This is Braj Bhumi the land where Lord Krishna was born and
spent his youth. Mathura and Vrindavan are still alive with the
Krishna legend, and still sway in fascination to the tune of his
flute. Mathura, otherwise a dusty hamlet on the bank of the river
Yamuna, was transformed into a place of light after Krishna was
born here. And Vrindavan stands apart in Indian mythology as the
place where Krishna spent most of his childhood, serenading his
gopis one moment, and slaying demons the next.
Visit the area in August, and you'll see Krishna fever at its
peak, as countless Vaishnava pilgrims gather to relive the birth
of the blue-skinned god. Romance, legend, even controversy (over
Krishna's actual birthplace)
these two cities have enough
to last lesser locales for an eternity.
Mathura and Vrindavan History
The earliest known records of Mathura's existence date back to
more than 2500 years ago, even before Alexander's time. The Buddha
founded monasteries here, in what the Greeks later called Madoura
ton Theon (Mathura of the Gods). The city first witnessed glory
as the home of the Indo-Bactrian Kushans, and especially during
the reign of Kanishka, who came to the throne in 78 AD.
Buddhism played an integral role in Mathura's growth, and the
Buddhist monasteries in the city received patronage from Emperor
Ashoka, and mention from Ptolemy and those Chinese travellers
Fahien (who visited between 401 and 410 AD) and Xuan Zhang (between
634-662 AD). Fahien reported that the city's 20 monasteries were
home to 3,000 Buddhist monks. By Xuan Zhang's time, the number
of inmates had dwindled to 2,000. Clearly, Buddhism in the region
was on its way out.
Indeed, its death knell was sounded by Mahmud of Ghazni, who
arrived from Afghanistan in 1017 to ravage the city's Hindu and
Buddhist shrines. In 1500, Sikander Lodi continued where Ghazni
had left off, and not much later, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb
razed the Kesava Deo temple, built on the site of an important
Buddhist monastery, and installed a mosque in its place. The Afghan
Ahmad Shah Abdali completed the carnage by torching Mathura in
Mathura is 141 km southwest of Delhi, 58 km northwest of Agra,
and 218 km from Jaipur. Situated in Uttar Pradesh, it forms the
nucleus of Brajbhoomi, or the land of Krishna. Vrindavan is situated
approximately 11 km north of Mathura on the banks of the river
Yamuna. Though originally revered as a tirtha or holy crossing
place on the Yamuna, the town has slowly been separated from the
river, and now 33 of its 38 ghats are without water.
How to Reach
The nearest airport is Kheria (Agra), which is about 62 km away.
Delhi airport is 155 km away.
Mathura is on the main lines of both the Cental and Western Railways,
and is connected with most of the important cities as well as
the rest of the country, such as Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, Jaipur,
Gwalior, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Chennai, Lucknow etc. The city's
principal railway station is about 4 km from Holi Gate and the
Mathura is connected to all major cities via the National Highways.
It is also serviced by the regular bus services of Uttar Pradesh,
Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana.
Mathura has two bus stands. The Old Bus stand located near Holi
Gate has hourly buses to Agra and also links Mathura to Govardhan
(25 west). The New Bus Stand is used to get to and from Delhi,
Jaipur, Bharatpur and Deeg, and also for some Agra services.
Vrindavan is connected to Mathura and other places in Uttar Pradesh
and the rest of the country by rail and bus services, and is directly
linked by road to Agra. You can take a bus from Mathura to Vrindavan,
or share a taxi or tempo (About Rs 70 per head; one-way).
Sights To Visit
The Shri Krishna Janmasthan Temple
This site marks the spot of Lord Krishna's appearance. The original
temple, the Kesava Deo temple, was plundered by Aurangzeb and
replaced by a mosque. Communal tensions are still high, which
means that security is tight. Visitors must make an entry of all
their belongings (bags, cameras etc) at the cloakroom, pass through
a metal detector, and be frisked. Amongst the souvenir shops inside
you will find several small shrines. The main shrine, of course,
is inconspicuous; a small, dimly lit replica of the prison cell
where He was born while King Kamsa held his parents captive. The
temple is open between 6am and noon, and between 3 pm and 8 pm.
Barbed wire and armed guards separate the temple from the mosque
lying alongside. The nearby sandstone stepped tank known as Potara
Kund is revered as the place where the infant Krishna's nappies
were once washed.
The Jama Masjid
This is Mathura's main mosque. It was built by Abd-un Nabir Khan
in 1661. A colourful edifice on a plinth raised above street level,
its teal domes add to the picturesque setting of Mathura's bazaar
and fruit market. It may have lost its original glazed tiles,
but it has retained its four minarets and assorted outer pavilions.
A good view of the goings-on in the dusty temple town.
The Government Museum
The rich treasures excavated by Cunningham, Growse and others
form the highlight of this museum. Founded by the then district
collector of Mathura Mr F S Growse in 1874, the original museum
was housed in a beautifully carved and imposing stone building.
However in 1930 they were shifted from there to their present
The Museum houses by far the most significant collection from
the Mathura school of sculpture (3rd century BC 12th century
AD, and representative of the early Indian, Indo-Scythian and
visiting Hellenistic cultures) which reached its pinnacle under
the Kushana and Gupta emperors. It contains some excellent specimens
of the mottled red sandstone sculpture for which the region is
noted. The star attractions: two immaculately preserved Buddha
statues from the 4th and 5th centuries. There is also a rather
informative library with books on a large variety of topics. The
museum is open every day except Monday between 10 am and 5 pm.
Admission is free, but you'll have to pay a fee of Rs 20 if you
wish to use your camera inside. Some galleries have been temporarily
closed for renovation, but they will soon be functional.
This temple dedicated to Lord Krishna was built in 1814 by Seth
Gokuldas Parekh, the then treasurer of the princely state of Gwalior,
and is the main place of worship for the city's Hindus. Its rich
interiors are shown off to advantage when the late afternoon sun
shines through its wire-mesh roof. The temple is open daily between
6 am and 12 pm, and 3.30 pm and 9 pm.
Of the 25 ghats in Mathura, Vishram Ghat is the most important.
It is here that the traditional parikrama (a circumbulation of
all the important religious and cultural places in a city) of
the Mathura ghats begins and ends. This is where Lord Krishna
is said to have rested after killing the evil king Kamsa. Hire
a boat for a float on the river for Rs 20; you are likely to spot
a turtle or two. There is an aarti in the morning at 4:45 am during
the summer (5:15 am during winters) and in the evenings at 7:00
pm (winter) and 7:30 pm (summer).
A four-storeyed tower built by the son of Behari Mal of Jaipur
in 1570 in remembrance of his mother's supreme sacrifice: sati
or self-immolation at the funeral pyre of her husband. Aurangzeb
razed the upper storeys, but they were promptly rebuilt.
This once-splendid-now-ruined fort was constructed by Raja Man
Singh of Amber. It was rebuilt by Emperor Akbar and Jai Singh
of Jaipur set up an observatory here, but it has since disappeared.
Govind Dev Temple (Vrindavan)
This bulky red sandstone edifice, built by Raja Man Singh of Amber
in 1590, is easily the most imposing structure in Vrindavan. Its
name means divine cowherd, or, in other words, Lord Krishna. Architecturally
one of the most significant Hindu temples in North India. Originally
seven storeys high, but Aurangzeb knocked off the top four floors.
You can admire its ornate mandapa, with open balconies on two
floors, and elaborate columns. The mouldings and sculpture avoid
depicting any human form.
Rangaji (Sri Ranganatha) Temple (Vrindavan)
Dates back to 1851. A bizarre melange of architectural styles:
a Rajput entrance gate, a south Indian gopuram, an Italian-style
colonnade. You might just pause at the entrance to take in the
two electronic puppet shows depicting scenes from the Ramayana
and the Mahabharata. Non-Hindus are not permitted into the central
enclosure, which has a 15 m gold-plated pillar. Open daily 6 to
11 am and 4 to 9 pm in summer (6 to 12 pm and 3 to 9 pm in winter).
Banke Bihari Temple (Vrindavan)
Much younger than its other holy cousins, the Banke Bihari temple
is nevertheless Vrindavan's most popular one, and renowned for
the floral decorations that adorn its deity. Watch a proper darshan,
where the anxious waiting of fervent worshippers is rewarded by
a momentary glimpse of their God. Stalls in the lane leading up
to the temple dish out delicious lassis in bhands (unfired clay
vessels). Open daily 9 am to 12 pm and 7 am to 12 pm in summer
(10 am to 1 pm and 6 to 9 pm in winter). On Janmashtami, a mangala
aarti takes place at this temple at 4 pm. On all festive occasions,
there's an hour-long special darshan at the temple.
Gita Mandir (Vrindavan)
This relatively new temple was built by one of India's premier
industrial clans, the Birlas. It houses the Gita stambh, a pillar
with the entire Bhagwad Gita displayed on its surface. However,
it is completely overshadowed by the presence of the outrageously-designed
Pagal Baba Mandir just down the road.
Madan Mohan Temple (Vrindavan)
Built by Kapur Ram Das of Multan, and closely associated with
the saint Chaitanya, this is the oldest existing temple in Vrindavan
today. The original idol of Lord Madan Mohan was moved to Karauli
in Rajasthan during Aurangzeb's rule. Today, its replica is worshipped
within the temple here.
Jaipur Temple (Vrindavan)
Richly adorned, and very opulent. Its fine-carved sandstone exterior
was made possible by a grant from Sawai Madhav Singh, Maharaja
of Jaipur, in 1917. It is dedicated to Shri Radha Madhav.
Shahji Temple (Vrindavan)
Designed and built in 1876 by Shah Kundan Lal, a Lucknowi jeweller.
Acclaimed for its fine architecture and beautiful marble sculpture,
the temple has twelve 15-ft spiral columns. The darbar hall, known
as Basanti Kamra, boasts of Belgian glass chandeliers and numerous
Shri Krishna-Balram Temple (Vrindavan)
This is the work of the International Society for Shri Krishna
Consciousness ISKCON. Its principal deities are Shri Krishna-Balram
and Shri Radha-Shyam Sundar. Next to the temple is the white marble
samadhi of Shri Prabhupada, the founder of the ISKCON sect.
Mirabai Ashram (Vrindavan)
There are several widow houses in Vrindavan maintained
by affluent devotees that provide sustenance for these unfortunates
who look upon Lord Krishna as their only solace. Two thousand
of them gather at the Mirabhai ashram twice a day, and their collective
chorus as they chant bhajans can be a moving moment.
Seva Kunj (Vrindavan)
This is where Lord Krishna once performed the ras-lila with Radha-Rani
and the gopis. The samadhi of Swami Haridas also lies here.
Kesi Ghat (Vrindavan)
This is the place where Lord Krishna is said to have killed the
Kesi demon who appeared in the form of a gigantic horse. He then
took His bath in this very same ghat. This is also very famous
bathing place in Vrindavana. An aarti to Yamuna Devi is held here
Other places of interest include the Sriji Temple, the Jugal
Kishore temple, Lal Babu Temple, Kaliya Ghat, Varaha Ghat, Imli
Tal and Chira Ghat.
Your Itinerary for Mathura / Vrindavan
(DELHI-MATHURA-VRINDAVAN-DELHI (6 DAYS))
Day 01: Arrive Delhi-Transfer
to Hotel Imperial or similar. After lunch, half-day tour of Delhi,
visiting Laxmi Narayan Temple. Hanuman Mandir, Gauri Shankar Mandir,
India Gate and Chhattarpur Mandir. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 02: Delhi/Mathura (147kms/2.5
hrs) - After breakfast, depart by car/coach for Mathura -
city associated with the most revered of Hindu Gods - lord Krishna,
which is sacred for being the birth place of lord Krishna. The
surroundings 'Braj Bhoomi' is where lord Krishna is supposed to
have grown up. On arrival, check-in at Hotel Madhuban or similar.
After lunch, visit Vrindavan, where lord Krishna spent his childhood
days. played the flute sporting with the Gopis and where Radhika
pined for her lover. Visit the Govind Dev Temple - built in 1590
and a testimony to the architectural splendor of medieval India.
We proceed to Rangaji Temple - Vrindavan's longest temple constructed
in 1851 with a 50ft tall 'Dhwaja Stambha', believed to be gold-plated.
Continue to Madan Mohan Temple situated near Kail Chat, Glass
Temple and the Bankey Bihari Temple - one of the oldest temples
built in 1921. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 03: Mathura/Gokui/Mahavan/Goverdhan/Mathura
- After breakfast, carrying packed lunch drive by car/coach
to Gokul - where Nand Gopal was sheltered in Yashoda Maiya's home
in secrecy to escape the wrath of tyrant Kansa. Also visit Gokul
Nath Ji Temple. Proceed to Mahavan - believed to have cradled
Lord Krishna. Visit 'Assi Khambha', the tennple dedicated to Mathura
Nath Ji. Continue to Goverdhan - where lord Krishna held aloft
'Giriraj'. the sandstone hill on his finger for seven days and
nights to protect the people of Braj from the wrath of rain and
thunder sent by Indrs. Return to Mathura for dinner and overnight
Day 04: Mathura/Nand Gaon/Barsana/Mathura-
After breakfast, visit Nand Goon - the house of lord Krishna's
foster father Nand, in whose memory stands the 19th century temple.
A little beyond is Pan Sarovar - one of the four most celebrated
takes in Braj. Continue to Barsana - the birth place of Radha
- with temples in reverence of Ladliji (Radha). Also visit the
water tank 'Prem Sarovar', the first meeting place of Radha-Krishna.
Return to Mathura for dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 05: Mathura/Agra/Delhi -
After breakfast, drive to Agra 157kms/1.5hrs). lunch and city
tour visiting the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the Tomb of ltmad-Ud-Daullah.
Proceed to Delhi (203kms/5hrs). On arrival check-in and overnight
at Hotel Imperial or similar.
Day 06: Delhi/Back Home - After
breakfast, transfer to airport for flight to onward journey/bock