Mathura Sacred city in Uttar Pradesh
Famed for being the birthplace of the much-loved Hindu god Krishna, Mathura is one of Hinduism’s seven sacred cities and attracts floods of pilgrims, particularly during Janmastami (Krishna’s birthday) in August/September and Holi in February/March. The town is dotted with temples from various ages and the stretch of the sacred Yamuna River which flows past here is lined with 25 ghats. They’re best seen at dawn, when many people take their holy dip, and just after sunset, when hundreds of candles are sent floating out onto the river during the evening aarti ceremony.
Mathura was once a Buddhist centre with 20 monasteries that housed 3000 monks, but after the rise of Hinduism, and later sackings by Afghan and Mughal rulers, all that’s left of the oldest sights are the beautiful sculptures recovered from ruins, now on display in the Archaeological Museum.
Kesava Deo Temple
In the most important temple complex in Mathura, the small, bare room known as Shri Krishna Janambhoomi marks the spot where Krishna is said to have been born in prison more than 5000 years ago. The much larger main temple is decked with murals depicting scenes from Krishna’s life, and houses several statues of the god and his consort, Radha. Destroyed and rebuilt a number of times over the past thousand years, the current temple was erected in the 1950s.
A string of ghats and temples lines the Yamuna River north of the main road bridge. The most central and most popular is Vishram Ghat, where Krishna is said to have rested after killing the tyrannical King Kansa. Boats gather along the banks here to take tourists along the Yamuna (₹150 per hour for two people, ₹300 for a full boat).
This serene marble temple on the road to Vrindavan has the entire Bhagavad Gita (Hindu Song of the Divine One) written on a red pillar in the garden.
This fine sandstone mosque was built by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb in 1661. To clear the site, he ordered the destruction of the then-standing incarnation of the Kesava Deo temple, which marked the spot of Krishna’s birth. The mosque, which sits directly beside the current incarnation of the Kesava Deo temple, is now heavily guarded around the clock by soldiers to prevent a repeat of the tragic events at Ayodhya in 1992.
This four-storey (17m) tower was built by the son of Behari Mal of Jaipur in 1570 to commemorate his mother’s sati (self-immolation on her husband’s funeral pyre).