December 8, 2012

Mathura and Vrindavan

Site Name: Mathura and Vrindavan
Site Type: Hindu pilgrimage, religious, heritage
Location:  Near New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh state, India
Highlights: One of the most popular religious sites of Hindus; one of seven sacred cities for Hindus
Nearest Railway Station: Mathura
Nearest Airport: New Delhi
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options across the town
Restaurants: Many restaurants mainly vegetarian are found across the town, however it is challenging to find very good restaurant

Mathura is considered as one of seven sacred places for Hindus. It is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and an important Hindu deity. Mathura and its neighbourhood town Vrindavan together form an important pilgrimage for Hindus.

Both Mathura and Vrindavan have references in Maha Bharata epic and Puranas. Historically, it was under the rule of Mauryas kings. The King Ashoka built a lot of Buddhist monuments. During this period, the sculptures of the region became very popular. The sculpture making and stone carving styles of the period are referred as 'Mathura School of Art'. In the 11th century CE, many of the important Hindu and Buddhist shrines were destroyed by Ghazni. In the later period many shrines were destroyed by Sikandar Lodhi, Aurangazeb and Ahmed Shah Abdali.

Krishna Janma Bhoomi

Krishna Janma Bhoomi is the most important attraction of the town. People throng to the town mainly due to the existence of this site which is believed to be the prison where Lord Krishna was born around 5000 years ago.

The first temple was built by Vajranabha, the great grandson of Lord Krishna. Later, it was rebuilt during the reign of the Gupta Emperor Chandragupta II in 4th century BCE. Mahommad Ghazni destroyed the temple in 1017 CE. In 1150 CE, the temple was reconstructed. Sikander Lodi destroyed this temple in the 16th century CE. During the period of Jehangir, the Rajput king Veer Singh Bundela or Orchha constructed the temple. Aurangazeb destroyed this magnificent temple and built a mosque near the site.

The present temple was constructed in 1965 CE. Today the entire temple complex is a well secured area. The big attractive temple is also called as Kesav Deo temple. The main shrine enshrines the beautiful idols of Lord Krishna and Radha. There are also other shrines such as Balram-Krishna-Subhadra and Ram-Sita-Lakshman-Hanuman. The temple has a huge hall with full of small beautiful paintings and carvings of Hindu deities and saints.

The complex has another temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Adjacent to this temple lies the small area where the birthplace of Lord Kirshna is located. The idol of infant Krishna is found in this sacred place.

There is no doubt about the beauty of Lord Krishna or his idols in various temples. This being his birth place, the idols of Krishna and his beloved Radha in the Kesav Deo temple are extremely beautiful.

Vishram Ghat

There are around 25 ghats across the river Yamuna in Mathura today. Vishram Ghat is the most important ghat among them. It is believed that Lord Krishna took rest here after killing his uncle Kansa. Hence, the ghat is called as Vishram (meaning rest) Ghat. The traditional parikrama of important sites of Mathura starts and ends here.

Dwarakadish Temple

The Dwarakadish temple is the second important temple of Mathura town. It was built in 1814 CE. Located  in a small congested street in the eastern part of the town and not far from the river, this temple always attracts a lot of devotees. Dwarakadish is another name of Lord Krishna. The highlight of the temple is that the floor has fully of one rupee coins engraved.

Shiva Temples

One would not expect Shiva temple in the land of Krishna. However, it is true that there are some popular Shiva temples though very small along the bank of Yamuna river. Pipaleshwar temple, Rangeshwar temple and Bhuteshwar temple are some of the popular Shiva temples in Mathura.

Glass Temple

The Glass temple is an important temple located on the way to Vrindavan in Mathura town. This modern day  temple is completely filled with glass materials and mirrors. Any devotee would be really amazed and excited to find such a magnificent and colorful glass structure. It is difficult to depict the beauty of the place in words. Mathura is the place of Lord Krishna; the main deity of the temple is of course none other than him. The beauty of his idol enhances the temple's beauty; along with him stands the extraordinary Radha. The temple also has an artificial cave like structure where the animated puppets depicting the scenes from Krishna's life are found.

Pagal Baba Mandir

Pagal Baba Mandir is actually a modern day ashram of a Hindu Guruji named Pagal Baba. This multi storey structure, mainly due to its prominent structure and location on the main road, attracts a lot of devotees. The temple campus is huge and has a lot of open space corridor. The animated puppet show is an added attraction of the temple. There are so many idols such as Krishna, Balram, Rukmini, Radha, etc. in all the seven floors of this temple.

Gita Mandir

Gita Mandir is one another important temple located on the high way connecting Mathura and Vrindavan. This is a modern day temple constructed by the Birlas. The Birlas, the important industrial power of India, have built several temples across North India. All these temples are called as Birla Mandir. This temple in Vrindavan is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Apart from the main sanctum with the beautiful idol of Krishna there are other idols such as Ram-Sita and Lakshmi-Narayana in this temple. Like any other Birla temples, this temple is also full of beautiful carvings and paintings. The architecture of the temple is also strikingly beautiful.

Rangaji Temple

Rangaji temple is the largest temple in Vrindavan. The temple is dedicated to Ranganatha aka Rangaji, a form of Lord Vishnu lying on the sacred Sesha serpent. The temple was built in Dravidian style of architecture by a wealthy Rajasthani in 1851 CE. Except for a particular gateway, all other parts of the temple resemble the typical temples in South India. The six storeyed temple tower and 50 feet high flag staff cannot be seen any other temple in this region.

The temple has seven entrances. The main deity is Ranganatha who is found along with Andal and Garuda. There are other shrines in the temple such as Ram-Sita-Lakshman, Garuda, Narasimha, Alwars, Sudarshana, Venugopala and Ramanuja.

Jaipur Temple

Jaipur temple is one of the most lavish temples of the region. The temple is dedicated to Radha Madhava (aka Krishna), however no idol is found in the temple nowadays. As it was built by the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Madhav in 1917 CE, it is called as Jaipur temple. The temple is architecturally beautiful and built mainly with sandstone. The king financed the railway line that connects Vrindavan with Mathura mainly for the purpose of hauling the huge pieces of sandstone used in the temple construction. Be careful when you visit this temple as there are hundreds of monkey roam around this place.

Madan Mohan Temple

Madan Mohan Temple is the oldest temple in Vrindavan. It is located near Kali Ghat. The deity is also called as Madana Gopala.

Advaita Acharya discovered the original deity at the base of an old vata tree below the hill on which the temple is currently located. After being maintained by multiple saints, the temple was built for the deity Madan Mohan in 1580 CE by Ram Das Kapoor of Multan (Punjab). The temple enshrines Krishna along with Radha and Lalita. 

During the rule of Aurangazeb, his soldiers attacked Vrindavan. In 1670 CE, the original deity was moved to Jaipur. It is believed that the deity resembles exactly Krishna from the waist down. The deity was moved from Jaipur to Karoli. Even now the deity is present in a temple here.

As the temple is connected with Chaitanya, his idol is also present in this temple.

New Madan Mohan Temple

Another Madana Mohan temple was built by Sri Nanda Kumar Bose of Bengal in the early 19th century CE at the bottom of the hill where the old Madan Mohan temple is located. As the original temple was contaminated by the invaders, the new temple was constructed and the worship was moved here. The temple hasthe pratibha murtis (replica) of the original deities. The temple enshrines the idols of Krishna, Radha, Vishaka, Lalita, Vrinda and Jagannath.

Bankey Bihari Temple

Bankey Bihari Temple is located near Madan Mohan temple. It is one of the most popular temples of Vrindavan. Bankey Bihari is very beautiful. He is treated as a child. He is dressed up and offered cuisine (bhog) according to the season. The entire temple is decorated with lights and colorful flowers. There are no bells or conch in the temple as it is felt that they might disturb the deity who is in the form of a child.

As per the legend, Swami Haridasji got the idol from Lord Krishna. Both Krishna and Radha took a single form into this idol.

It is believed that if one looks at the deity continuously, he loses his self consciousness. Hence, a unique tradition of closing and reopening the curtain at the entrance of the main shrine is followed.

Radha Vallabh Temple

Radha Vallabh Temple is dedicated to the beautiful idol of Krishna and Radha; the uniqueness of the temple is that Radha's crown is placed instead of Radha in the main shrine.

The original temple was built in 1626 CE. After it was destroyed by the soldiers of Aurangazeb, another temple was built in 1871-72 CE.

Jugal Kishore Temple

Jugal Kishore Temple is also called as Kesi Ghata Temple. It is the place where Lord Krishna killed the horse demon, Kesi. Also, it is the place where Radha met Krishna for the first time. Currently, there are two pairs of Radha and Krishna kept in this temple.

During the reign of Akbar, he gave permission to build four temples in Vrindavan to Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Four temples including this one was built. Later, Aurangazeb destroyed all those temples except this one. This is the only temple which exists in its original form and with its original deity.

Gopinath Temple

As per the legend, Vajarnaba, Lord Krishna's great grandson installed the original deity of Gopinath (Krishna). Historically, the temple was built by Ray Sing, the son of the Bikaner King Kalyanamala of Rathaur dynasty in 1632 CE. Aurangazed destroyed this temple. The Pratibhu Vigrahas were installed and the new temple was built in 1819 CE. Madhu Pandita, the close associate of Chaitanya, used to regularly worship this deity. His samadhi is located near this temple.

Shahji Temple

Shahji Temple is also called as Tera Kamba (twisted pillars) temple and the Saha Bihari Lal temple. As the pillars in this artistic temple are made of beautiful white twisted marble, it is called as Tera Kambha temple.

It was built by two Shah brothers in 1835 CE. When the brothers died they did not want their bodies to be carried on anyone's shoulders instead to be dragged through the dust of Vrindavan. Also, they did not want their bodies to be burnt so that their bodies' smoke would not leave Vrindavan and their dead bodies' ashes would not be washed away by the river Yamuna. The samadhis of these two brothers are found on either sides of the entrance of the temple.

The temple houses an impressive Durbar Hall called Vasanti Kamara. It has complete yellow decor with so many beautiful Belgium chandeliers. The room is opened only twice a year, two days during Vasant Panchami and two days duing the Jhulan Yatra swing festival.

Radha Damodara Temple

Radha Damodara Temple was built by Maharaja Man Singh of Amber.

As per the legend, when Sanatana Gosvami became very old to circumambulate Govardhana Hill, Lord Krishna gave him Govardhana shila with his footprint, walking stick, flute and the hoof print of a calf all imprinted. The deity of Damodara was installed in 1542 CE.

Radha Ramana Temple

Radha Ramana Temple was built in 1542 CE. Along with the idol of Lord Krishna, the golden plate with Radha's name engraved is worshipped instead of an idol. It is said that the markings of discs are found on the feet and the back side of Lord Krishna's idol. The Shalagram shilas are also kept along with the main deities.

Gopala Bhatta established this temple. His samadhi is located near the temple.

Happy travelling.

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