Mathura was once called Madhupuri. It is one of the oldest and most popular cities in India located on the banks of River Yamuna.
The origins of Mathura as mentioned in Padma Purana attribute it to Shatrughan – the youngest brother of Sri Ram of Ayodhya. He killed the Asura Lavanasura, who was the son of Asura Madhu who we meet in Devi Mahatmaya and created this place. This indicates that the place came into existence during Treta Yuga. In Dwapar, this was the playground of Sri Krishna and best known for his Leelas.
Temples of Mathura
Krishna Janamabhumi Temple
Krishna Janmabhumi temple is undoubtedly the most important temple in Mathura and the whole of the Braj region. This is the place where Sri Krishna took birth inside a prison where his parents were held prisoners by his uncle Kamsa. The temple has seen many avatars much like the Vishnu who chose this place to take birth during the Dwapar Yuga.
The earliest mention of this temple says that it was established by Vajranabh – the great-grandson of Sri Krishna. He also established the Dwarkadheesh Temple of Dwarka. Archaeologically, evidence indicates a temple dating back to at least the 6th Century.
Ghazni first attacked this temple in 11th CE. His memoirs mention it as a temple that can only be a divine creation and not man-made. In 16th CE Sikandar Lodhi destroyed the temple but was built by the Bundela King soon after. This temple was again destroyed by Aurangzeb in 17th CE. Its unparalleled beauty and grandeur have been captured by many travelers. In his Mathura memoirs, British Officer FS Growse talks about the grandeur of this temple called Keshavdev Temple.
Madan Mohan Malviya
The present temple was built in the 1950s with the efforts of Madan Mohan Malviya and industrialist Jugal Kishore Birla. Many industrialist families like Goenkas and Dalmias have contributed to it. It stands next to the spot where the mosque was built. The temple has been recreated to resemble a prison. This is the Garbhagriha of the temple.
A huge Sri Bhagwat Bhavan has been built next to it. It is a lovely temple. The most noticeable thing here is the whole of Bhagwat Puran written on copper plates on the walls of the temple. Bhagwat Bhavan has temples dedicated to Jagannath, Sri Ram, Shiva, & Durga. You get a nice view of the city from this temple which is at a height.
Holi is played in the large courtyard of this temple. Janamashtmi is obviously the most popular festival in the city, as well as this temple.
Keshavdev Ji temple is located right outside the Janamsthan temple.
Unfortunately, no gadgets are allowed inside, so you can not take any pictures here.
The Potra Kund is a beautiful stepwell located near the Krishna Janamsthan temple. It is believed that in this pond he took his first bath. Potra also means nappies, so people believe, this is where the nappies of Sri Krishna were washed.
In bright yellow color, this is one of the biggest and the most alive temples of the city, with sounds of bhajans filling the air along with the laughter of the devotees. It was built in the 19th Century by the Seths and Kings of Gwalior in typically Rajputana architecture. You see the Swastiks made of cow dung on the back wall of the main temple. There is a painting of Mathura Maharani – but I could not gather much about her. There are Saligramas that are worshipped just like they are in every other temple in Braj.
Temple is run by the Vallabhacharya Vaishnavas and follows their tradition.
As it is located close to the Yamuna ghats, a lot of people take a dip in the Yamuna and then walk to this temple.
Yamuna Dharmaraj Temple
This temple is dedicated to the Yamuna and her brother Yum, also known as Dhramaraj. The tradition of celebrating Bhai Duj, two days after Diwali is attributed to Yam & Yamuna – the siblings born to Sun.
This is a small temple located very close to Vishram Ghat.
Dirgh Vishnu Temple
The Dirgh Vishnu Temple is also one of the older Vishnu temples. Deergh means tall and I wonder if there is a story behind Vishnu being tall. Now it seems like being housed in a Haveli.
Adi Varaha Temple
This is believed to be the oldest temple in the city. It is also called the Lal Varaha temple. Varaha as we know is the boar avatar of Vishnu.
Mahavidya Kund and Temple
Mahavidya temple is located on top of a hillock next to the Mahavidya tank, which is now dry. When I visited, children were playing cricket in the tank. The temple on top is small but has lovely Murtis of Ma Mahavidya, Ma Baglamukhi, and Ma Ugratara. It is an important Shaktipeeth that is believed to be the Kuldevi of Nand Baba of Gokul, the foster father of Sri Krishna.
Next to this temple, a level below is a lesser-known Shiva temple. It has four Shivalingas arranged in a quadrangle, in four different sizes. The bigger ones are Mukhalingas while the smallest is just a stone in the ground. It is a well-worshipped temple as I saw many people visiting to offer water here.
Four Shiva Temples of Mathura
The city is best known for being the city of Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu. It is well guarded by four Shiva temples in four directions. They are also supposed to be the oldest temples in the city, predating the Dwapar yuga in which Krishna took birth.
The Bhuteshwar Mahadev Mandir is located towards the west of the city. It is believed to be the oldest temple in the city. Shatrughan installed this Shivalinga just like Sri Ram installed one at Rameshwaram. There is a Mukhalinga in white color with all icons of Shiva on display. The temple is fairly crowded.
Kankali Tila is located close to the Bhuteshwar Mahadev temple. It is just a pile of remains of an ancient stone temple. An excavation was carried out here at some point in time and most of the artifacts are now at different museums. What remains here is just the essence of the temple. Some believe it belongs to Kankali Devi.
Rangeshwar Mahadev temple is located towards the south of the city. It also has a Mahakali temple on the premises.
Galteshwar Mahadev or Gokarneshwar Temple is located towards the north and a bit difficult to locate.
Pipaleshwar Mahadev temple is in the east, close to Vishram ghat.
Mathura street walk
Walking in the narrow lanes of the city leading to the ghats of Yamuna is like time travel back to a couple of centuries. There are lovely mansions with beautifully carved facades. Many of them are temples that look like Havelis. A Halwai cooking something fresh is never out of sight. There is chaos but there is joy, and spring in the feet.
As I walked around I saw temples like Thakur Gopinath Ji and Sri Madan Mohan Ji.
You will also see the Bhang being sold legally in the streets of the city.
Ghats of Yamuna and around
River Yamuna is an integral part of the city. Its ghats are lined with colorful boats to take you a ride where the boatman with regale you in the stories of Radha Krishna.
If possible, do witness the unique Chunri Manorath on the Yamuna, when the Yamuna wears a Sari.
Read More – Chunri Manorath of Yamuna
Kamsa Qila is a sandstone fort on the banks of Yamuna is obviously not as old as Kamsa after whom it is named. However, it is possible that it exists at the same spot where his fort or palace stood at some point in time.
You cannot visit the city and not eat its famous Peda. Read our detailed post on it or watch this video inside the kitchen of Brajwasi sweets.
You can buy a lot of things in the city, the most popular being the Poshak or the clothes for the Krishna at your home. For others, I will do a detailed post sometime.
This is one of the best museums in the country. Read our detailed post on this museum – Gems of Mathura Museum
The current Mathura museum used to be housed in a smaller museum earlier which has now been converted into a Jain museum. It is a beautiful building and a lovely collection of Jain Art.
The city is a major center for Jain heritage. There are many small and big Jain temples in the city. The biggest is the Chaurasi close to the main road with lovely images in white marble.
- Being is a popular pilgrimage so all kinds of facilities are available for travelers.
- Do explore the streets, arts, and food of the city while you are there.