When was the first time you heard about Mathura? It was probably in your childhood, when you were reading one of those iconic Amar Chitra Katha books, depicting the stories of Lord Krishna. Or it was your grandmother, who told you bedtime stories about little Krishna and his endearing pranks? In all those stories, a name kept coming up – Mathura, his birthplace. Back then, Mathura never felt like a place to you; it, on the other hand, felt like a character, living and breathing and full of life.
Mathura boasts a rich cultural heritage that is weaved through hundreds and thousands of legends and myths. No wonder, it is regarded as one of the seven holy cities by Hindus all over India. Even in this modern age, the charm of Mathura continues to lure visitors from all parts of the country and beyond. And what makes this sacred city a hot favorite among tourists? The answer is pretty simple – an enticing milieu of sacred temples, religious structures, landmark monuments, and serene ghats lend Mathura a surreal beauty that is hard to find in your regular tourist destinations.
So, is the city of Mathura on your bucket list? If yes, then check out some of the famous attractions that make the city a top draw for tourists.
Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple
A trip to Mathura is never complete without a visit to the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple, an attraction that never fails to fascinate tourists. As the name indicates, it marks the place of Lord Krishna’s birth. Regarded as the holiest place in Mathura, the temple is constructed around the prison cell, where Devaki is believed to have given birth to Krishna around 5000 years ago. While the original temple was constructed by King Vajra, the great-grandson of Lord Krishna, the shrine has been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times over the course of history. Today it stands as one of the most popular temples not just in Mathura, but in the whole country.
If you happen to visit Mathura during the festivals of Holi or Janmashtami, you can be part of the vibrant celebrations that draw lakhs. Whether you are a believer or not, don’t leave the city without visiting this holy shrine.
Location: Near Deeg Gate Chouraha, Janam Bhumi
5:00 am to 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 09:30 pm (summers)
5:30 am to 12.00 pm and 3:00 pm to 8:30 pm (winters)
Temples are not the only things that make Mathura one of the most-visited places in the country. There are a few historic and quaint mosques too in the city. About 1 km from Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple is Jama Masjid, a renowned mosque that dates back to 1661. The mosque is adorned with four ornamented minarets, which, combined with its spellbinding architecture, make this structure a sight to behold. Each day, the mosque attracts not just Muslim devotees, but scores of tourists as well, who come to marvel at this monument’s beauty.
Location: Chatta Bazar
Timings: 5:00 am to 9:00 pm
Ever seen an idol of Krishna without his flute and peacock feather, two characteristic features we always associate with him? Head to Dwarkadhish Temple in Mathura and you can see one. What sets this 200-year-old Hindu shrine apart from the other temples of the city is that the shiny black marble idol of Lord Krishna here is depicted as Dwarkanath or the King of Dwarka, without his customary flute and peacock feather. Accompanying him is his consort, Radharani, who is carved out of white marble. One of the largest temples in Mathura, this shrine is also known for its exceptional architecture and strikingly beautiful carvings. The entrance of the temple, which is constructed in the Rajasthani style of architecture, leads to an open courtyard with magnificently carved pillars.
The best time to visit the temple is during the swing festival that is celebrated at the start of the monsoons every year. During the festival, the idol is placed on a beautifully decorated silver swing, and the entire temple is decorated with colors. It’s indeed a visual treat, but remember, the place can get a bit crowded at that time.
Location: Raja Dhiraj Bazar Road
6:30 am to 10:30 am and 4.00 pm to 7:00 pm (summers)
6:30 am to 10:30 am and 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm (winters)
Ask any local person about the best places to visit in Mathura and Vishram Ghat’s name is sure to crop up. Out of the 25 ghats in Mathura built along the banks of river Yamuna, Vishram Ghat is considered to be the most sacred one. As per the legends, Lord Krishna took rest at this ghat after killing Kansa, his uncle. Didn’t we tell you everything in Mathura has a legend associated with it?
Built out of marble stones and adorned with a beautiful arch, the ghat presents a stunning view of the lovely temples surrounding it. You can even enjoy a boat ride while you are here. If you happen to visit the place in the evening during the time of the aarti, you will be delighted to see countless small oil lamps floating down the Yamuna.
Location: Vishram Bazar, Choubey Para
4:45 am and 7:30 pm (summers)
5:15 am and 07.00 pm (winters)
Fancy taking a dip in a waterbody where Radha supposedly used to collect flowers and meet her beloved Krishna? Then you need to visit Kusum Sarovar, another major attraction that adds to Mathura’s popularity among tourists. This huge tank is 450 feet long and almost 60 feet deep. Kadamba trees and beautifully carved cenotaphs housing the tombs of the rulers of Bharatpur surround the place, adding to its natural beauty. Don’t forget to carry your camera during your visit to this place.
Location: Radha Kund
Timings: All through the day
Kans Qila is a fort that testifies to the beauty and timelessness of Hindu and Islamic architectural styles. That is not the only significant aspect of this fort, though. Going by the legends, it was once home to King Kansa, the tyrannical uncle of Lord Krishna. Located on the banks of river Yamuna, the fort isn’t in its best condition today. Nonetheless, it is a huge draw for tourists visiting the city. This ancient fort is said to have housed an observatory once, but you won’t be able to find any sign of it now. However, its fortified walls and huge structure make it worth your while.
Timings: 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
If you make a list of reasons Mathura is among the most visited destinations in India, you cannot help but mention the Mathura Museum, also known as the Government Museum. Constructed in 1874, this place attracts tourists and history buffs alike. It features a host of sculptures, paintings, coins, artifacts, pottery, and several other things that give you a quick glimpse into the bygone era. The architecture of this sandstone museum is another attraction that draws hordes of travelers. If you are someone with an inclination towards art and architecture, do not miss out on visiting this museum on your Mathura trip.
Location: Dampier Nagar
Timings: 10:30 am to 4:30 pm (closed on Mondays)
Entry Fee: ₹ 5
Among the popular places to visit in Mathura and Vrindavan, Gita Mandir is situated on the outskirts of Mathura. The highlight of the temple is the Gita Stambha that has all the Bhagavad Gita illustrated and inscribed on it. Also known as Birla Mandir, this incredible temple houses the idols of Lord Krishna along with those of Lord Ram, Goddess Sita, and Lakshmi Narayan. You can also see a beautiful chariot inside the temple complex. Apart from the marvelous architecture, it is the serenity of the place that will lure you to spend a few peaceful moments here.
Location: Vrindavan – Mathura Road, Garravkendra
Timings: 6:00 am to 7:00 pm
Don’t be disheartened if you are in Mathura for just a couple of days. You can find a lot of interesting places to visit in Mathura and Vrindavan in one day. One such place is the famed Govardhan Hill. Located near Vrindavan, this hill holds much spiritual significance for Hindus from across the country. According to legends, when Lord Krishna was still a child, he had lifted this huge hill on just one finger to save his village from incessant rains and thunderstorm, defeating Lord Indra, the god of rain and thunder, and crushing his ego in the process.
Religious significance apart, this sandstone hill offers mesmerizing views of the surrounding areas; some splendid artworks add to the beauty of the hill. So, remember to click a few pictures here to carry back the memories of your visit.
Location: Giriraj Govardhan Colony
Timings: All through the day
Though Krishna was born in Mathura, he spent his childhood in Gokul in the house of his foster parents, Yashoda and Nand Rai. As such, Gokul is dotted with many structures and places where you can get a glimpse of Krishna’s childhood. Among the major places to visit in Gokul is Nand Bhawan, believed to be a sprawling mansion where Krishna and his brother, Balaram, grew up. Located on a hill, it provides an amazing view of the surrounding areas; thus, doubling up as a great photography spot. Even today, you can visit the place where little Krishna must have played with his mates long ago and Yashoda must have fed him his favorite, butter.
Location: Mahaban Bangar, Gokul
5:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm (summers)
6:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 8:30 pm (winters)
Prem Mandir counts among the recently built temples in Mathura. Located on a sprawling 54-acre land, it was opened to the public in 2012. But, such is the allure of this temple that within this short span of time, it has become one of the most visited places for tourists exploring the Mathura-Vrindavan circuit. Radha Krishna and Ram Sita are worshipped at this temple. An outstanding example of elegance and architectural grandeur, this colossal temple is also known as the Temple of God’s Love.
Made out of Italian white marble, the 125-feet high temple is adorned with elaborate carvings and statues of Lord Krishna that depict various interesting incidents from the deity’s life. Visit this temple during the night, and you will be mesmerized by the spectacular sight of it glowing with colorful lights. You can even enjoy the musical fountain show that takes place every evening.
Location: Raman Reiti
Temple: 5:00 am to 12:00 pm and 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Musical Fountain: 7:00 pm (winters) and 7:30 pm (summers)
Krishna Balaram Mandir
Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan, administered by the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) foundation, holds a special significance among the devotees of Lord Krishna. For tourists, the impressive temple is an example of stunning architecture and surreal beauty. The presiding deities of the temple are Krishna Balaram, Radha Syamasundara, and Gaura Nitai. One main highlight of the temple is that the place is flooded with the sweet harmony of Kirtan 24 hours.
Location: Raman Reiti
4:10 am to 8:45 pm (summers)
4:10 am to 8:15 pm (winters)
It is really tough to express the appeal and uniqueness of the ancient city of Mathura through words; you need to experience it first-hand. The city, however, is not just about temples and shrines. The local cuisine of the city is equally enticing. So, after a hectic day of sightseeing, do not forget to try local delicacies like peda, ghewar, ras malai, and thandai before retiring to the comfort of your hotel in Mathura. Also, do not forget to carry home a few items as memorabilia of your trip to the land of Krishna and his countless stories.