Mathuras is special. Not because it sells
delectable sweets or because it serves the best milk, but because it
is one land that finds mention both in mythology and history. In
both, it retains the same dignity and proximity with the divine.
Mathura lives up to
legends and about 20 kilometres before you reach the land where
Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is believed to have
been born, there is a marked increase in the cattle on the roads! The
cosmic cowherds home is coming, they seem to say, for mythology says
Lord Krishna spent his youth as a cowherds son.
The story goes that the
holy town of Mathura, on the banks of the river Yamuna was ruled by a
king called Ugrasena. One day Ugrasena and his wife were taking a
walk in the gardens where a demon saw the queen and feel in love with
her. In his lust for her he diverted the attention of Ugrasena,
assumed his form himself and the child born to the queen of this
union was Kamsa. Kamsa grew up to dethrone his father and imprison
his cousin Devaki. Devaki was the mother of Krishna.
It so happened that on
day, later in time, when Kamsa was driving his newly married cousin
and her husband Vasudev, to their new home, a voice from the heavens
intercepted him. You are driving the mother of your killer
said the voice and also told him that the eighth child of Devaki
would kill Kamsa. Kamsas anger knew no bounds and as he pulled
the sword from its scabbard, Vasudev begged him to be a little
patient. We will give you our eight children, do not kill us,
he entreated. Kamsa thought this was a good alternative to
committing this murder and so threw the couple into prison. Year
after year, he killed their seven children. The eighth was Lord
Krishna, believed to be born on this land of Mathura.
Thunder roared and the
skies darkened at midnight as this child was born. The brilliance of
the new born child illuminated the dark night. Under guidance from
the heavens, locked doors opened for Vasudeva as he went to the
nearby city of Brindaban, carrying the babe. Here he exchanged the
babe with a girl born to a cowherds wife, called Yasoda.
Today, alongside the Jama
Masjid stands a small temple: the prison where the incarnation of
Vishnu, the protector was born. The story of His birth is told in
pictures and words on the walls of this prison room. A narrow set of
marble steps lead you to the terrace through a walled corridor,
creating the effect of a prison. The original prison, it is said was
razed to the ground in the 17th century.
Up on the terrace, there
is a large marble wall, where devotees say they see many forms of
Krishna and Radha (his consort). It is true. As you stand back and
adjust you eyes with a little piety and a little distance for
light-shadow effect, the grains of the marble present various shadows
before your eyes. The local lore is that this slab of marble was
chosen for installation here because of these visible dancing
All around the temple
complex are shops. The speciality of Mathura are the mud, clay and
papier mache works. Exquisite animal figures and human figures, even
scenes from mythological texts are available here.
Mathura has many ghats or
river banks which are also associated with mythology. Vishram ghat
is one of them. Go there as you can see Mathura spilling into the
river Yamuna, just as you can see an old fort across the shore, which
you are told is Kamsas fort.
Pilgrimage in Mathura has
to be selective. I found that in every6 house if there are two
rooms, one is a temple! Some myth or legend surrounds it and there
you are, on a never-ending tour of the land of Krishna. So much so
that you even believe you will meet him somewhere around the corner!
Mathura is not just a
land of temples, it has been a great centre of Buddhism. The Mathura
museum has one of the oldest Bodhisatvas. Mathura claims to have
produced the first images of Buddha.
Normally Mathura is said
in the same breath as Brindavan. Actually Brindavan is a few miles
off Mathura. A Ranganathan temple popularly known as the Rangji
temple is a beautiful complex. If you have time, stay overnight
here. A South Indian from Tiruvalliputtur is said to have built this
and one can see the difference in construction and presentation.
There are two main entrances to the temple. One to the east and one
to the west. Consisting of five rectangular enclosures, the sanctum
stands under a multi-towered façade. Each façade
houses various forms of the Lord. Once again every corner is replete
with mythological references.
The Banke Bihari temple
is the hub of activity, just a little distance off. The deity is
said to be very powerful and as the messy underfoot leads you into
the temple complex, vision of the fun-loving Krishna comes alive when
the paunchy priests start singing.
Brindavan is actually the
seat of Iskon activity. The temple is magnificent and sprawling. The
Hare Rama, Hare Krishna chant infectious.
The search for a new
meaning, the search for further elaborations of the truth and such
philosophical urges, conscious or sub-conscious are the ones that
prompt a pilgrimage. God Himself is believed by all to be
omnipotent. Whey then are some places considered so holy and from
aeons have attracted people from far and wide? Mathura has the
The nearest airport is at
Agra, which is 58 kilometres from Mathura.
By Rail:Mathura is a major
junction where many south and west bound trains and a few north and
west bound trains halt.
Uttar Pradesh Roadways
buses ply every half an hour between Delhi and Mathura Semi-deluxe
buses of U.P. Roadways are also available.
WHERE TO STAY
U.P. Tourism Guest House
ISKCON Guest House Krishna Janambhoomi International Guest House
Hotel Govardhan Hotel Madhuban Sri Rangji Temple Guest House
lodging facilities free of cost.
WHERE TO EAT
Fresh and light meals for
Rs. 6/- per thali are available at the International Guest House
Restaurant. Good milk and milk products are available everywhere in
Mathura is a famous for
stone and clay idols of various kinds. A special sweet-meat called
pera is very famous.
Buses ply from Mathura
Bus Terminal to all nearby places at an interval of 30 minutes to two