Aware of his arrival in Mathura, these cowherdesses eagerly desirous for a glimpse of him, clumsily decking themselves, abandoned their household chores and rushed to stand on their balconies. Gazing at the dark-hued Krishna they found that he existed intensely in their hearts when they sang his praise and dwelt in their longing for him.
Mathura, Lord Krishna’s birthplace is far superior to the mundane world and beyond earthly attachments. Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya, Kanchi, Kashi Avanti and Dwaravati are acclaimed as the saptpuris or seven prime pilgrimage sites on earth. Mathura abounds in spiritual bliss. Claiming to enjoy divine protection, cradled in the spectrum of 84 kos it is unaffected by natural calamities and evil forces because Lord Vishnu Incarnate was born here. Mathura is the most fortunate of towns because Lord Krishna manifested in its prison to display his loving tenderness and spread joy and delight.The Lord and Balramji have been wandering in the environs, forests and market-places of this town.
Its enraptured village girls completely absorbed in Lord Krishna’s lyrical softness, innocent pranks, beautiful adornments and serene sensuality adding to his madhurya or sweet love, have been constantly savouring his divine play.
Every site is marked by Lord Krishna’s feet. One aspect of Lord Krishna’s enigmatic persona which distinguishes him from all other deities is his lila.This divine play which makes him both human and divine at the same time becomes him most of all.Delighting in play he endears himself and brings joy to all his devotees.
The city is extremely ancient; existing since Vedic times. According to the ‘Varah Purana’ Shri Vajranabhji, great-grandson of Lord Krishna got the birthplace built. Initially Mahmud Ghaznavi invaded Mathura and demolished several sites. Gradually peace was restored and King Vijayendra of Kanauj rebuilt the Lord Vasudeva Temple in the year 1207. Once again it was ravaged by Sikander Lodhi in 1573. French and Italian travelers acclaimed its beauty and fine art of painting in 1669. Aurangzeb had it scrapped in1669 and erected a mosque instead. Raja Patnimal of Banaras bought Keshav Dev, eager to restore it. Finally Shri Hanuman Prasad Poddarji, editor of ‘Kalyan’, motivated many sentimental devotees who pitched in with financial aid for building a magnificently huge temple.
A Pool of Lotuses
The 'Puranas' (a class of voluminous work in Sanskrit dealing with aspects of ancient Indian history, legend and mythology) equate Mathura to a pool of lotuses. Shri Keshavdevji resides in its centre, Hardevji on its west, Govind Devji to its north (Vrindavan), Lord Vishranti in the east and Varah Dev to its south.
Bathing at pilgrimage sites in this town expiates all sins as we attain the blessings of Ashwamegh Yagya ( a Vedic horse-sacrifice performed chiefly by kings: often in assertion of a king’s dominion over his territory) at every step.
The word Mathura can be likened to Omkar with the syllable ma standing for Maha Rudra, thu for Lord Vishnu and ra for Lord Brahma.
Along with Lord Krishna his entire parikar or circle was born in Braj, resulting in several sites constructed in their memory. We strive to give you a summarized version of the main pilgrimage centres below.
Lord Krishna’s Birthplace:
The main purpose of the Lord’s incarnation is for the salvation of saints, destruction of evil and installation of righteousness as lucidly explained in the 'Bhagwad Gita.'. Towards the end of the Dwapar Era, in the Hindu month of Bhadra, Mathura had the great fortune of witnessing Lord Krishna’s birth on Krishan Ashtami. Atrocities were on the rise, religion had become a mere farce and all deities were great pained. King Kansa terrified of his own death had imprisoned Vasudev and Devki, having killed six of their earlier children. The seventh child was to be the Lord Himself.
The nakshatra was Rohini, the planets were at peace with the stars twinkling. Precisely at that moment the Lord was born resplendent with a conch, discus, club and a lotus. Vasudev and Devki made obeisance to him. Vasudev instantly shifted him to Nandrai’s house to hide the truth from Kansa. Simultaneously Yashoda gave birth to Yogmaya. Miraculously the prison guards fell asleep, Vasudev and Devki were unshackled and the doors opened. The clouds drizzled, Lord Sheshnaag protected the infant with his hood and torrential Yamuna or Krishna’s beloved Kalindi embraced his feet, calming her ardent longing. Soon enough she gave way to them for entering Gokul. Everyone was deep asleep. The infants were swapped with Krishna safely cradled on Yashoda’s bed and baby Yogmaya taken to Devki’s arms. Ever since Lord Krishna’s birth is celebrated in Gokul with much fanfare.
Shri Keshav Devji:
One who circumambulates this site is said to have revolved around the seven continents. Shri Vallabhacharya and Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came here and were enlightened.
We find respite from sufferings on earth and the next world. Bathing here leads one to Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu. Sikander Lodhi’s anti-Hindu views had impaired Hindu worship. Acharya Keshav Bhatt Kashmiri and Shri Vallabhacharya with their devotion and self confidence got rid of the obstacles hounding Vishram Ghat.
Shri Vallabhacharyaji’s Baithak:
Shri Vallabhacharya ji
When Shri Vallabhacharya visited this site it was like a cremation ground of Hindus. No religious rites could be performed and barbers were ordered not to shave beards. Appalled at the situation he strongly requested Sikander Lodhi to revoke his stand. Impressed by his courage, the emperor complied, making Vallabhacharyaji famous overnight. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Braj and stayed over at Vishram Ghat.
On visiting this spot one attains the blessings of bathing at all the pilgrimages. The Shri Ramanuja Sect is located here.
Considered to be guarding the western direction, Lord Shiva came to Braj and resided in Mathura as Bhuteshwar Mahadev.
Embellished with beautiful stairs and shaded by dense foliage, the child play and spirited antics of Lord Krishna are woven around this site.
Adorned with infinite virtues, praised by Lord Shiva, Brahma and other deities, fulfilling the desires of Dhruv and Parashar, with the pristine town of Mathura situated on its banks and inhabited by cowherds of Braj is Shri Yamuna, the river goddess. Dissolving people’s sins, it offers the loving worship of Lord Krishna. On one hand it is manifest as a river and on the other it resides as Kalindi, the beloved of Lord Krishna. Helping us tide over the toughest of worldly attachments, fears and difficulties the sacred river is highly revered by all.
The river goddess remains a devotional ideal with the svamini bhava. Yamunaji has regular exclusive company of the Lord. It is no wonder that pushti margis place great emphasis on memorizing the forty-one padas of Shri Yamunaji early on in life.
Lord Krishna enlightened Yudhistar about the significance of this day. Yamunaji invited her brother Yamraj to a feast. Contented with the lavish spread, he gave a boon for mankind’s well-being, thus fulfilling her wish. Till date when a brother and his sister bathe at Vishranth on Yam Dvitya they get rid of Yamraj’s fear.
Undoubtedly bathing at this site leads one to mukti or salvation.
Freed from all bonds in this world, one who bathes here is revered in Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu.
Bali, son of Virochan, prayed to the Sun God at this spot. Bathing here on sankranti (entry of the sun or planet into a new sign of the zodiac) and on solar and lunar eclipses, one attains the blessings of the Rajsuya Yagya or sacrifice.
Young Dhruv, motivated by mother Suniti, came to Mathura for spiritual bliss. His austere penance moved the entire universe and Lord Narayana appeared to fulfill his heart’s desire. Shri Hari Vyasdevji, a great saint and disciple of Shri Bhathji lived here. The pilgrimage sites of Rishi, Moksha, Koti, Bodhi, Asikund and Nav are posited close by.
A belief endorses that Lord Krishna bathed in the Yamuna at this spot after killing Kansa. A dip here certainly transports one to the Lord’s abode.
Dharapatan and Ghanta Bharnak Pilgrimages:
One attains heavenly joys by a dip at Dharapatan and death at this site leads one to God’s dwelling. Ghanta Bharnak expiates all sins. By bathing here one is revered in Surya Lok. Near by are Naag and Brahma Pilgrimages.
Somteerth (Gau Ghat) Vaikunth Ghat and KrishanGanga Ghat:
Maharishi Vyasji did austere penance on the banks of the Krishan Ganga. Bathing here, one achieves ten-fold more blessings than a dip in Naimi Sharanya, Prayag and Pushkar.
A dip at Som Pilgrimage showers one with infinite happiness.
A bath in Vaikunth Pilgrimage frees all bonds and leads one to Vishnu Lok.
After fasting for three nights when one bathes here, he is pardoned for killing a Brahman.
Saraswati Patan is nearby where there is a confluence of rivers Saraswati and Yamuna.
Dash Ashwamegha Pilgrimage:
It is believed that Naag Kings performed several Ashvamegha sacrifices here. Ascetics have been worshipping this site since ancient times.
Extremely dear to Lord Vishnu is the world renowned Gaukaran Pilgrimage, said to guard the northern wing of Mathura. Vighan Raj and Koti sites are close by.
After visiting the shrines of Lords Varaha, Narayana, Vaman and Mangalmay Langli when one bathes here, it is overly believed that he circumambulates the earth four times coupled with blessings of all pilgrimages.
A great attraction for distant travellers, the site is tended with great fondness. Located in the market-place of Asi Kunda, it is renowned as Sethji’s or Raja Dheeraj’s Temple. Shri Gokul Das of Gwalior inaugurated it in1871, presenting it to the Goswamis. Swings of the Shravan Month and its dense clouds are particularly inviting.
Ruins of Kansa Fort are located on the banks of the Yamuna. Idols found here reveal that it was once the residential station of Kansa.
Shri Amba Reesh Teela or Hillock:
Built in the memory of Amba Reesh’s unique devotion, it exhibits the righteous path to us.
Shri Ganesha Ghat:
A resplendent idol of Lord Ganesha adorns the site. When Baji Rao Peshwa freed Mathura from the reign of the Mughals he performed religious ablutions to omnipresent Ganeshji. Soon enough he handed over this task to the fore-fathers of Pandit Dinanath and Kalicharanji, present day priests. Several miracles woven around this idol have taken place from time to time.
Musclemen of Kansa used to live in this settlement, located between Potra Kund and Keshavdevji.
The Ashram of Durvasa Muni:
This ancient site is situated across the Yamuna opposite Vishram Ghat.
Shri Dauji Madan Mohanji:
Close to Ram Ghat, on the banks of the Yamuna are temples of the religious Vallabha Sect.
Kansa got the Rang Bhoomi constructed for exhibiting it to Lord Krishna and Balramji.
Invited by King Kansa, Lord Krishna along with Balrmaji and Braj denizens came to Mathura, entering the Rang Shala for the bow sacrifice. Conspiring towards the Lord, Kansa had got the arena constructed. Instantly Krishna lifted the rainbow coloured bow with his left hand and snapped it effortlessly. Diplomat Lord Krishna instigated Chanoor and Mushtik for a duel. The Braj denizens were overawed as Shri Krishna-Balram killed them along with Koot, Shal and Toshal. Infuriated now, Kansa ordered for the imprisonment of the brothers and cowherds. Soon enough Lord Krishna caught hold of Kansa very much like a vulture strangles a snake and killed him. Since Kansa was always petrified, his continual obsession with Lord Krishna led him to salvation. Though now in ruins, the Rang Shala, a historical site, speaks volumes about Lord Krishna and Balramji’s valour.
Shri Rangeshwar Mahadev:
Shri Rangeshwar Mahadev is considered the protector of the southern zone of Mathura.
Sapt Samudri Koop:
In ancient times traders returning from abroad donated gold at this spot. Newly wed brides of Mathura gather around an old well for prayers on Naag Panchami (a Hindu festival falling on the fifth day of the light half of the month Savan when women worship snakes to obtain blessings on their children.)
Mahura Township Shaped like a Lotus:
The Varah Purana describes Mathura as a lotus with Keshav Devji as its central stalk, Govind Devji to its north, Hardevji seated on its western petal, Vishranti in its eastern and Shri Varah Dev in its southern petal.
A write up summarizes the modern day circumambulation and significant pilgrimage sites.
New pilgrimage sites:
Shri Dwarka Deeshji, Shri Govind Devji’s Temple, Goverdhan Nathji, Shri Bihariji, Madan Mohanji, Shri Radhe Shyamji, Shri Mathura Nathji, Shri Radha Krishanji, Shri Dauji, Shri Ramji,Swami Keelji’s Cave, Tulsi’s Platform and Shari Nathji’s Baithak all fall under this segment.
Lord Vishnu killed demons Madhu and Kaitabh at this location. Young Dhruv did austere penance at the Madhu Van. Shatrughan put an end to Lavana, the son of demon Madhu. Adorable Lord Krishna, a well-wisher of his devotees, grazed cattle in this forest. Shri Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya also visited this site.
Tal Van (Taarsi Village):
Lord Krishna & Balram kill Demon Dhenukasur
This is the sacred forest where Lord Krishna and Balramji killed the demon Dhenukasur for the welfare of Yadhus. Once while grazing cattle the cowherds were famished and eagerly desirous to savour the ripe fruits of its trees. Scared of the demon they dared not but soon enough Balramji put an end to the fiend much to the delight of his sakhas.
Kumud Van is a forest Lord Krishna frequented for amusing himselff. The Lord and Balramji grazed cattle at this venue and all the cowherds scrambled for their midday meal, ecstatic to eat the Lord’s leftovers. Often playing the flute, the breath of love in this forest, Lord Krishna attracted the cowherdesses or gopis with his melodies.
An incident narrates how Nand Raiji along with other cowherds went to this forest and was almost strangled by a python residing there. Lord Krishna with the touch of his toe nail freed Nand Raiji, soon enough transforming the snake to a radiant handsome man who recounted the tale of how he had been born as a python. Shri Ambica Devi and Gaukaran Mahadevji reside at this site.
Datiya is about six miles from Mathura.
Situated about a mile from Shantanu Kund is Gandeshwar. Fragrant flowers blossomed here and Lord Krishna with his cowherds enjoyed the idyllic environs. Pootna’s village Khechri is close by.
Satoha (Shantanu Kund):
King Shantanu prayed to the Sun God for a son and had his wish fulfilled. Several Braj denizens come here asking for a son in the month of Bhadra (the sixth month of the Indian lunar calendar).
Baati Village (Bahulavan):
Lord Krishna’s wife, Bahula, is said to permanently reside in the Baati Village. By feasting and bathing in Padam Van located here, one is invariable rewarded because Lord Vishnu along with his consort Laxmiji lives here. The story of Bahula, the cow, spared by a lion impressed by her true promise of returning after having fed her calf, has been immortalized in a temple.
Situated in Agnikone about two miles from Arheeg village, it is the place of Madhuri, a close friend of Shri Radhaji.