Mathura is one of the seven holiest pilgrim cities for Hindus. Located in the northwestern side of Uttar Pradesh, on the west bank of river Yamuna sharing a border with neighboring cities like Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana and Govardhan, Mathura is sacred to the heart of millions of Hindus as it is the birth place of their cherished and beloved god – Lord Krishna. It finds its mention in the old mythical legend of Ramayana in which it states that the Ikshwaku Prince Shatrughana slays the demon Lavanasura to claim Mathura as his kingdom to rule. In those days, the land was known as Madhuvan since it was surrounded by dense woods, later the named changed to Mathura.
The legends of Krishna and Mathura are told even today. Although the most famous one is about Lord Krishna’s birth. At the time, Kansa had overthrown his father as the ruler of Mathura. King Kansa’s sister Devaki married Vasudev; then a prophecy was made by celestial bodies that the evil King Kansa would be killed by Devaki’s son. Knowing this Kansa jailed both Vasudev and Devaki in underground prison. Over time Devaki gave birth to seven children who were all mercilessly killed by Kansa, however the eighth child escaped and came to be known and loved by all as Lord Krishna. When he grew up Lord Krishna came back to Mathura to free the people of Mathura from the evil hands of Kansa by killing him. Today, the Keshav Dev Temple stands tall above the ground marking the holy birth place of Lord Krishna.
Being one of the prime pilgrim places, there are few temples one must visit, one of which is the famous Dwarkadesh Temple. It was built by Seth Gokul Das, a treasurer of Gwalior, in 1814. The temple has narrations of Lord Krishna’s life depicted through their delicate stone carvings. Vishram Ghat is another site which bears epic importance. It is said that Lord Krishna rested here after killing King Kansa. The morning and evening aarti at this ghat is said to render moksha to our souls and our ancestors as well. Small oil lit diyas are set floating on the placid river water while devotees pray, creating a mesmerizing view at night. Other places like Radha Kund, Gita Mandir and Jami Masjid will submerge your mind in devotion to Lord. Mathura Museum is also one of the places to visit for a history enthusiast.
One can experience the devotion and love for Lord Krishna and his affection for Radha and other Gopis in the air that Mathura breathes. The city is covered in a maze of temples, holy sites and ghats. People joyously carry-on the tradition by narrating folklores through their songs and dance about Lord Krishna’s life and his mischiefs as a young child. They are also known as Braj-mandal or Brajwasi. Witnessing few festival celebrations like Holi and Janamastami in Mathura are once-in-a-lifetime experience. Wandering down the narrow by-lanes of Mathura you cannot help but feel peaceful with the chants of ‘Radhe Radhe’ ringing in your ears.