MATHURA VRINDAVAN TOURISM GUIDE:
Map: Mathura Vrindavan Tourism, Uttar Pradesh, India
Location: Right Bank River Alaknanda
Altitude: 3,133 mt. Above Sea-Level
Dedicated To: Lord Vishnu
Built In: 8th Century A.D
ABOUT MATHURA AND VRINDAVAN:
Lord Krishna: He is easily the most popular person here. Every square foot of Mathura-Vrindavan is wrapped intimeless 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 south-east 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.
Vrindavan: The City Of Temples – Vrindavan, around 15 km from Mathura, is a major place of pilgrimage, on the banks of Yamuna . Attracting about 5 lakhs pilgrims every year, it is noted for its numerous temples- both old and modern. Vrindavan is synonymous with the innocent mirth and child like playfulness of Shri Krishna. Vrindavan, the dusty little town known for the temples, big and small, famous and remote strewn all over the place.
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 muderous 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 lady love. 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.
TOURIST INFORMATIONS ON MATHURA AND VRINDAVAN:
PLACES OF WORSHIP MATHURA – VRINDAVAN
Dwarkadish Temple: Built in 1814 in the center of the town, it is the most visited temple in Mathura. This temple is managed by followers of Vallabhacharya. 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. The Deity of Banke-bihari was discovered in Nidhuvana by Swami Haridasa. 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 flavour 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 original Deity of Madana-mohana was taken to Karauli in Rajasthan for safety during the attack on Vrindavan by the soldiers of the fanatical Muslim Emperor, Aurangzeb.
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 Sri Radha-Madhava, Ananda-bihari and Hansa-gopala. mp tourism, tourism of mp, mp tourism guide, mp tourist guide
Radha Vallabha Temple: Another very popular temple of Vrindavan whih 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 original temple of Radha Vallabha was destroyed by the Muslims 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 Ghata: This is the place where Lord Krishna killed the Kesi demon who 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 multistoreyed, 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. Around 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,
MONUMENTS OF MATHURA – VRINDAVAN:
Kusuma Sarovara: is a 460-feet-long lake with the platforms going out 60 feet into the water. A 25-minute walk from Radha Kunda, it is the best swimming spot in Braja. Legend has it that the gopis would pick flowers from here for Krishna. After going to Radha Kunda one can spend a relaxing hour here. It is a peaceful place, which not many people visit.The ghatas at this kunda were built by Jawahir Singh around 1764.
Manasi Ganga Kunda: is traditionally the starting and the end point of the circumambulation of Govardhana Hill. In the Mathura-Mahatmya it is recommended that one bathe in Manasi Ganga and then take darshan of Hrideva. This kunda is considered a million times more potent than the Ganges River, because by bathing in the Ganges River one gets liberation and by bathing here one achieves “Krishna prema,” love of Krishna.
25 Tirthas (Ghats): There are 25 holy tirthas (bathing places or ghatas) in Mathura. Visram Ghata is in the middle and there are 12 more south of Visrama Ghata and 12 ghatas north. Those in the south extend to Moksa Ghata. Some pilgrims take bath in all 25 tirthas before beginning Braja Mandala parikrama. Asi Ghata, Prayaga Ghata, Chakra Tirtha Ghata, Krishna Ganga, Dhruva Ghata and Visrama Ghata are still known by the same names.
Vrindavan Forest: It is the 12th forest of Braja Mandala and is considered the most auspicious. Covering an area of extends 57 km, It extends from the present city of Vrindavana to Nandagram and Varsana on one side and to Govardhana on the other. The favourite forest of Lord Krishna, was here that He would play His transcendental flute, thus calling all the beautiful gopis to come and enjoy the wonderful rasa-lila, the divine dance of love. The rasa-mandala (place of the rasa dance) has a parameter of 16 km (9 miles). It is a semicircle, with the Yamuna flowing on one side. Within this forest is Radha Kunda.
“In Braja the land is divided into various vanas (forests). The forests total twelve, and their extension is estimated to be 84 krosas (168 miles). Of these, the special forest known as Vrindavana is located from the present municipal city of Vrindavana to the village called Nandagram.” (Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 21.29 purport)
Lake Of Tears Or Mansarovar: is a rare wetland grove and bird sanctuary, roughly 5 acres in size, a few miles across the Yamuna River from Vrindavan. Local tradition has it that the lake was formed from the tears of Radha when she feared she had lost Krishna. A solitary image of her is worshipped in a small shrine beside the lake. An atmosphere of desolation among the surrounding aged bowers heightens the remote beauty of this place. Pilgrims throng here throughout the spring and autumn seasons. But the real visitors to Manasarovar are the birds. Crowds of waterfowl and heron, the Sarus Crane, a bird revered in Braj, visit this place.
Government Museum – The rich treasure of antiquarian values unearthed by Cunnigham, Growse, Fuhrer and others formed the nucleus of this museum.
SHOPPING IN MATHURA – VRINDAVAN
Marble & Alabaster products
Glass beads, bangles
Milk Based Sweets
Marble Work: Vrindavan is famous for marble and alabaster products. Some objects are embossed with semi-precious stones or synthetic gems.
Glass Bangles: Heading through the network of narrow streets that start from Vishram Ghat leads to a row of bangle shops in the Radha Dhiraj Bazaar. Mathura is noted for lovely glass beads, stringing glass and wooden beads in necklaces together with Rudraksha (sacred seeds associated with Lord Shiva) and Tulsi (basil) in a variety of interesting combinations.
Milk Based-Sweets: Mathura, the land of cows, is famed for its milk-based sweetmeats. A variety of mouth-watering savouries, especially ‘peda’ are a well-known specialty of the town.
Boat Rides: Boats for river excursions can be rented at the Vishram ghat.
FOOD AND CULTURE OF MATHURA AND VRINDAVAN:
In keeping with its divine links, Mathura-Vrindavan makes some of the finest butter and other milk products in the land. Lord Krishna was known as a makkhan-chor (butter-thief) merrily stealing butter by breaking pots of the gopis (milkmaids) on their way to the market. The people here are mostly vegetarians. Try the Mathura Ke Dubkiwale Aloo, a delightful potato curry delicately flavoured with asfoetida (hing) and coriander leaves, for an authentic taste of the local cuisine.
Music and Dance:
Sanjhee – is the art of decorating the ground with flowers. Legend has it that in order to please Radha (Krishna’s divine consort), Krishna decorated the floor with flowers one evening, and thereafter this art was known as Sanjhee.
Raaslila – is a dance festival of Krishna’s childhood. According to the Bhagwat Purana, Krishna and the gopis had danced the Raas on the banks of the Yamuna at Vrindavan. When the gopis felt conceited about Lord Krishna dancing with them, he disappeared from their midst. In the agony of separation from their beloved Krishna, the gopis enacted his lilas (divine episodes of his life) which in course of time came to be known as the Raaslilas. The Raaslila in its present form is ascribed to Swami Haridas and Shri Narayan Bhatt. Only young Brahmin boys of 13 to 14 years of age can perform the Raaslila. The charming childhood pranks of Shri Krishna constitute the main them of these dramas.
Charkula – In this traditional folk dance of Braj, a female dancer balances a column of lighted lamps over her head while dancing. The charkula, a tapered wooden column with four to five circular tiers has earthen lamps on each level. The number of lamps can range from 51 to 108 at times. The dancer with her face veiled, moves with swift, graceful movements while balancing the 40 to 50 kilogram charkula on her head. A dramatic dance that is visually attractive, it is performed on the Dooj of Holi, to the accompaniment of songs sung by the men.
Rasiya – This is the rich tradition of folk-songs that is found in the Braj area. Rasiya songs describe the love of the divine couple Radha and Krishna. It is an inseparable part of the Holi celebrations and all other festive occasions at Braj. The Rasiya is sung to the rhythm of huge drums, locally known as bumb.
About a half a century ago, celebrity artist Kanhai Chitrakar started a tradition of making gem-studded gold paintings at North Indian pilgrim city of Vrindavan. The artistic and cultural heritage of Vrindavan revolves around Radha and Krishna. Kanhai Chitrakar responded to this ethereal beckoning when he came here half a century ago and started the glittering tradition of gold paintings.
What charms connoisseurs the most, is the life-like expressions of the figures, the bhav or emotion that light up their faces. Together with the serene backgrounds, these paintings arouse spirituality. What’s more, these works are believed to emit an aura which bestow a sense of profound peace and tranquility. They are supposed to usher in good luck and prosperity to the family of the owner.
Language spoken : Hindi, English and Brajbhasha
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS IN MATHURA AND VRINDAVAN:
Janmashthami: Celebrations reach a height around midnight in all the temples on Lord Krishna’s birthday. The main celebrations are held at Mathura, his birthplace where at the temple his birth is symbolically re-enacted. At Vrindavan, colourful Raaslilas, song and dance drams depicting various phases of Krishna’s life are performed all day and night. Janmashthami comes a week after Raksha Bandhan during August-September.
Govardhana Puja: During Dwapara Yuga, Lord Krishna convinced the cowherd men to worship Govardhana, instead of doing a sacrifice to please Lord Indra, the king of heaven, who is in charge of the rains. Krishna told the cowherds that Govardhana Hill was a better benefactor as it supplied them with their daily needs. The tradition continues to this day since then and is known as Annakuta. In all the temples of Vrindavana, huge quantities of food are prepared in this ceremony and are distributed to general public.
Holi: is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna (Feb-March). Holi in Braja is celebrated for several days, at different places around Braja, before the actual day of Holi. People throw colored powdered dye and colored water on each other. This is joyfully celebrated in Braja, especially at Varsana, Nandagram and Dauji. In Varsana the festival includes colorful processions with music, song, dance, and some boisterous scenes around the temples. If you go to these festivals you should expect to be totally covered in dye and never to be able to use the clothes that you are wearing again, at least until next year’s festival. This is celebrated at the same time as Gaura Purnima.
At Nandagram: The day after the Holi festival at Varsana, Holi is celebrated in Nandagram. The gopas (men) from Varsana come to Nandagram to play Holi with the gopis (women) there. The flag of the Larily Lal Temple in Varsana is carried in an elaborate procession to Nandagram. At this time the residents of Nandagram attempt to capture the flag, but their attempts fail. are foiled. After this, women play Holi with bamboo staffs. This festival is celebrated on the tenth day (dasami) of the month of Phalguna (Feb-March).
At Phalen: Holi is celebrated from a different angle. On the full moon night in Feb/March a huge bonfire is lit. One of the local priests walks through the fire unscathed. One story about Holi is that Prahlada Maharaja refused to worship his father and wanted to worship his father’s enemy, Lord Vishnu instead. His father’s sister Holika, who was immune to fire, sat with the boy. Prahlada’s devotion was so great that Holika was burnt to death and Prahlada was unharmed. The Holi festival at Phalen re-enacts this event.
At Dauji (Baldeo): Holi is a wild affair. Women pour buckets of colored water on the men. The men are also thrashed with whips made of cloth, which has been torn apart from men’s clothing. The men cannot touch the bodies of the women or unveil their faces. From the roof of the temple, basketfuls of colored powder are emptied on participants and onlookers.
GETTING TO MATHURA – VRINDAVAN
Summer: 48 – 22 degrees Celsius
Winter: 26- 6 degrees Celsius
Rainfall: 65 Cms (June to September)
HOW TO REACH MATHURA AND VRINDAVAN:
By Road: Mathura is connected to all the major cities, either historical or religious, via the National Highways. It is linked by the regular state bus services of Uttar Pradesh , Madhya Pradesh , Rajasthan and Haryana .
By Bus: Mathura has two bus stands; the Old Bus Stand, near Holi Gate, has hourly connections to Agra and serves Govardhan, 25km west, while the New Bus Stand, to the west is used by Delhi and Jaipur buses as well as from Agra.
Vrindavan is connected to Mathura and all other places of interest in Braj by rail and bus services and is on direct road link from Delhi & Agra. Getting to Vrindavan from Mathura is straightforward; frequent buses, shared tempos, and taxis ply the route and three local trains leave Mathura Junction each day for the station in the south of Vrindavan .
By Rail: Mathura is on the main lines of the Central and Western Railways and is connected with all the important cities of the state and country such as Delhi, Agra , Mumbai , Jaipur, Gwalior , Kolkatta, Hyderabad, Chennai , Lucknow.
The city’s principal railway station, Mathura Junction, is around 4 km from Holi Gate and the old city. It’s on the main Delhi-Agra line, 2hr 30min from Delhi on the fast Taj Express #2179, and only 30 minutes short of Agra.
Mathura is also served by several Delhi-Mumbai trains such as the Punjab Mail #1038 via Agra and the super-fast August Kranti Rajdhani Express #2953 (daily except Wednesdays). Both Rajdhani and Pashchim Express #2925 stop at Sawai Madhopur (if you’re heading for the wildlife park of Ranthambore) and Kota.
Air: Nearest airport is Kheria (Agra), 62 km, as well as Delhi Airport which is 155 km away.