In Hinduism, Mathura is birthplace of the god Krishna, which is located at the Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex.
Mathura is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. It is the traditional birthplace of the god Krishna (Krishna Janmabhoomi) and the primary site of pilgrimage for the annual celebration of Janmashtami. The construction of a new temple, adjacent to the mosque, was completed on the site in 1965. Calls for the mosque to be removed altogether became a source of communal tension in the 2020s.
Several colleges and the Government Museum, Mathura (established 1874; formerly the Curzon Museum of Archaeology), are located in the city. There are a large number of temples in and around the city as well as ghats, or bathing stairs, along the river.
Mathura has been an active pivot of Brahmanism, Jainism and Buddhism for several decades. The ‘Braj’ culture that is reflected through various customs prevalent in Mathura involves a number of traditional practices such as Sanjhee and Rasiya.
Raaslila; the dance form originally supposed to have performed by Lord Krishna along with Devi Radha and the Gopikas of Gokul on the banks of the river Yamuna has now become an integral part of Indian Folklore. The Raaslila dance has been popular in Braj for past several centuries. According to the prevailing custom, only young Brahmin boys of the age of 13 to 14 years are allowed to perform the Raaslila.
The chief language spoken in Mathura is Hindi but what bring variation are its distinct dialects exclusive to the Braj province. The Hindi spoken in Mathura is known as ‘Brajbhasha’ which also used to be the principal language of the literature and poetry produced here until Hindi took over. Mathura is renowned for the brass and copperware items such as jewelry, jewel cases, caskets, Sindoor pots, plates, jars, lamps, hanging lamps, Peacock Deep, Shiv Trishul, vases, other decorative items, and so on.
Mathura has also been a home to the ‘Mathura School of Art’ for past 1200 years, the great school of sculpture making. During the governance of the Kushan and Gupta kings, the art of Mathura reached to its peak. During the Kushan rule in 1st and 2nd century AD two schools of sculptural art evolved; the Gandhara and the Mathura. The Gandhara School of Art is about combining the foreign techniques of art with ethnic Indian ideas whereas the Mathura School of Art entirely stuck to the Indian ethos.
Places to visit in Mathura
1. Shri Krishna Janmasthan Temple
It is located in the holy city of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. It is built around the prison cell in which Lord Krishna’s parents, Mata Devaki and Vasudeva were imprisoned by his evil uncle Kansa. The temple is of great significance for the Hindus as it is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
Besides the prison cell, there are other temples located within the Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex dedicated to the deity. On entering the temple, the divine ambience and its purity fill the heart with conviction that this indeed is the place where Lord Krishna manifested himself. Destroyed multiple times by many kings, it was finally built by financial help from industrialists. A visit to the Krishna Janmasthan Temple becomes more pleasing at the time of festivals like Janmashtami, Basant Panchami, Holi and Deepavali which are celebrated with great fervour.
2. Dwarkadheesh Temple
The Dwarkadhish temple is currently managed by the followers of Vaishnava sect (started by Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya) and is a centre for lots of interesting activities all year round especially during the Shravan months when the Lord’s Idol is placed inside a Hindola a (type of a swing set). Other important festivals celebrated are Holi, Diwali and Janmashtami.
Situated within the perimeter of the city’s holy gate, near the ghats of River Yamuna, the temple and its surroundings are a hub of a lot of interesting activities. Thousands of devotees arrive here every day to pay their obeisance.
3. Birla Mandir
Located on the Vrindavan – Mathura Road is the famous Birla Mandir, also popularly known as Gita Mandir. It is a prominent Hindu pilgrimage site dedicated to Lord Lakshmi Narayan – an avatar of Vishnu. The architecture of the temple speaks of its magnificence and the exquisite carvings and paintings of its grandeur.
This large temple is built of red sandstone and is considered as a product of skilled craftsmanship. The marble walls hold paintings of gods and goddesses. The entire area of Gita Mandir is maintained well to serve a serene ambience to the pilgrims.
4. Govardhan Hill
It has been stated in the Holy Bhagwat Gita that according to Lord Krishna, Govardhan Parvat is not different from him. Therefore, all his worshipers worship the pure rocks of the hill just like they worship his idol. The hill is made up of sandstone and stands 80 ft tall with a circumference of 38 km. Some interesting places one gets to visit the hills including Mansi Ganga, Mukharvind, and Daan Ghati.
History says that Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill during his childhood on one finger to save his village of Mathura from fierce rains and thunderstorm. This hill is thereby consider holy and is visited by worship on Guru Purnima, Govardhan Puja in devotion by walking 23 km barefoot around the mountain. After Lord Krishna had saved his village, he told everyone to worship the hill which is why Govardhan Puja is a day after Diwali. It is a serene place, and definitely, a must visit!
The name of Govardhan Hill has two interpretations. ‘Gau’ (Go) is the Hindi word for the holy cow, and ‘Vardhan’ is the shelter where cows are kept. The cows then give birth in the shed which is cover with grass to eat, water to drink and a place to rest.
5. Radha Kund
Situated near Govardhan Hill in the small town in Mathura is one of the holiest places in Braja – the Radha Kund and Shyam Kund. The two holy water tanks lying next to each other are considered to be the supreme of all holy places, containing pure and sacred water, also known to contain magical properties to heal for conception.
The origin of Radha Kund Town dates back to the days of Radha and Krishna and stands as an epitome of their love and happily spent times. The tourists visiting Radha Kund are mostly pilgrims visiting to pay homage to their sacred love for Lord Krishna and his consort Radha and also to take a dip in the pond at the midnight, as per the customs. One can also spot many foreigners taking a dip in the Radha Kund.
The significance of Radha Kund is because of the legendary history of the small town. Legends have it that Lord Krishna killed the bull demon in Radha Kund and Radha, his consort told him to wash off his sin by taking a dip in the various holy rivers. He laughed it off and struck his feet on the ground where the rivers emerged and formed up a kunda or pond. Krishna, in order to please Radha bathed in the waters. The Kund was named as the Krishna Kund.