A long line of picturesque ghats – with their steps leading to the water’s edge, arched gateways and temple spires extending along the right bank of the River Yamuna, emphasis the sacred character of the town of Mathura. The birth place of Lord Krishna, “the best known, best loved and most complex of Lord Vishnu’s manifestations” – Mathura is today an important place of pilgrimage. The city stretches along the right bank of the Yamuna and the continuous line of ghats along the river makes a splendid spectacle when viewed from the opposite bank.
The city of Mathura, in Uttar Pradesh, the nucleus of Brajbhoomi, is located at a distances of 145 km south- east of Delhi and 58 km north-west of Agra. Covering an area of about 3,800 sq. km. today, Brajbhoomi can be divided into two distinct units – the eastern part in the trans-Yamuna tract with places like Gokul, Mahavan, Baldeo, Mat and Bajna and the western side of the Yamuna covering the Mathura region that encompasses Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Barsana and Nandgaon.
Today, Mathura is a city of temples and shrines abustle with the thousands of devotees who come to visit the city of Lord Krishna. A splendid temple at the Katra Keshav Dev marks the spot that is believed to be the Shri Krishna Janmasthan – the birthplace of the Lord, by his devotees. Another beautiful shrine, the Gita Mandir, located on the Mathura -Vrindavan Road has a fine image of Shri Krishna in its sanctum. The whole of the Bhagwad Gita is inscribed on the walls of this temple.
The most popular shrine at Mathura is the Dwarikadhish Temple to the north of the town, dedicated to Shri Krishna. This was built in 1815 by a staunch and wealthy devotee, Seth Gokuldas Parikh, Treasurer of the State of Gwalior.
There are about 25 ghats in Mathura today, of which the most important is the Vishram Ghat. Where according to legend, Shri Krishna took his rest after killing Kansa.
The aarti held at the Vishram Ghat each evening is not to be missed, for the little oil lamps that are floated on the river set the placid water as sparkle with a myriad flickering lights.
No pilgrimage to Mathura is complete without a visit to its kunds. Tradition has it that there were 159 ancient kunds in all. Of these only four survive and can be seen. There is the elegant shiv Tal, the more famous Potara Kund associated closely with Lord Krishna besides the Balbhadra and Saraswati kunds
General Information :
Area : 3,780 sq. km. (Mathura District)
Population (urban) : 4,55,251 (1991 census)
Altitude : 187 metres
Climate : Summer – 45.00°C Max. – 22.0°C Min, Winter – 32.0°C Max – 14.0°C Min, Rainfall – 65 cms (June to September)
Clothing : Summer – Cottons, Winter – Light woollens
Languages : Hindi, Brajbhasha and English
Air : Nearest airport is Kheria (Agra), 62 km.
Rail : Mathura is on the main lines of the Central and Western Railways and is connected with all the important cities of the state and country such as Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, Jaipur, Gwalior, Calcutta, Hydrabad, Chennai, Lucknow etc.
Road : Mathura is connected to all the major cities, by National Highways. It is linked by the regular state bus services of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana.
SIGHT SEEING & EXCURSION :
Braj Parikrama – The Rainy month of Bhadon, the month when the Lord Krishna was born, is a time of colourful celebrations. The famous Braj Parikrama – a pilgrimage of all the places in Braj that associated with Shri Krishna, is undertaken. Traditionally, the Chaurasi kos (84 kos) pilgrimage of Braj Mandal, with its 12 vanas (forests). 24 upvanas (groves), sacred hill Govardhan, divine River Yamuna and numerous holy places along its banks, is undertaken annually by lakhs of devotees from all over the country.
The Yatra extends to Kotban to the north of Mathura, to Nandgaon, Barsana and the Govardhan Hill to the west and South-west of the city and to the a banks of the Yamuna to the east, where the Baldeo Temple is located. Colourful melas and performances of the Raaslila (a depiction of the exploits of Shri Krishna) are distinctive to this festive period.
Gokul – The most celebrated of Shri Krishna’s abode, Gokul lies to the west of Sadabad, 1.6 km from Mahavan and 15 km south-east of Mathura, on the Mathura – Etah metalled road. It was here that Lord Krishna was brought up in secrecy by Yashoda, in the pastoral beauty of this village on the banks of the Yamuna.
The celebration of Janmashtami in August is unparalleled for its gaiety and melas are constant attraction here. Other festivities celebrated with traditional fervour include the Janmotsav in Bhadon, the Annakut festival and Trinavat Mela held on the fourth day of the dark half of Kartik month.
Important sites worth visiting in Gokul include the Gokulnath Temple, Raja Thakur Temple, Gopal Lalji Temple and the Morwala Temple.
Mahavan – Around 18 km from Mathura, lying on the left bank of the River Yamuna, is the large shrine of Mathuranath. It is famed for its Chaurasi Khambha (eighty four pillars). The palace of Rohini, the mother of Baldeo is now the Chhathi-Palana Temple. Other important shrines include, the Shymlalji Temple, the Yogmaya Temple, Tranairatri Temple and the Mahamall Rai Ji’s palace.
Baldeo – Baldeo is 20 km south-east of Mathura and 8.5 km south – east of Mahavan on the road to Sadabad. It derives its name from the famous temple dedicated to Balram, the elder brother of Lord Krishna. It was built by Shyam Das of Delhi 200 years ago. The main image in the sanctum is that the Baldeo or Balram with his spouse Revati. Near by is the brick lined tank, the Khir Sagar or Balbhadra Kund, from where the original image housed in the temple was found.
Govardhan – Govardhan is situated 26 km west of Mathura on the state highway to Deeg. A famous place of Hindu pilgrimage, Govardhan is located on a narrow sandstone hill known as Giriraj which is about 8 km in length. The young Lord Krishna is said to have held Giriraj up on the tip of a finger for 7 days and nights to shield the people of Braj from the deluge of rain sent down by Lord Indra.
Barsana – Barsana, 50 km to the north-west of Mathura and 19 km north-west of Govardhan, is situated at the foot of a hill that is named after Brahma. Barsana was once the home of Radha-Rani, Krishna’s beloved and consort.
Temples dedicated to the divine couple ornament the four elevations of the hill. The main among them is the Radha-Rani Temple, more fondly referred to as the Ladliji Temple. The most beautiful temple at Barsana, it was built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo of Orchha in 1675. The new marble temple adjoining it is a later addition. The other three shrines are the Man Mandir, Dargah and Mor-Kutir temples. The area between the hill housing the Radha-Rani Temple and the adjoining one, is known as the Sankari-Khor. This is the venue of the annual fair held in the month of Bhadon (July-August).
The birth anniversary of Radha-Rani is celebrated on the ninth day of the bright half of Bhadrapad (July-August) at the Mor-Kutir Temple which was built about 300 years ago. Women celebrate the occasion by giving laddus to the peacocks – to symbolize the serving of sweets by Radha to Lord Krishna.
Barsana is also famous for its ‘Latthmar’ Holi-celebration of the festival of colour that is unique to this town.
Nandgoan – Nadgaon lies 8.5 km north of Barsana on the metalled road to Mathura (56 km). According to tradition, it was the home of Shri Krishna’s foster father, Nand. On the top of the hill is the spacious temple of Nand Rai, built by the Jat ruler Roop Singh. The other temples here are dedicated to Narsingha, Gophinath, Nritya Gopal, Girdhari, Nand Nandan and Yashoda Nandan which is located half way up the hill. A little beyond is the Pan Sarovar, a large lake with masonry ghats along its sides. Legend has it, that this was the place where Shri Krishna used to take his cows for water. Not far away is the Kadamb grove called Udhoji – Ka- Kyar.
Radhakund – Just 5 km north of Govardhan and 26 km west of Mathura, Radhakund is a large lake, where Shri Krishna is said to have killed Arista – the bull demon. To commemorate this event, every year on the 8th day of the dark half of the month of Kartik (Oct./Nov.), a large fair is held here.
Vrindavan – Vrindavan is another religious centre. Its temples, some dating back to the 14th Century, have attracted many religious scholars. Vrindavan, 15 km north of Mathura, means forests of Brinda (basil plant). It is a famous place for Krishna is believed to have supported here with Gopis (milk maids). The impressive Govind Deo Divine Cowherd, i.e. Lord Krishna, Temple dating back to 1590 AD is one of the finest temples of northern India.
Agra – Agra is the essentially the city of Taj, Immortal love between Emperor Shahjahan and Mumtaj Begum in whose memory it stands gloriously in India and one of the best monument of the immortal Taj Mahal.