The world famous holy city of Mathura situated on the banks of the sacred River Yamuna is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, just 50 km from Agra. The city is the birthplace of Lord Krishna and is popularly known as Krishna Janmabhoomi (Deo Krishna Mandir).
The region of Mathura and surrounding areas were called Brij Mandal or Vraj Mandal. This area included Madhuvan, Kumudvan, Vrindavan, Gokul, Govardhan, Nandagram, Radha Kund, Shyam Kund and Prem Sarovar. The town of Vrindavan is located 15 km from Mathura. This area used to be the forests where Lord Krishna used to spend his childhood days doing mischief and slaying demons.
Deo Krishna Mandir is one of the most sacred sites as per the beliefs of Hinduism. The site on which the shrine has been constructed is believed to be the exact spot where Lord Vishnu manifested himself as the eighth avatar of Lord Krishna. During the excavation of the 1500-year-old temple that was damaged by Aurangzeb, it was found that the actual Sanctum or the Garbhagriha was intact and buried under the debris from the temple demolition. The Grabhagrih is believed to be the actual place where Lord Krishna took birth. Next to the prison cell, a shrine is dedicated to the Ashtabhuja form of Yogmaya (Goddess Durga) who appeared to Kansa to warn him about his dismal future.
Apart from the Grabhagriha, Deo Krishna Mandir complex also is the site of the Keshavdeva Temple. The shrine is dedicated to the long haired form of Lord Krishna. Deo Krishna Mandir was built by Seth Ramkrishnaji Dalmia in the 1950’s at the same site where the ruins of the earlier Keshav Deo temple were found. Deo Krishna Mandir complex also consists of the Bhagavata Bhawan which is comprised of five main temples.
The city of Mathura is protected by four Shiva Temples in the four cardinal directions – The Rangeshwar temple in the South, the Bhuteshwar Temple in the West, the Pipaleshwara Temple in the East and the Gokarneshwara Temple in the North.
History and Legends of the Deo Krishna Mandir
- The oldest mention of Mathura can be traced back to the age of the epic Ramayana. Shatrughna, youngest brother of Lord Rama (Lord Vishnu’s seventh avatar) slew the demon King of Mathura, Lavanasura was the nephew of Ravana. The place where the event takes place was named Madhupura and eventually Mathura.
- In the Dwapara Yuga, around 3000 BC, Mathura was an important settlement ruled by the Yadava Dynasty. King Ugrasena and his Queen Padmavati were ruling Mathura during the golden period. However, his kingdom was usurped by his devious foster son Kamsa or Kansa who was the maternal uncle of Lord Krishna. He was a cruel ruler under whose rule; people were tortured for minor issues and punished excessively. It was prophesized that the eighth son of his sister Devaki will be the end of him. As a result, he tried several times to kill her. However, to save Devaki, her husband promised Kansa that he will hand over his newborn children to him in exchange for her life.
- Kansa imprisoned Devaki and Vasudev and mercilessly killed their six newborn children. Prior to the birth of the seventh child, Lord Vishnu requested Yogmaya (Goddess Durga is also known as Narayani, Ambika, and Vaishnavi) to transport the embryo from the womb of Devaki to the womb of Rohini, who was Vasudev’s second wife in Gokul. He also requested Yogmaya to take birth from the womb of Yashoda in Gokul. Yogmaya agreed to the proposal and accordingly transferred the seventh embryo from Devaki to Rohini and she herself took birth as a girl in Ma Yashoda’s household. The seventh son born to Rohini was named Balram, Lord Krishna’s elder brother.
- Lord Vishnu took birth as the eighth son of Devaki. Yogmaya entranced the jail guides taking advantage of which, Vasudeva carried baby Krishna across the raging River Yamuna to the house of Nand and Yashoda in Gokul. He brought back the baby girl from their house to the jail. When Kansa came to kill the newborn child, the girl transformed into fierce eighth handed form of Yogmaya and warned Kansa that the eighth child who will kill him has been born in Gokul.
- The life of young Krishna in Gokul and Vrindavan is well documented and a stuff of legends. He was the mischievous kid who loved butter and played divine flute music. People loved him instantly and he became the apple of the eye of the Braj Bhoomi. His Rasleelas with Gopis (village girls)are legendary and he is often associated with the God who spread the love. He also slew several demons during his stay at Gokul which made him popular and people started considering him as a divine soul.
- After the end of Mahabharatha and the start of Kaliyuga, the scriptures don’t mention much about the fate of Mathura and surrounding areas. However, Jain and Buddhist texts dated 6th century BC mention that the area around Mathura was often visited by Vardhamana Mahavira and Gautam Buddha.
- The city of Mathura was an important trade center for not just Indians but also to traders from nearby countries.
- The indigenous art form of Mathura gained international fame and recognition under the reign of the Kushanas. This form of Art is recognized in present times as the Mathura School of Art. King Kanishka ordered the construction of several monasteries and sculptures relating to Buddhism in the area.
- The period between 400 AD to 650 AD has been documented by several travelers like Fa-Hsien and Hieun Tsiang who concluded that both Buddhism and Hinduism flourished in the prosperous city. The city was economically well off and the societal structure was just and accommodating to travelers. Hieun TSiang also mentioned five large temples, twenty large monasteries, several Stupas and thousands of Monks and Priests walking the streets.
- The first major invasion of Mathura occurred in 1015 AD by Mahmud Ghazni. The city and its treasures were plundered. Temples and Monasteries were completely destroyed and its precious sculptures and idols were stolen. The new Temple that came up in its place was destroyed again by Sikander Lodi, 300 years later.
- However, during the reign of Akbar, Deo Krishna Mandir was restored again. European travelers like Francois Bernier and Jean Baptiste Tavernier have documented a giant and marvelous temple which was visible from s distance of approximately six miles.
- The magnificent temple was again razed to the ground by Aurangzeb in the month of Ramazan in 1669. On his orders, a mosque at the place was constructed using the materials of the Temple. These materials can still be seen today. After the fall of Aurangzeb, the Rajputs, and the Marathas restored the former glory of the city.
- Under the British rule, Mathura was finally restored to its former glory and was considered as a pilgrimage site.
Significance of the Deo Krishna Mandir
- The Garuda Purana mentions the region of Mathura is a part of the seven Moksha Puris or the Sapta Puris considered extremely sacred in Hindu religion. The other six cities are Ayodhya, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanchipuram, Ujjain, and Dwarka. Mathura is one of the holiest lands on Earth. It is the land of Krishna, one of the most loved Gods in Hinduism.
- It is believed that a Parikrama or circumambulation of Vrindavan washes all the sins accumulated by the person over his or her previous births. The whole Brij Mandal including Mathura and Vrindavan is sprinkled with places relating to legends of Lord Krishna.
- The idols of the deities of the Bhagavad Bhawan are all unique. The idols of Radha-Krishna are six feet high. The idols of Sri Jagannath, Subhadra and Balram are made using the same wood (Nimba Kashtha) that was used to make the idol of Lord Jagannath at Puri, Odisha. Lord Keshveshwar (Lord Shiva) is worshiped in the form of a Linga. The Linga is made of Mercury mixed with herbal extracts making it one of a kind in the world.
- Inside Deo Krishna Mandir complex, the Gocharan Leela Darshan (life-size tableaux representing Krishna interacting with cows) and the tableaux representing Rasleelas of Krishna are a must visit for any devotee.
- The city has been chosen as one of the heritage sites for HRIDAY – Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana scheme of the Government of India. Under this scheme, 12 ancient cities of importance have been identified from different parts of the country. The heritage sites at these places like temples, ghats, and other monuments will be developed and equipped with better sanitation facilities, roads, and public transport, parking and information kiosks.
- The town of Vrindavan is also known as the city of widows. The widows of the region leave their households and reach Vrindavan to spend the rest of their lives in dedication to God.
- A holy dip at the Vishram ghat near the temple is believed to be taking a dip in the three holy Rivers of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati at Prayag. The Bengali ghat is believed to be the place where Vasudeva crossed the Yamuna with baby Krishna to reach Gokul on the other side.
Deo Krishna Mandir Timings
- Deo Krishna Mandir opens at 5 AM and closes at 9:30 PM in summer. Deo Krishna Mandir remains closed during 12 PM to 4 PM in the afternoon. The Garbhagriha remains open from 5 AM to 9:30 PM.
- Deo Krishna Mandir opens at 5:30 AM and closes at 8:30 PM in winter. Deo Krishna Mandir remains closed during 12 PM to 3 PM. The Garbhagriha remains open from 5:30 AM to 8:30 PM.
Deo Krishna Mandir administration does not mention any specific dress code but it is recommended that one wears decent clothes that cover one’s legs and arms.
Poojas and Rituals at Deo Krishna Mandir
- Akhand Sankirtan – In the first floor complex of the Bhagavata Bhavan, an uninterrupted recital of the Akhand Harinaam Sankirtan has been going on since 1982.
- Yamuna Aarti – The spiritual experience of conducting an Aarti in the evening on the banks of River Yamuna at Vishram Ghat is a must-see for any devotee. The participating devotees light small lamps and let them flow in the Yamuna as a tribute to the River as well as the sanctity of the place.
- Nava Graha Pooja – The Pooja is performed for devotees who want o remove the ill-effects of placement of planets in their horoscope. It helps in removing obstacles from achieving the goal.
- Gopal Sahasra Naam Path – The Lord is worshiped by reciting his 1008 names and singing chants praising him on behalf of the devotee
- Rudrabhishek and Mahamrityunjaya Path – The Pooja is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshiped as fire or Rudra. The puja wipes out all sins and purifies the atmosphere. It also removes all sorts of planetary related ill-occurrences. The Mondays of the month,are considered as ideal for performing the Pooja.
- Poshak Seva – The Seva includes dressing up Lord Krishna in beautiful attire and dedicating the day’s rituals to him on behalf of the devotee.
- Phool Bangla – The Seva includes decorating the temple and the deity with flowers and worshiping the Lord on behalf of the deity.
- Bhog Seva – Several types of Bhogs (food offerings) can be dedicated to the Lord such as the Baal Bhog, Raj Bhog, Uthapan Bhog and the Phal Bhog with Shayan Bhog.
Festivals celebrated at the Deo Krishna Mandir
- Sri Krishna Janmashtami – The auspicious Ashtami (eighth day) of the Krishna Paksha of the Shravan month (August – September) is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna was born at Mathura. It is widely celebrated all over the country. However, the celebration at Mathura occurs on an unprecedented grand scale. All the temples of Mathura and other regions of the Braj Bhoomi are decorated with immense love and devotion. Various musical programs are organized at the Temple premises. Bhajans and Kirtans are sung the whole day till midnight by devotees who observe fast on the day. The idol of Lord Krishna is decorated in the form of a young infant and kept on a swing. At midnight, the idol is bathed with milk and curd and then placed in the cradle. It is a belief that any genuine wish of the devotee will be fulfilled if made during the rocking of the cradle. After the midnight Pooja (it is believed that Lord was born at midnight), Panchamrit is distributed to the devotees who then break their fast. The lord is offered “Chhappan Bhog” or 56 types of dishes for the special day.
- Holi – The festival of colors is celebrated in the month of Phagun or March. The Lathamar Holi is celebrated at the Krishna Janmabhoomi with great fanfare and dedication. The day starts with colorful presentations of the importance and the significance of the festival. It is believed that Holi was the favorite festival of Lord Krishna, several cultural programs like Dance, Dramas, and Tableaux presentations continue throughout the day. The whole temple is decorated with Gulal (powdered color) and flower petals.
- Basant Panchami – The grand festival is celebrated in the month of Magha (January – February). The occasion marks the onset of spring season. On this special day, Lord Krishna is dressed up in yellow (Yellow or Saffron denotes good harvest and spring in Hinduism). The whole temple complex is decorated with yellow flowers and sheets of cloth. The Bhog or the offerings to the Lord also consists of Kheer that is laden with Saffron imparting a slight yellowish tinge. The Saraswati Pooja is also performed on this day as it is believed to be Goddess Saraswati’s birthday. The traditional “Holika” is also set up on this day marking the beginning of the preparations for Holi.
- Jagannath Rath Yatra – The annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balbhadra, and Goddess Subhadra is conducted during the month of June-July. The idols of the deities are kept on a decorated chariot and are taken around the city amongst chanting of shlokas and bhajans. Thousands of people gather round the path which the Rath takes to have a glimpse of their favorite God. After the Yatra, the Rath reaches the Janmabhoomi at about 9 PM. The Sadhus are then given Dakshina and a Bhandara is organized for the devotees. The Bhandara marks the end of the celebrations.
- Besides these festivals, Radhashtami, Goverdhan Pooja, Mahashivaratri, Deepavali, Bhai Duj, and Gopashtami are also celebrated with great spiritual dedication.
How to reach Mathura
- By Air – The nearest airport is Agra Domestic Airport at a distance of 50 km. It connects Mathura to cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, and Khajuraho. However, better connectivity is provided by the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi located about 150 km from Mathura. The Airport is well connected to all major cities in the country as well as important international destinations. One can board a bus or a taxi from the airport.
- By Train – Mathura Junction is the railway station that connects the holy city to other major cities in India. Trains connect Mathura to all major cities in India like New Delhi, Jammu, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Jaipur, Vizag, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Panaji, Bhopal, Haridwar, Khajuraho, Pune, and Chandigarh.
- By Road – The Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation operated buses from all major towns and cities in UP as well as from neighboring states like Delhi and Uttarakhand. Apart from the buses, the National Highway 2 connects nearby towns and cities to Mathura. However, the newly constructed 6-lane Yamuna Expressway that connects Delhi to Agra is the fastest way to reach Mathura by road.
Where to stay
The Sri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan runs a rest house with basic modern facilities within the Temple Complex. The rooms are rented out to Sadhus and devotees at nominal rates.
The city of Mathura is well developed and hosts a large number of hotels that cater to various budgets. Some of the luxury hotels are Hotel Brijwasi Royal, Hotel Country Inn, and the Brijwasi Palace. The well-known budget hotels are Hotel Keshav Palace, Hotel Ganga Palace, and the Yamuna Dham. A number of lodges have come up in Mathura that provides reasonable accommodation to tourists and pilgrims.
Where to eat
The cuisine of Mathura is unique and any visitor to this bustling city must try to the local delicacies. Mathura is famous for its sweets and Lassis. The Kulhad (Earthern pot) Malai Lassi is a delicacy that one must taste when visiting the city. Thandai, Bhang Thandai, Paan, Dal Vati, Chana Chidwa, Mathura Petha, Ghewar, and Faini are some of the mouth-watering vegetarian delicacies that one must have at the local shops and hotels. Some of the popular hotels for this type of local cuisine are Brijwasi Mithaiwala, Sri Nath Ji Bhandar, and Shankar Mithai Wala.
- Dwarkadhish Temple – The Temple was constructed in 1814 and is one of the most popular temples in Mathura. The presiding deity of the shrine is Lord Krishna. The Temple is architecturally wonderful and is a visual treat to the devotees. Every year, the festival of Jhulan Yatra is celebrated at the temple with great excitement and devotion.
- Gita Mandir – The beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is situated 5 km from Mathura on the road connecting the city to Vrindavan. The Temple complex has been constructed by the Industrial family of Birlas. The temple is made of white marble. The unique feature of this shrine is that the whole text of the Bhagavad Gita is inscribed finely on the walls of the Temple.
- Prem Mandir, Vrindavan – The religious complex is situated on the outskirts of Vrindavan. The presiding deities of the Temple are Sri Radha Govind and Sri Sita Ram. The construction of this shrine was completed in 2012. The structure is made of pure marble with sculptures and inscriptions depicting the important events in Lord Krishna’s life.
- Sri Banke Bihari Ji Temple – The Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is situated at Vrindavan. Bankey means “bent at three places” and Bihari means “enjoyer”. The image of Lord Krishna is in a Tribhanga pose. The body is curved at three positions in the body – neck, waist and the knee. The temple dates back to 1862. The original temple was established by Swami Haridas, Guru of the famous singer Tulsidas. It is believed that the idol of the Temple was given to him by Lord Krishna himself.
- Vishram Ghat – This Ghat is one of the most important Ghat to be visited in Mathura. According to the legend, Lord Krishna rested here for some time after killing his evil uncle Kansa. It is considered sacred to take a dip in River Yamuna
- Besides these Temples, several grand temples can be visited such as Govinda Dev Temple, Radha-Gopinath Temple, Madan Mohan Temple, Sri Ranganatha Temple, and the Radha Vallabha Temple.