|Facts and Figures|
|Area||38,000 sq km|
|Languages||Hindi and Braj|
|Best time to visit||Winters|
BIRTHPLACE OF LORD KRISHNA
Mathura (or Brajbhoomi) is famous as the birthplace of Lord Krishna, an important deity in the Hindu religious pantheon. It is an important pilgrim place of the Hindus and one of the seven sacred cities in India. The main pilgrim center in Mathura is the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple. Mathura is also an important craft center.
The city of Mathura is located in the western part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, in the northern region of India. It is a part of the great northern plains and is situated on the west bank of the river Yamuna. Mathura is 141 km south of Delhi and 47 km northwest of Agra. The climate of Mathura is extreme and tropical. Summers are extremely hot and winters are cold and foggy. It experiences southwestern monsoon rains from July to September.
The best time to visit Mathura is during winter, between the months of October and March.
The origin of Mathura is ancient. It is said to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna, the popular incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Mathura and the area around it, including Vrindavan, are linked with the childhood exploits of Lord Krishna. It is mentioned in the ancient Indian epic of Mahabharata. It later became a part of the Mauryan Empire. King Ashok, the great Mauryan ruler, built a number of Buddhist monuments in and around Mathura in the third century bc. Between first century bc and first century ad, Mathura was the center for arts. The sculpture making and stone carving styles of this period are referred to as belonging to the Mathura School of Art. The main theme of these sculptures was inspired by the life of Lord Buddha. The decline of Buddhism in this region following the decline of the Mauryan Empire saw the rise of Hindu influence. However, in the 11th century ad, Mahmud Ghazni destroyed a large number of Buddhist and Hindu shrines. In the 15th century, Sikandar Lodhi, one of the Sultans from Delhi, continued the pillage of this city. The last great Mughal ruler and a fanatic Muslim, Aurangzeb flattened the Kesava Deo temple and a built a mosque here. The Afghani marauder Ahmed Shah Abdali dealt the final blow in 1757, when he torched the city. It came under British rule in 1804.
The Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi (birthplace of Lord Krishna) is the main attraction of Mathura and an important pilgrim place of the Hindus. A stone slab marks the original spot of the birth of Lord Krishna. The earlier Kesava Deo temple had the room where Lord Krishna was born. According to legend, Lord Krishna was born in a small prison room where the tyrant ruler Kansa held his parents captive.
The Archeological Museum of Mathura is an important place to visit. It houses an excellent collection of sculptures belonging to the ancient Mathura school of art. The Vishram Ghat, on river Yamuna, is another place to visit in Mathura. It is said that Lord Krishna had killed the tyrant Kansa here.
The Sati Burj, Kans Qila, Jama Masjid and Dwarkadheesh temple are other places to see in Mathura.
Vrindavan is 10 km from Mathura and it is associated with the childhood exploits of Lord Krishna. Like Mathura, Vrindavan is also famous for its temples. There are about 4,000 temples in Vrindavan. The main temples are Govind Dev Temple, Rangaji temple, Bankey Bihari temple, Radha Ballabh temple, Madan Mohan temple, Pagal Baba temple and the Nidhi Van temple.
Gokul is 16 km south of Mathura. It is said that Lord Krishna was secretly raised here.
Mahaban is 18 km southeast of Mathura. Lord Krishna is believed to have spent his youth here.
Barsana, 50 km northwest of Mathura, is worth visiting as it is the birthplace of Lord Krishna’s consort Radha. The Holi festival of Barsana is unique. The Barsana women attack men from Nandgaon with wooden sticks, when they try to put color on these women.
Govardhan is 25 km west of Mathura. Legend has it that Lord Krishna had protected the local people from the wrath of the rain God Indra by holding up a hill on one finger.
Agra is 47 km southeast of Mathura. It was the one-time capital of the Mughal rulers and is known for the Taj. It also has a number of monuments belonging to the Mughals.
HOW TO REACH
The new bus stand is located near Hotel Mansarovar Palace. Bus service from Mathura to Delhi (3½ hours) and Agra (1½ hour) is very good. The old bus stand no longer serves local destinations, but there a few buses to Agra. Mathura railway station is located south of the new bus stand. Mathura is well connected by train with Agra (1 hour), Bharatpur, Sawai Madhopur and Kota. The Taj Express runs daily between Matura to Delhi (2½ hours).
Travelers can make use of auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws to move around the city. Tempos ply back and forth on the 10-km stretch between Mathura and Vrindavan. One can also take auto-rickshaw to Vrindavan from Mathura.
PLACES TO STAY
Accommodation in Mathura ranges from guesthouses to high-end hotels. Hotel Mansarovar Palace, Hotel Madhuvan and Hotel Radha Ashok (3 km from the city on the Delhi road) are the only top-end hotels in Mathura.
PLACES TO EAT
Although, Mathura does not offer any special cuisine, the sweet-toothed tourist can try the popular local sweetmeat pedhe made of milk.
The tourist office (Ph: 1913) is located at the old bus stand. Guided tours depart from this bus stand. It is important to note that many temples are closed between 11 am and 4 pm.