison where His Parents were captured and Prisoned by his Uncle.
Mathura also has its share of historical and commercial significance due to its strategic location that makes exchange of trade and information accessible from all directions. It was also the pilgrim centre for Buddhists back in the 5th Century and served as the capital of King Kanishka, a Kushan Ruler. The place also produced numerous life-size images of Lord Buddha since the beginning of the 1st Century AD known as the Gandharan Images that are very distinct from the other Images of Lord Buddha. These Images clearly depict Lord Buddha with very curly locks and translucent robes wrapped around that represent the Ancient God of Indian Male fertility.
Mathura was once the lion and an Indo-Scythian sandstone capital during the 1st Century AD. It contains Prakrit Inscriptions in Kharoshthi script and a relic of Buddha Stupa that was gifted by the Indo-Scythian Chief Queen who ruled over Mathura and was also greatly involved in Buddhism. These findings are displayed in Joseph E. Hotung Gallery of the British Museum in London.
Famous Places to Visit in Mathura
Vrindavan or Brindavan
Vrindavan or Brindavan lies 15 km from Mathura and is noted as one of the most visited Pilgrim Centre dotted by many ancient and modern Temples. 'Vrinda' or 'Brinda' means 'Holy Tulsi' or 'Holy Basil' and 'Ban' means 'Forest' exudes the lovely characteristics of Lord Krishna who would play his flute to the 'Gopis' or 'Girls' amidst these woods and also express his love for Radha.
The first Temple built in Vrindavan is the Radha Madana Mohana Temple established by Shri Srila-Sanatana Gosvami surrounded by the thick forest. During the attack of the Mughals army of Emperor Aurangzeb, the Deity was moved to Karauli in Rajasthan for protection.
The Jaipur Temple was constructed by King Sawai Madhav of Jaipur in 1917 that took 30 years to complete. Thus, it is considered one of the most extravagant and imposing Temples ever built with hand carved sandstone, massive pillars all carved out of one rock and the intricate altar marble that evokes the essence of Mughal design. The King also financed the construction of a Railway track to connect Mathura with Vrindavan.
Banke Bihari which means 'Krishna-the Ultimate Supreme Enjoyer' was constructed in 1864 and is one of the most well known Temples in India. The deity installed here was first discovered by Swamy Haridas in Nidhuvan. He was famous for his devotional songs and was also the guru of the great musician Tansen, one of the courtiers or jewels of Emperor Akbar.
Radha Vallabha is another popular Temple in Vrindavan established by Hith Harivamsa Gosvami but was destroyed by the Mughals in 1670. A new one was then constructed beside the ancient Temple and devotees worship the Radha Vallabha Sect to emphasize their devotion for Radha. There is a crown placed near Lord Krishna's Statue that depicts the presence of Radha.
Seva Kunja is known as the sacred place where Lord Krishna offered his services to Radha by adorning her hair with flowers and massaging her lotus feet. Krishna and Radha would spend numerous nights and days here dancing with the Gopis and listening to the transcending flute played by Krishna. The Rang Mahal is a small Temple dedicated to these activities of Radha and Krishna. A Kund lies at the entrance of this Garden which was created when Lord Krishna pushed the ground floor to release some drinking water for the thirsty Lalitha Devi.
Radha Damodara is one of the most significant Temples in Vrindavan. Shri Rupa Gosvami hand carved the deity of this temple and gifted it to his disciple Shri Jeeva Gosvami. This original deity has been replaced by a replica for safety purpose and is also considered sacred and no different from the original. This Temple was first located in the centre of Seva Kunja where Rupa Gosvami used to sing devotional songs but later shifted to where it lies today.
Radha Ramana Temple
Radha Ramana Temple which means 'One that gives joy to Radha' is an important temple dedicated to 'Gopala Bhatta Gosvami' which is one of the names of Lord Krishna. It is believed that the Saligram Sila self manifested here and hence, the Seva Puja was founded in 1542. This Temple also homes a wooden sitting bench called 'Hoki' and a 'Chaadar' or 'Shawl' gifted by Lord Chaitanya to Lord Krishna. Like the Radha Vallabha Temple, this temple also has only one crown kept beside the Statue of Lord Krishna to represent Radha.
Jugal Kishore is one of the oldest Temples in Vrindavan that was completed in 1627 under the permission of Emperor Akbar who visited this Garden in 1570. Four Temples were constructed by the Gaudya Vaishnavas namely, Madana Mohana Temple, Govindaji Temple, Gopinatha Temple and Jugal Kishore Temple located next to the Ghats.
Kesi Ghat is considered the place where Lord Krishna killed the Demon Kesi who tried to harm him in the form of a Gigantic Horse. After slaying this demon, Lord Krishna took a bath in this Ghata and hence it is considered sacred amongst devotees and ritual baths are taken before the Aarti of Yamuna Devi is preformed every evening.
Rangji Temple is a popular South Indian Temple built in 1851 by an extremely wealthy Seth Family of Mathura. It is dedicated to Lord Sri Ranga Natha or 'Ranga Ji' who is a form of Lord Vishnu lying on a Celestial Serpent. It is built with traditional south Indian Gateways enclosed by high walls and hence, is known as one of the Largest Temples in Vrindavan.
The Dwarka Deesh Temple
The Dwarka Deesh Temple was constructed in 1814 that lies in the heart of the town on the eastern side and near the Yamuna River. It is the most visited Temple in Mathura that is managed by the followers of Shri Vallabh Acharya due to extremely high activity in the Temple.