Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna is one of the holiest cities in India and a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists from around the world. After learning some historical and geographical facts about this fascinating city, you will find out about the best places to visit in Mathura.
Places to Visit in Mathura
The must-see birthplace of Lord Krishna (Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi), the famous Dwarkadhish Temple, the Government Museum, the Elephant Conservation and Care Center and the Shri Kesavji Gaudiya Math temple and the popular Vishram Ghat located on the banks of the holy Yamuna River.
To find out more about efforts to clean up the Yamuna, please go to Save the Yamuna River. While in Mathura, it is strongly recommended to make the short trip to enchanting Vrindavan, the medieval city of 5000 temples. For more information about Vrindavan please read Places to Visit in Vrindavan.
Brief History of Mathura
The ancient history of Mathura is related to history of Vrindavan. It begins with the famous Ikshwaku prince Shatrughna, who according to the oldest Indian epic Ramayana, killed the demon Lavanasura before claiming the land. Afterwards the place took the name Madhuvan due to its thick forest, then Madhupura and eventually came to be known by its present name, Mathura.
Of course the greatest event in the history of Mathura took place about 5000 years ago, when Lord Krishna took birth from Mother Devaki in her evil brother Kamsa’s prison. Later in the 6th century BCE, Mathura became the capital city of the Surasena Mahajanapada, one of the 16 kingdoms of ancient India lasting for several hundred years during the Iron Age. Later on in the 4th century CE, Mathura became an important center of Buddhism, containing 20 Buddhist monasteries as well as 5 brahmanical temples.
The tranquility of this holy city was severely disrupted by the spread of Islam into the region beginning in the 11th century CE when the city was sacked and many of its temples destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1018 and again by Sikandar Lodhi, who ruled the Sultanate of Delhi from 1489 to 1517. Sikander Lodhi was known as the ‘Butt Shikan’, the ‘Destroyer of Hindu deities’.
The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, another ruler notorious for destroying ancient Indian holy sites in the 17th century, built the city’s Jami Masjid (Friday mosque) on top of a sacred Hindu temple. In the middle of the 18th century, Mughal rule in northern India was defeated by the Maratha Empire and eventually Mathura reclaimed its Hindu heritage. Since then, Mathura has firmly reestablished its ancestral legacy as the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
Mathura City Facts
The city of Mathura, like many Indian cities, is densely populated with about 450,000 inhabitants. It is the administrative centre of Mathura District of Uttar Pradesh.
Mathura has been chosen as one of the heritage cities for HRIDAY – Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana scheme by the government of India. Mathura has large population of Jat (armed resisters of Mughal rule)and Yadav (descendants in the lineage of Lord Krishna) in rural areas, and Brahmins and Baniyas (Nepalese caste) in urban areas.
A dialect of Hindi known as Brajbhasa is widely spoken in Mathura. The main industrial activity centers around the Mathura Refinery, one of the largest oil refineries in Asia. The other major industries in Mathura are textile printing, which includes both sari-printing and fabric dyeing and silver ornaments manufacturing.
Proximity of Mathura to Delhi and Agra
Mathura is very conveniently located approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Agra (Taj Mahal), and 145 kilometres (90 mi) south-east of Delhi, making it easily accessible by bus, taxi or rail.
The Yamuna Expressway now makes it possible to reach Mathura from Delhi by car in less than 3 hours, while the bus and train average close to 4 hours. To visit the Taj Mahal in Agra from Mathura, the quickest route is by train, about 45 minutes. Taxi and bus require 50 to 60 minutes.
Arrival at Mathura Railway Station
Of the four railway stations in Mathura, Mathura Junction is the main station linking the area with the north, south, and west regions of India. This busy station is within 5 kilometers of all the important places to visit in Mathura.
Upon arrival at the Mathura Junction station you will have many options for making your way to your local destination: taxi, motor rickshaw, bicycle rickshaw, local bus, etc. The fastest and most economical transportation within a 5 kilometer distance is motor rickshaw, which should cost no more than 150 rupees for 1 or 2 persons with luggage.
The drivers outside the station are very aggressive in gathering passengers, so please make sure to agree on a price before sitting in a vehicle and don’t be afraid to bargain for a reasonable fare!
Places to Visit in Mathura
Find the list of best places to visit in Mathura below: The birthplace of Lord Krishna (Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi), the famous Dwarkadhish Temple, the Government Museum, the Elephant Conservation and Care Center and the Shri Kesavji Gaudiya Math temple and the popular Vishram Ghat located on the banks of the holy Yamuna River.
Shri Krishna Janmabhumi
One of the most revered holy sites in India, Krishna Janmabhumi is located around the prison cell where Krishna was born after his parents were imprisoned by his evil uncle, Kansa, king of Mathura.
The magnificent Krishna Janmashtam Temple complex is situated to the west of Mathura’s old city and is visited by pilgrims throughout the year, but especially during festival times, when many thousands of pilgrims congregate at this sacred site.
The original temple at Shri Krshna Janmabhumi was built by Vajranabha, grandson of Lord Krishna, then later rebuilt in the first century BCE by Vikramaditya, an exemplary ruler of ancient India. The temple is said to have been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times in its history.
Today the temple is one of the most frequently visited temples in India, placing it at the top of the list of must-see places in Mathura.
Dwarkadhish Temple Mathura
Sri Dwarkadhish Mandir is one of the oldest and largest temples of Mathura city and considered a major and famous Hindu shrine of India.
The current structure was built up by Seth Gokul Das Parikh, the treasurer of the former Gwalior State (Scindia) in 1814. It was built for the famous Hindu deity of Lord Krishna called Dwarkadhish, meaning lord or king of Dwarka, (an ancient city of gold now submerged off the western coast of India) where Lord Krishna settled as an adult after leaving his boyhood pastimes in Vrindavan.
The main temple deity is Lord Dwarkadhish, an form of Lord Krishna opulently appearing in black marble named Dwarkanath. Beside him is the beautiful white marble deity of his beloved consort Srimati Radharani.
The famous Vishram Ghat is the prominent bathing and worship site among 25 ghats situated near the Dwarkadhish Temple on the banks of the Yamuna River.
It is here, that Lord Krishna took rest after annihilating his wicked uncle Kamsa, king of Mathura. For a truly awesome panoramic view of the ghats and temples of Mathura and Vrindavan, it is well worth taking the five-hour boat ride starting in Vrindavan and ending at Vishram Ghat. (For the return trip to Vrindavan, only land transport is possible.)
Government Museum Mathura
The Government Museum, established in 1874 by F.S. Growse, is a splendid archeological museum which serves as the main research facility for the study and preservation of Mathura’s extensive art heritage.
The octagonal, redstone museum building is itself an amazing architectural landmark in Mathura. It is most renowned for housing the Mathura School of sculptures dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 12th century CE including the largest collection of ancient Kushana sculptures as well as rare specimens from the Gupta Empire.
Elephant Conservation and Care Center, Mathura
The Wildlife SOS organization established the Elephant Conservation and Care Center as a major achievement of its 20-plus year movement to preserve and protect the natural heritage of India with a focus on forest and wildlife conservation.
This center is a safe haven and rehabilitation site for more than 20 elephants rescued from deplorable conditions of captivity, who were exploited for labor or entertainment purposes.
There are three daily tours available (with prior booking) lasting 2 hours, during which you can meet the elephants and help feed and bathe them.
Sri Keshavji Gaudiya Math
One of the more important temples in Mathura, the Sri Keshavji Gaudiya Math was built by the West Bengali Vaishnava spiritual leader Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Gosvami Maharaj in the mid 20th century.
It is an important center for the publication and distribution of literature and culture glorifying the advent and teachings of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the 16th century incarnation of Sri Sri Radha Krishna, responsible for initiating the Hare Krishna movement over 500 years ago.
The priests here are very accommodating to visitors coming to have the darshan of the beautiful temple deities, Sri Sri Radha Vinode Bihariji.
Don’t Miss Best Places To Visit In Mathura
Considering its proximity to Delhi and Agra, Mathura with its rich spiritual and cultural heritage, should not be left off your itinerary of Northern India.
Being the birthplace of the supremely beloved Lord Krishna, it is one of the 7 most important spiritual places in India, attracting millions of pilgrims and tourists every year.
While you are doing your research on places to visit in Mathura, do not miss the short jaunt over to charming Vrindavan is a definite must.