Mathura, the most ancient of Hindu cities overflows with devotees who come to pay obeisance to Lord Krishna’s birthplace. In this hot and dusty town, pilgrims jostle with priests; incense mingles with smells of sweat and grime; crowds fill the narrow streets and shops spill onto the pavement. Yet this does not prove to be a deterrent to the thousands of visitors who come to this holiest of cities every year. In Mathura, you cannot escape the mystical and spiritual aura that this place weaves around you. In this popular pilgrimage destination amidst the hymns, chants and songs your spiritual self feels complete.
How to Reach Mathura?
By Air : The nearest airport is Kheria in Mathura (62 kms.) and is connected to Delhi, Khajuraho and Varanasi. From there, one can hire a taxi or take a bus to Mathura.
By Rail : Mathura has good railway connections with all major cities. Trains come from Mathura, Delhi and Lucknow in the north, Jaipur, Gwalior and Mumbai in the west, Calcutta in the east and Hyderabad and Chennai down south.
By Road : There are regular bus services to and from Mathura, Delhi, Jaipur, Bharatpur and Deeg. One can drive to Mathura from any of these cities.
Best Time to Visit Mathura
Weather conditions in Mathura are the best between November and March. However, major festivals, like the birth of Krishna and the birth of Radha fall in the month of August. This is the auspicious time for undertaking the chaurasi kos parikrama (circumambulation) or Ban Yatra around the holy sites in Braj Bhumi.
Things to do in Mathura
The birth place of Krishna, Mathura is filled with things to do related with Krishna the playful and eminently loveable god. From visiting the temples, to thronging the crowded ghats and witnessing the aarti being performed on the riverfront – tjhere’s plenty to do here. Make trip to Vrindavan in the vicinity or the village of Gokul where Krishna spent his growing up years – the whole are is devoted to Krishna and it will surely be a worthwhile trip for the followers of the god.
Before you go back home, be sure to buy some of the famous Mathura peda!
Places Near Mathura
The places near Mathura include Vrindavan, which is 10 kms away and is known as Mathura's twin city. It too is an important part of the Krishna legend and is the seat of ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. There are many important temples in Vrindavan and if you've come to Mathura, chances are that you will be visiting Vrindavan too.
Gokul is the town where Krishna is said to have grown up and it lies across the river from Mathura. The village is approached by a flight of steps from the river. According to legend, Krishna revealed his divinity to his foster mother Yashoda here. When she reprimanded him for eating mud and forced him to open his mouth, she saw the entire universe inside it. The headquarters of the Vallabhacharya sect of Hinduism are located in Gokul. Mahaban or 'the great forest' is about 9 kms from Mathura. The most prominent structure here is the house of Krishna’s foster father, the Nanda Krishna palace. The original building was destroyed by Aurangzeb and rebuilt as a mosque. However, it was reclaimed by Hindus, and pilgrims congregate here for prayers during Janamashtami, the day that marks the birth of Krishna.
The Govardhan hill lies 26 kms west of Mathura on the highway leading to Deeg. Krishna was said to have balanced this hill on his little finger for seven days and seven nights to give protection to the people of Braj from a deluge brought about by the fury of Indra, the lord of thunder. Pilgrims go around this hill on foot as a form of prayer. Govardhan sits next to the Mansi Ganga, a tank built in 1637 by Raja Bhagwan Das of Amber. Close to this are the temple of Haridev and the Kusum sarovar (lake). Next to it are carved chhatris or cenotaphs of the kings of Bharatpur. Particularly striking is the chhatri of Raja Surajmal. The ceilings have colourful frescoes illustrating the life of Surajmal, hunting scenes and royal processions.
Other interesting nearby places is Nandgaon that is 56 kms from Mathura, and is well known for being Lord Krishna’s village. And 50 kms from Mathura is Barsana , the village of Radha, his consort. Both the villages are at the base of hills with steps leading up to clusters of temples. They are believed to have been originally dedicated to Brahma and Shiva and at a later date to have been appropiated by the Krishna myth. The temples in Barsana include the Radha Rani temple or “Ladliji” temple, as Radha was lovingly called in her village. In the Mor-kutir, built some 300 years ago, women celebrate the birth of Radha by feeding sweets to peacocks (mor). In Nandgaon the main temple of Nand Rai was built in the 18th century. A little way further, there are ponds and Kadamb groves where Krishna is said to have played his bewitching flute while the cows grazed. There are tourist bungalows run by the state tourism department at Gokul, Radha Kund 5 kms from Govardhan, and at Barsana. They have restaurants, and though services are very basic, they are located in quieter surroundings than any hotel in Mathura.
Hotels in Mathura – Choice is Yours
There are numerous hotels in Mathura ranging from 3-star, 4-star and 5-star deluxe to budget hotels.