The embodiment of love
Revered as the most endearing of the Hindu
gods, Shri Krishna is fondly remembered for his charm, his mischievous pranks
and his extraordinary exploits. As the charioteer and preceptor to Arjun in the
famous battle of Kurukshetra, he revealed to the world the supreme truths of
life. Shri Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, was born in the Dwapara Yuga
as the eighth son of the Yadava prince Vasudev and his wife Devaki. To save him
from his maternal uncle Kansa wrath, the infant Krishna was spirited away soon
after birth to Gokul, the village of the gopas (cowherds) in Braj. It was here
that he grew to manhood, in the tender care of his foster parents Nand and
Yashoda in the happy company of the cowherds.
Mathura, the pilgrim center
A long line of picturesque ghats - with their
steps leading to the water's edge, arched gateways and temple spires extending
along the right bank of the River Yamuna, emphasis the sacred character of the
town of Mathura. The birth place of Lord Krishna, "the best known, best
loved and most complex of Lord Vishnu's manifestations" - Mathura is today
an important place of pilgrimage. The city stretches along the right bank of the
Yamuna and the continuous line of ghats along the river makes a splendid
spectacle when viewed from the opposite bank.
Today, Mathura is a city of temples and shrines
abustle with the thousands of devotees who come to visit the city of Lord
Krishna. A splendid temple at the Katra Keshav Dev marks the spot that is
believed to be the Shri Krishna Janmasthan - the birthplace of the Lord, by his
devotees. Another beautiful shrine, the Gita Mandir, located on the Mathura -Vrindavan
Road has a fine image of Shri Krishna in its sanctum. The whole of the Bhagwad
Gita is inscribed on the walls of this temple.
The most popular shrine at Mathura is the
Dwarikadhish Temple to the north of the town, dedicated to Shri Krishna. This
was built in 1815 by a staunch and wealthy devotee, Seth Gokuldas Parikh,
Treasurer of the State of Gwalior. There are about 25 ghats in Mathura today, of
which the most important is the Vishram Ghat. Where according to legend, Shri
Krishna took his rest after killing Kansa. It is at Vishram Ghat that the
traditional parikrama (circumbulation of all the important religious and
cultural places of the city) starts and ends. The 12 ghats to the north of
Vishram Ghat include the Ganesh Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat with its
Neelakantheshwar Temple, Saraswati Sangam Ghat, Chakratirtha Ghat, Krishnaganga
Ghat, Somatirth or Swami Ghat, Ghantagharan Ghat, Dharapattan Ghat, Vaikuntha
Ghat, Navtirtha or Varahkshetra Ghat, Asikunda ghat and Manikarnika Ghat. To the
south, there are 11 ghats - the Guptatirth Ghat, Prayag Ghat marked by the Veni
Madhav Temple, Shyam Ghat, Ram Ghat, Kankhal Ghat, the site of the Janmashtami
and Jhula festivals, Dhruva ghat, Saptrishi Ghat, Mokshatirth Ghat, Surya Ghat,
Ravan Koti Ghat and Buddha Ghat.
The Vishram Ghat is lined with elegant temples
and some of Mathura's most important shrines are found here - the Mukut Temple,
Radha-Damodar, Murli Manohar, Neelkantheshwar, Yamuna-Krishna, Langali Hanuman
and Narasimha temples. The baithak of the great Vaishnava Saint, Shri Chaitanya,
is also near by.
The aarti held at the Vishram Ghat each evening
is not to be missed, for the little oil lamps that are floated on the river set
the placid water as sparkle with a myriad flickering lights.
No pilgrimage to Mathura is complete without a
visit to its kunds. Tradition has it that there were 159 ancient kunds in all.
Of these only four survive and can be seen. There is the elegant shiv Tal, the
more famous Potara Kund associated closely with Lord Krishna besides the
Balbhadra and Saraswati kunds.
The town has a number of Shaivite temples as
well. The chief among them being the Bhuteshwar Mahadev Temple to the west of
the town, the Gokarneshwar Temple in the north, the Rangeshwar. Mahadev Temple
to the south and the Pipaleshwar Mahadev Temple to the east.