He is easily the most popular person here. Every square foot of Mathura-Vrindavan is wrapped in timeless devotion to Lord Krishna, the evergreen hero of Hinduism, the lover of Radha, the cowherd-prince and the re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Mathura without Lord Krishna is like Bethlehem without Christ. Welcome to Brajbhoomi or Krishna-land.
Brajbhoomi - The city of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, the nucleus of Brajbhoomi, is located at a distance of 145 km southeast of Delhi and 58 km north-west of Agra. Covering an area of about 3,800 sq. km., today, Brajbhoomi can be divided into two distinct units - the eastern part in the Trans-Yamuna tract with places like Gokul, Mahavan, Baldeo, Mat and Bajna and the western side of the Yamuna covering the Mathura region that encompasses Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Barsana and Nandgaon. In a nutshell, the land of Braj starts from Kotban near Hodel about 95 km from Delhi and ends at Runakuta which is known specially for its association with the poet Surdas, an ardent Krishna devotee.
An Ancient City -
An ancient city, Mathura's strategic location at the cross roads of various trade routes - that went westwards to West Asia and the Roman Empire; northwards, via Taxila, Pushkalavati and Purushapur to Central Asia and the Silk Route and eastwards to China - ensured its position as a centre of trade and a meeting point for varied cultures. By the 5th century BC, during the time of Buddha, it was a major metropolis and the capital of the Surasena Kingdom. Mathura saw its `golden age' during the rule of the Kushanas and the able governance of rulers Kanishka, Huvishka, and Vasishka, when the arts flourished and economic wealth grew. It remained a centre of power during the Mauryan period, through the enlightened rule of Emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC) to the Gupta era (4th century AD).
Holy Land -
It has often been said that it is easier to count the number of dust particles on the surface of the earth than to count the number of holy places in Mathura. Each of the Ghats, for instance, has its own Krishna myth. Here He rested after killing his evil and tyrannical uncle, King Kansa; this is where His mother tied him after he stole butter; this is the sacred grove where Krishna and Radha spent lazy, love-filled times - the list is endless. In Mathura-Vrindavan, it is difficult to know the dividing line between reality and myth.
A Divine Career -
Lord Krishna was born in a prison cell in Mathura. His father Vasudev aided by several celestial forces stole him out of Mathura, across the raging river Yamuna and into the house of Nand in Gokul. Krishna spent his early childhood here and revealed the first signs of his divinity. His uncle Kansa's murderous attempts forced Krishna to leave Gokul and move to Nandgaon, a more secure home high up on a hill. From here, the adolescent Krishna, the cowherd, would wander into the Vrindavan forests to play with his friends and dally with Radha, his ladylove. Vrindavan, is still a transcendental world, a place of Krishna's leela, (play), of deep eroticism and an archetypal connection to nature. Each tree in the area speaks, as it were, of the love of the divine couple.
PLACES OF WORSHIP MATHURA – VRINDAVAN
Dwarkadish temple -
Built in 1814 in the center of the town, it is the most visited temple in Mathura. Followers of Vallabhacharya manage this temple. Located in the eastern part of Mathura, not far from the Yamuna River, it is architecturally interesting: the temple carving and paintings are major attractions. The temple is a hub of activity during the festive days of Holi, Janmashtami and Diwali.
Banke-Bihari temple -
Built in 1864, it is one of Vrindavana's most popular temples and famous all over India. Swami Haridasa discovered the Deity of Banke-bihari in Nidhuvana. A contemporary of the six Gosvamis, Swami Haridasa known for his devotional bhajanas, was the guru of the famous musician Tansen.
Mathura Krishna Balrama Mandir -
Built by the International Society for Shri Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), it is one of the most beautiful temples in Vrindavan. The principal deities of this temple are Krishna, his brother Balram and Radha (Krishna's consort.) Adjoining the temple is the samadhi of Shri Prabhupada, the founder of the ISKCON sect, built in pure white marble. Hare Krishna devotees from all around the world flock here, bringing a truly international flavor to this ancient holy city.
Radha Madana-Mohana temple -
This famous temple was established by Srila Sanatana Gosvami and was the first temple to be built in Vrindavan, which at that time was just a forest. The soldiers of the fanatical Muslim Emperor, Aurangzeb, took the original Deity of Madana-Mohana to Karauli in Rajasthan for safety during the attack on Vrindavan
Jaipur temple -
One of Vrindavan's most opulent temples, it was built by the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Madhav, in 1917 after 30 years of labour. The fine hand-carved sandstone is of unparalleled workmanship, the huge pillars that hold up the roof are each carved from one solid rock, and the intricately fashioned marble on the altar is reminiscent of the Mughal period. The Maharaja financed the railway line that connects Vrindavana with Mathura, just for the purpose of hauling the huge pieces of sandstone used in the temple construction. The deities worshipped here are Sri Radha-Madhava, Ananda-bihari and Hansa-gopala.
Radha Vallabha temple -
Another very popular temple of Vrindavan which was founded by Harivamsa Gosvami, who started the Radha Vallabha sect emphasizing devotion to Radharani. In this temple, there is no deity of Radharani, but a crown has been placed next to Krishna to signify her presence. The Muslims destroyed the original temple of Radha Vallabha in 1670 and a new temple was built beside the old one.
Seva Kunja -
The Seva Kunj is where Lord Krishna once performed the Raaslila with Radha-Rani decorating her hair with flowers and her lotus feet. Radha and Krishna would sometimes spend the night here, dancing with the gopis and enjoying transcendental pastimes. There is also a small temple dedicated to Radha and Krishna's pastimes called Rang Mahal.
Radha Damodara temple -
This is one of the most important temples in Vrindavan. The original deity was hand carved by Rupa Gosvami and given as a gift to his beloved disciple, Jiva Gosvami, who later built a temple here. Formerly this spot was in the middle of Seva-kunja and it was the bhajana ( where he sang devotional songs ) place of Rupa Gosvami.
Radharamana temple -
This is the famous temple of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Radharamana means "one who gives pleasure to Radha", and is one of the many names of Lord Krishna. The wooden sitting place (hoki) and shawl (chaddar) or Lord Chaitanya, that He gave as a gift to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami is kept in this temple
Jugal Kisore temple -
This is one of the oldest temple of Vrindavana and was completed in 1627. After Emperor Akbar's visit to Vridavan in the year 1570, he gave permission for four temples to be built by the Gaudya Vaisnavas, which were Madana-mohana, Govindaji, Gopinatha and Jugal Kisore. It is sometimes called the Kesi ghata temple, as it is located next to this ghata
Kesi Ghat -
This is the place where Lord Krishna killed the Kesi demon that appeared in the form of a gigantic horse and then took His bath in this very same ghata. This is also very famous bathing place in Vrindavan. An arati (prayer with lamps) to Yamuna Devi is held here every evening
Rangji temple -
This South Indian style temple was built by the wealthy Seth family of Mathura in the year 1851, and is dedicated to Lord Ranganatha or Rangaji, a form of Lord Vishnu lying down on the Sesa Naga (celestial serpent). This temple has a traditional South Indian gateway and is surrounded by high walls. It is one of Vrindavan's largest temples. Once a year a grand car festival (Ratha Yatra) is held known as Brahmotsava, during the month of Chait (March - April), a festival that lasts for 10 days.
Shahji Temple, another popular temple at Vrindavan, was designed and built in 1876 by a wealthy jeweller, Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow. The deities at the temple are popularly known as the Chhote Radha Raman. Noted for its magnificent architecture and beautiful marble sculpture, the temple has twelve spiral columns each 15 feet high. The `Basanti Kamra' - the darbar hall is famed for its Belgian glass chandeliers and fine paintings.
Jain tirth -
Nearly 30 cms. long, light - almond - colored, wooden sandals of Jambuswamaji. Tirth is at a distance of four kilometers from Mathura. This tirth (pilgrimage) belongs to the times of Bhagawan Suparshvanth
Among the new temples springing up along the Mathura-Vrindavan road is the Gita Mandir which houses the Gita Stambh, a pillar with the entire Bhagavad Gita carved on its surface. The imposing temple, built by one of the country's leading industrial families, the Birlas, is overshadowed by the outrageous multistoried, spaceship-like edifice known as the Pagal Baba Mandir just down the road.
Jami Masjid, on a plinth raised above street level a little way north, was completed in 1661 by Aurangzeb's governor Abd-un-Nabi. It has long since lost its original vivid glazed tiles, but remains surrounded by four minarets and assorted outer pavilions.
round 500m west, stands another of Aurangzeb's mosques, the impressive red sandstone Katra Masjid. This was erected on the foundations of the once-famous Kesava Deo temple, destroyed by the Moghul emperor, which had itself been built on the ruins of a Buddhist monastery. Some traces of the Hindu temple can be seen around the back, where the Shri Krishna Janamsthan or Janambhoomi complex now stands. Directly behind the mosque, approached through a corridor, a shrine marks Krishna's exact birthplace (janamsthan); its cage-like surround signifies that he was born in captivity, when his parents were prisoners of the tyrant king Kamsa. Inside the adjacent Bhagwat Bhavan - a modern, towering, flamboyant great hulk also known as Gita Mandir - a garishly painted ceiling depicts scenes from Krishna's life. No cameras are allowed into the complex, where although the shops and shrines combine to produce a park-like atmosphere.