Mathura TourismMathura is an important hub among the pilgrim centres of North India. A city resonant with the ancient, vibrant history of India, it finds a mention in Ramayana, one of the oldest Indian epics. The tale goes that a demon called Lavanasura claimed a large piece of heavily wooded land and used it to further his demonic deeds. Prince Shatrughna of the Ishwaku clan branching out from the Solar Dynasty (Suryavansh) and Lord Rama’s brother, slew the demon. The thick wooded land came to be called Madhupura, later shorted to Mathura.
Places of Historical Importance in Mathura
Historically and geographically, Mathura has in the past been associated with many ruling empires of India like the Kushans and the Mauryas. Vandalized by later Mughal emperors, because it flourished as a seat of Hinduism, notably the Vaishnava sect, Mathura has also been vastly influenced by foreign civilizations and cultures like the Greek, Scythian, Hellenistic and the Chinese. Mathura held great significance for the Buddhist, Jain and Brahmanical faiths for over 3000 years and, hence, it’s long and colourful history is held in great reverence.
The Chinese accounts of Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang mention a Buddhist influence in the areas around Mathura and mention the presence of Brahmanical as well as Buddhist places of worship. Megasthenes, the Greek writer, of 3rd century BCE in his work Indika, mentions a town by the name of Methora.
Places of Religious Importance in Mathura
Mathura’s importance as a city which is on the tourism radar of North India is intensely magnified by its relevance as a pilgrimage centre of Hinduism, chiefly Krishnaism, as followers of Krishna like to be known. Krishna is seen by many purists of the religion as the complete reincarnation of Vishnu, one of the divine elements of the Holy Triumvirate. Hence, Mathura and its twin city Vrindavan are seats of Vaishnavite learning and are dotted with thousands of temples and places of worship and dwellings, some of which are over 5000 years old. During the renaissance period of 15th century, these towns were re-discovered and have since then achieved great fame and significance as places of worship and tourist interest.
Annual festivals commemorating various events during Krishna’s life are celebrated with great religious significance.
Mathura as Tourist Place
Mathura is located about 150 kilometres from Delhi and is an important cog in the ‘pilgrimage tourism’ map of India. Pilgrims and tourists have many options of fixed and customized itineraries, not only on the axis between Delhi and Agra but also to various places around Mathura. The town of Vrindavan is of huge importance, both from the religious and touristic points of view, as one complements the other and the inter-dependence between the two are highlighted in more ways than one. Over thousands of years ago, the areas around Mathura revelled in the melodious music and the pastimes of the ‘rascal of the Braj’ as Krishna was fondly referred to. To the many thousands who throng Mathura, stepping on the sacred soil and reliving the past is in itself a celebration of life. One of India’s largest religious festivals, the Kumbh Mela, also has a link to Mathura-Vrindavan again highlighting its unique heritage in the scheme of things.
Mathura is home to a variety of buildings, temples and premises that are both ancient and modern.
- Gita Mandir – this temple is a repository for paintings and temple carvings of the rarest quality
- Government Museum – the Museum houses the finest collection of archaeological interest dating back to the Gupta and Kushan dynasties. Mathura’s school of art, which flourished for over 1200 years, is famous for its prolific creativity of novel art forms like sculptures and clay figurines
- Birla Temple
- Old Fort (Kans Quila) – built as a dyke or levee to prevent the entry of flood waters from the Yamuna, this is now a centre of tourist attraction
- Rifle Club – Its proximity to Defence units and a distinct English connection, the club witnesses rifle shooting events along with a number of social activities
- Mathura Refinery – As you head from Agra, the lights outlining the vast area of the refinery can be seen as you approach the city from Delhi.
Strategic Significance of Mathura
Mathura’s significance as a strategic centre for Corps I of the Indian Army’s Central Command services, in a large classified area located on the city’s outskirts, greatly enhances its identity. Known as the Mathura Cantonment, it houses units and divisions of the Artillery, Armoured Corps, Air Defence, Engineering Brigades and Strike Infantry. Its strategic location adds significantly to the country’s defence of its western borders. The operational ability of the Army in a high intensity and short duration requirement like a NBC (Nuclear-Chemical-Biological environment) situation is a point to note.
What to do in Mathura
- Boating is a leisure activity that can be done on the Yamuna River, the Durvasa Rishi temple on the opposite bank of the river and the Hansiya Rani Ghat built of red stone are prime attractions
- Attend the Ramleela celebrations – Ramleela is a play based on Lord Rama’s life, episodes from certain events described in the epic Ramayana are shown
- Pooja articles made of Brass and Copper as well as antique pieces are displayed for the art lovers at the Government Museum. For those who wish to purchase, there are several shops that sell these items.
- Literary outlets selling books and literature on every aspect of life abound in Mathura. The creative writings of Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya can be purchased here
- Krishna and his association with gau (cow) is a celebrated theme in Mathura; the “peda”, a sweet made of milk and sugar defines Mathura and is a ‘must have’. Several other delicacies from milk like badam kheer (milk and almond drink), sweetened hot milk, lassi (sweetened yoghurt) and jaljeera (a digestive drink made from cumin seeds) are specialities from here. Mathura is also famous for kachoris and jalebis which are served fresh and hot from breakfast time onwards.
Mathura serves as a connecting point for visitors to travel to other sightseeing areas around the city. Several places of interest are within easy reach.
- Taj Mahal and the Fort in Agra
- Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
- Keetham Bird Sanctuary
- The backwaters of the Gokul Barrage on the Yamuna
- Trip to the Govardhana hill