The Dwarkadhish Temple in Mathura was built in 1814 by Seth Gokul Das Parikh, who was a treasurer of the Gwalior Estate. The temple is close to the Vishram Ghat, one of the most prominent ghats on the banks of the city. Lord Krishna was often referred to as Dwarkadhish or King of Dwarka and so the name of the temple. Nowadays, the temple is administered by the Vallabhacharya sect.
The main shrine houses the idols of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha. Then temple also enshrines idols of other gods and goddesses. The interiors flaunt magnificent works of art, carvings and paintings.
The temple welcomes thousands of visitors daily and many more during festive occasions, especially during Janmashtami, or the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, which falls in August/September. It is also locally known for its annual swing festival which takes place at the end of every Shravan month, which marks the beginning of the rainy season.
The famous Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple or Krishna Janmasthan is one of India’s most sacred places of worship for the Hindus. Within the temple complex, there is a small prison like structure, and it is believed that the lord was born here. The temple is believed to have been built by Raja Vir Singh Bundela of Orchha, in the reign of Jahangir.
However, going back further, there is another version that has it that the first temple here was constructed almost 5000 years ago by the great-grandson of Lord Krishna. In its heyday, it was said that its glory could not be described in words or paintings. The original temple was, however, destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1017 AD along with several other temples and Buddhist monuments.
The temple has undergone several architectural changes over the years. The present day complex is a representation of typical Hindu style architecture. During the reign of Aurangzeb, a magnificent mosque was built next to the temple in an attempt to deflect attention from it.
Rangbhoomi is located opposite the main city post office. It is a place of historic significance and worship. Legend has it that the site was the wrestling arena where Lord Krishna fought a duel with his maternal uncle, Kansa. Lord Krishna won the duel, freed his parents from his hold, and reinstated his maternal grandfather to the throne. Legend has it that Kansa had imprisoned Devaki (his sister) and her husband after it was forecast that their seventh son would bring about his downfall and death.
Mathura was also an important centre for Buddhism. The Rangbhoomi is surrounded by several Buddhist style structures that were built during the Mauryan period. With the decline of the Mauryan dynasty, the significance of Buddhism also declined and gradually Hinduism took centre stage.
Although Mathura is known for its ancient sites and religious places of worship, Gita Mandir is a more recent addition, built by one of the leading industrial families of the country, the Birla Family.
The Gita Mandir has walls inscribed with teachings and original texts from the Hindu holy book – the Bhagavad Gita. It is a beautiful structure with exquisite carvings of the prime Hindu gods and goddesses.
Tourists flock to the site to offer prayers and worship the various Hindu deities. The exquisite paintings and architecture pay tribute to the original Hindu culture, tradition and style of the past.
The temple is open every day of the week. On auspicious occasions like Holi or Janmashtami, special prayers are held and the temple is beautifully decorated and lit up.
Kans Qila is located on the banks of the Yamuna river. Though the old fort presently lies in ruins, in its heyday, it was the home of the demon, Kansa, the maternal uncle of Lord Krishna.
The fort is built over a large area and has highly fortified walls. The structure reflects a beautiful blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural styles. This is because the fort passed through several hands during its journey. It is said that Raja Man Singh of Amber renovated the fort in the 16th century while Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur built an observatory there. However, there is no sign of the observatory now.
Rangeshwar Mahadev Temple is a beautifully carved stone structure dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in the southern part of the city of Mathura. The temple reflects simple Hindu style architecture with carvings and paintings on the walls.
It is one of the few temples in the city that is dedicated to Lord Shiva, given that Mathura was the birthplace of Lord Krishna and all religious activities are more focussed on him.
Mathura is considered to be one of India’s holiest destinations. It is home to a remarkable number of ancient temples that attract hordes of visitors throughout the year. One such temple is the Potara Kund.
Potara Kund denotes holy gate. The gate-like structure is built of sandstone in old Hindu style of architecture. The complex is surrounded by beautifully constructed temples and shrines dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses.
It is said that the Potara Kund is built on the spot where Lord Krishna’s mother washed his clothes. The step-like structure is a scenic location where pilgrims, priests and tourists often sit and offer prayers.
For many visitors, India is a spiritual destination. Mathura, being one of the holiest of Hindu cities, attracts its share of visitors who seek peace and enlightenment. Many visitors converge to the Jai Gurudev Ashram, founded and named after the great swami Jai Gurudev. The ashram is a well-maintained facility that caters to people in search of spiritual salvation.
Bhuteshwar Mahadev Temple, like the Rangeshwar Mahadev Temple, is also dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is one of the oldest in India. Pilgrims visit the shrine to offer prayers on auspicious occasions, such as Shivratri.
It is one of the few sites dedicated to Lord Shiva in a city where most temples are dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is supposed to have been born here.
Located on the Mathura-Agra Road, Sri Keshavji Gaudiya Math is a well-known place for darshan. The math is named after the presiding deity of Mathura, the supreme lord of lords, Sri Krishna. Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja was appointed to propagate the tradition of pure bhakti to the Hindi-speaking population of North India.
Apart from the Hindus, the math attracts a fair share of foreign visitors who come here to seek bliss, enlightenment and understand the teachings of Lord Krishna as envisaged in the holy Bhagavad Gita.
Mathura Museum is located in the heart of the city. It houses some of ancient India’s oldest relics and statues. Some of these treasures date back to as early as the 3rd century BC.
The museum is an imposing structure built of buff stone. All the archaeological findings unearthed in and around Mathura are displayed here. This collection is considered to be important because it includes scriptures, fragments and stone statues across every Indian faith and religion.
The museum attracts several historians who come here and see the displays and understand more about religion and ancient India. The artefacts here also highlight the diversity of the Indian culture.
Before Hinduism took centre stage in Mathura, the town was a thriving centre for Buddhism and Jainism. Although most monasteries and temples were later destroyed by the Mughal rulers, some still stand and attract pilgrims year-round. Mathura Chaurasi is a Jain temple and is one of the few places of worship in Mathura which is dedicated to Jain culture and faith. This sacred site is located near a forest and the Yamuna river.
The temple has colourful paintings and inscriptions on the walls, a feature typical of Jain culture and art. The temple is built across a wide rectangular expanse of land and has two dharamshalas with sixty rooms each. These rooms are well equipped to cater to the accommodation needs of visitors.
Vishram Ghat is the most popular of all ghats in Mathura. This particular ghat is believed to be the spot where Lord Krishna rested after defeating Kansa.
The city’s most popular shrines are located in and around Vishram Ghat. The aarti held during the mornings and evenings presents a mesmerising sight. Devotees throng the site from across the country to pay homage to Lord Krishna and offer sweets and prayers.
Vishram Ghat has been damaged and rebuilt several times over the years. In the days of yore, the site was severely damaged and practically destroyed during invasions. During the time of Sikandar Lodi, two Vaishnavite saints took it upon themselves to repair the ghat.
Naam Yog Sadhna Mandir was built for Swami Jai Gurudev, who runs a charitable trust and preaches a simple way of life wherein people adopt vegetarianism and practise to rise above vices, such as lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego.
The domes and elegant pillars of the mandir are typical of Hindu architecture.
The temple is famous for its yearly Bhandara festival, where food is cooked and distributed amongst the pilgrims and the poor. The mandir runs a trust that works for the upliftment of the needy and provides free medical aid. The trust also runs a school for the marginalised section of the society. No fees are charged for these services.
Apart from the temples, Mathura is also known for its vast expanse of ghats. The city literally stretches along the banks of the Yamuna river. The ghats are actually long, stone steps reaching the water of the river Ganges. The river is integral to Hindu belief, and it is said that a dip in its sacred waters purifies the body and dissolves the sins. These ghats are the centre of all religious ceremonies and activities. Visit any of the ghats in Mathura and you will see hordes of pilgrims taking a purifying dip. In the mornings and evenings, special aartis are held.
The ghats along the banks of the river house some of the city’s main ashrams, shrines and temples. The most famous of these twenty-five ghats is the Vishram Ghat, which is revered as the site where Lord Krishna rested after defeating his maternal uncle, Kansa.