On the western bank of holy river Yamuna is located a small town “mathura”, which is reputed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna, re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The city of Mathura, nucleas of brijbhumi is located at a distance of 145 km southeast of Delhi and 58 km from northwest of Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Mathura is one of the seven most sacred cities in India and is one of the important pilgrim places of the Hindus. Being one of the most ancient of Hindu cities, Mathura is always overflowed with devotees of Lord Krishna. Even for the casual tourists the monuments and temples are worth watching because of the idyllic environment they are set. The city of Mathura is part of Agra Sub circuit of the Golden Triangle of India i.e. Agra-Delhi-Jaipur circuit. The city is an excellent day trip from Agra while one is on the tour of golden triangle and is a perfect destination for those interested in religious heritage of India.
HISTORY AND LEGENDS
Mathura is one of the few cities of India, which has been mentioned both in history and mythology. On the mythological front, since Mathura is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna so it is full of stories of Lord Krishna.
In the Dwapara Yuga, Shri Krishna was born as the eighth son of the Yadava prince Vasudeva and his wife Devaki, cousin sister of Kansa who was the ruler of Mathura. Kansa had heard a voice in the sky telling him that the eighth child of Devaki would kill him. Fearing his death he imprisoned Devaki and Vasudeva and killed their seven children. To save the eighth child from the murderous intentions of his maternal uncle, the infant Krishna soon after birth was spirited to Gokul. Krishna grew up in Vrindavan to kill Kansa.
Historically the earliest refernce of Mathura are some 2,500 years old and has a long chequered history. Budha is believed to have visited the city and established monasteries here. Under the Kushan Empire, Mathura became powerful and saw its ‘golden age’. During the Mauryan period also it remained the center of power. Later Mathura fell to the sword of invading armies. With Mahmud Ghazni in 1017, Sikandar Lodi in 1500 and the Mughal emperor Auranzeb, Mathura was plundered and many of the religious sites were destroyed. Later in order to revive the Krishna legend, the hindu rulers, chieftains and rich merchants built various structures, temples and riverfront ghats.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN MATHURA
Most of the tourist attractions in Mathura are linked to the Hindu mythology. Though it is equally important to the budhists, Jains and the pashupatis(disciple of Lord shiva) but Krishna legends overwhelm them all. Most of Mathura’s sites are primarily related to the Krishna legends.
Shree Krishan Janambhumi
Shree Krishan Janambhumi- the birthplace of lord Krishna is one of the most important landmarks of Mathura. The Janambhumi complex marks the birthplace of Lord Krishna. At the entry of the compound a narrow passage leads into a small room. On the left side there is a raised platform adorned with beautiful pictures of the child Krishna. On the walls, the stories of his birth are written and illustrated. Creating the effect of a prison, a narrow set of marble steps leads to the walled corridor and the terrace.
At the backdrop of the Janambhumi complex is the Jama Masjid built in 1661 by Abo-in-Nabir-Khan. The mosque has four lofty minarets and looks majestic.
It is one of the most sacred riverfront-bathing ghat for the hindus. After slaying the ruthless Kansa his maternal uncle, it is believed that Lord Krishna took vishram(rest) here
Built by the treaurer of Gwalior state in 1815, is also one of the most important landmark of Mathura. It is beautifully decorated during festive days of holi, Janamashtmi and Diwali
One of the must visit while one is on the visit to Mathura, is Rangbhumi. It is located opposite to the post office of Mathura. Rangbhumi was the wrestling arena where Lord Krishna killed Kansa, his maternal uncle and relieved his parents from the prison.
Geeta Mandir is a decorated modern temple. The carvings and paintings on the life of Krishna are very beautiful. On the walls of the temple the entire of Bhagwad geeta(a holy hindu text) is inscribed
Govardhan hill is just half an hour drive from Mathura. It is formed in the shape of a peacock. Govardha parvat(hill) is prayed as girirajji. A parikrama (going around the hill) is a sacred ritual performed by the devotees and is approximately a 24-mile parikrama. The day after deepawali is celebrated as Govardhan puja.
MATHURA’S ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Mathura is not just home to temples but is also a great centre of Budhism. The archeological museum is located at Dampier Park and one of the finest collections of archeological interest. The British built it in 1874 and it houses the rare items from the gupta and Kushan period. Standing Budha is one of the most famous exhibits here. It houses sculptures from the Mathura school and also pottery, terracotta and bronze figures and coins
FESTIVALS AND CULTURE OF MATHURA
Mathura is famous for Krishna legend and his tales. The major festival of Mathura is thus Janamashtmi- birthday of Lord Krishna and Radhashtami-birthday of Radha, the love interest of Krishna. Janamashtmi is celebrated at mid night, at mid night the idol of child Krishna is bathed and placed in a beautiful ornamented cradle. The whole of mathura city is beautifully decorated with flowers. Many people make pilgrimage to Mathura On Janamashtmi.
Holi, the festival of colors, is also one of the major festival attractions of Mathura. It is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of fagun(feb-march). The festival of colors is celebrated for several days before holi with colored powder, water and flowers. ‘Lathmaar holi’- beating with the sticks, is the highlight of this festival. Holi is one of the major tourist attractions.
Sanjhee is the art of decorating the floor with flowers and the legend behind it is that in order to please Radha, Krishna decorated the floor with flowers one evening and since then it is known as sanjhee.
Raaslila is the musical drama on the charming childhood pranks of Shri Krishna. The present form of Raaslila is ascribed to Swami Haridas and Shri Narayan Bhatt. The history of Raaslila goes back to the Bhagwad purana, which has mentions that Lord Krishna performed raas with the gopis on the banks of river yamuna at vrindavan. It is believed that the gopis in agony of seperation from lord Krishna recalled and enacted lilas(divine episodes of Krishna’s life) which in course of time came to be known as Raaslila. Raaslila is now performed in Mathura by young boys of 13 to 14 years of age.
Mathura is famous for its mouth-watering sweets, especially milk based sweets like ‘Rabri’. In Mathura because of the vaishnavite tradition of food, vegetarian food is served. Near the janambhumi complex there are famous sweet shops.