Mathura

Mathura

At a Glance
Population
4.42 lakhs
Area
3340 km2
Geo Location
North
Average Climate
34.7 °C
Best time to visit
Oct - Mar

Tourism in Mathura revolves around the places associated with Lord Shri Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Mathura, part of Braj Bhoomi and the place where Shri Krishna spent his childhood, is one of the pilgrimages of the Hindus. City of Mathura is located on the west bank of the river Yamuna that flows mainly undisturbed from Delhi to Agra. Rites on the Yamuna consist partly of launching lighted oil lamps on the river at dusk by the hundreds, a pretty sight. But like all religious places in India, Mathura is not without its paradoxes, the grotesque and the sublime lie cheek by jowl. Mathura is the birthplace of Krishna and it is revered as such by Hindu pilgrims. Their destination is a shrine in one part of the city known as Katra. There once stood a Hindu temple, destroyed by Aurangzeb who built a mosque on the site. But the basement of the temple remains and so does a sign proclaiming “Birthplace of Krishna”. The holiness of Mathura is all pervading — actually, it draws worshippers of Lord Vishnu in the same way that Benares draws the adorers of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. Just as the followers of Lord Shiva flock to the Ganges, pilgrims to Mathura are drawn to the Yamuna and, in particular, to the Vishram Ghat {ghat means a river terrace). It is here, tradition says, that Shri Krishna rested after slaying the tyrannical Kansa. Kansa was maternal uncle of Shri Krishna and in his jail / prison Lord Krishna was born.

Legend: It is impossible to conceive India without Krishna. Mathura and Vrindavan, belonging to the ancient Brij Bhoomi, are the places most intimately associated with Krishna’s childhood. Kansa, the tyrant prince who had usurped his father Ugrasen’s throne of Mathura, was forewarned of his doom: he was to meet his end at the hands of the eighth child to be born to his cousin, Devaki. Kansa killed Devaki’s children one after another, as soon as they were born and, before she was to be delivered of her eighth child, he interned her and her husband, Vasudeva, in the prison in his fort, guarded most vigilantly. However, when it was time for Shri Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, to be born, Yogamaya, the goddess who governs the phenomenal world through her power to create illusions, put all the people of Mathura to slumber. The doors of the fort flung open. Vasudeva carried the new-born son to the house of Nanda and exchanged it for the female-child that had just been born of Nanda’s wife, Yashoda. Only after Vasudeva returned to Devaki, the guards woke up. Kansa was informed that Devaki’s eighth child had been born. He snatched the baby and raised it high to bring it down on a slab of stone, but the baby slipped off his hands miraculously and disappeared, for she got Yogamaya herself. Krishna duly grew up. His charm and power soon made Kansa jealous of him. He made several attempts at killing him, but failed, and ultimately got killed himself. Krishna, while at the house of his foster-parents, had become immensely dear to the cowherd boys and the maids of Vrindavana. They were blessed souls born to enjoy the bliss of Lord Vishnu’s contact in the mortal world. While some of the incidents of Krishna’s life are factual, some are symbolic. The works detailing the episodes of his life are the Bhagavata Puran and the Mahabharata.

History: Mathura is one of the oldest cities of India. Its history has been traced back even before the days of the Maurya dynasty which ruled India from 325 to 184 B.C. This explains, of course, why its museum was able to accumulate the artistic wealth left behind by various dynasties that ruled the region. And this may also explain the flowering of Mathura sculpture which started in the first century A.D. and lasted for the startling period of 1,200 years even though it declined near the end when sculptors gave up religious Buddhist and Hindu subjets to turn their chisels onto more frivolous figures of full-bosomed dancing girls. Unfortunately, much of the grandeur of Mathura suffered the wrath of its conquerors and few Hindu monuments remain. For the unrushed traveler, Mathura can also be the starting point for a 60 km side trip westward to Deeg, home of the early 18th century palace built by Suraj Mal, a Jat leader. The Jats were the most industrious warriors of Agra and this palace contained a fair share of their grand victories. Marble pavilions rise up from the gardens of the palace grounds. Not far away stands a fort on Rup Sagar Lake which saw some hard fighting when the British conquered Northern India.

Importance: Systematic excavation being carried out at Mathura has established the fact that it is a city of great antiquity. Remains of human settlements belonging to several remote ages have come to light. Mathura is often vibrant with fairs and festivals in memory of Krishna when the folk music and dances of Brij come out in their richness. The Raslila and Holi at Mathura are famous. Krishna Janmasthan, ghats on Yamuna and temples of Vrindavana are prime tourist attractions in Mathura.

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