A BRIEF ABOUT LORD KRISHNA
On and off the record 330 million – or in local slang Muppathi Mukkodi – Gods are being worshiped across India that divided into 29 states and 7 union territories speaking around 28 different languages over the length and breadth of the country. And one divine name finds its relevance everywhere, for every kind of person surviving many generations without losing its charisma a bit, that is none other than ‘Lord Krishna’.
Lord Krishna is believed to be born in Mathura which is around 150 km from the capital city of India, Delhi, and 50 km from Agra. The place that still breathes its life with the stories revolving around His birth, His childhood naughtiness, His tender age heroics, His youth’s love stories, and His adulthood intellectual wisdom. The place recognized for and reverberates in the memory of His life where lakhs of devotees visit every day known as Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
WHY MATHURA IS SO FAMOUS
When rivers are used to define the divinity of many mythological aspects of a holy place and River Ganga has been connected to many places precisely 11 states of India through the places like Kashi, Haridwar, etc but in Mathura, it is river Yamuna which is related to this place and life of Krishna. The calm and silently flowing river Yamuna has the same divinity as that of any temple here. Even now the core of the area known as Brij Bhumi is divided into two based on the riverbanks on either side namely the eastern and western parts. Approximately 5000 Lord Krishna temples in this small city prove the long relationship between the divinity of Lord Krishna and this place.
AN UNEXPECTED WOW MOMENT
During a trip to explore Mathura, we landed in another temple first missing the correct road towards the actual destination of Lord Krishna’s birthplace. It was located very close to the highway and known as Radha Vrindavan Chandra Mandir. There was nothing special except the temple was huge, peaceful with architectural excellence of modern times constructed with the latest know-how and technology which look like a trademark for the temple. It was a type of building, a modern one in design and appearance, and made with the latest modern building designs, and materials too. The white marble structure was really appealing to all with specially designed stones fixed in the intermediate location making it more attractive to everyone. Seemed to be a type of building that ‘money can do anything type’ and it was true too almost – even from the view of the grand arch entrance gate leading to the temple from outside.
The temple was built by the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) founder fulfilling his dream of making a temple for Lord Krishna and His brother in the same building in a place where they played together ie Mathura. The main deity thus belongs to them with other paintings of Lord Krishna’s life depicted on the walls and other idols side by.
But the real wow moment from visiting this temple was when we came to know about the volume of effort, they were doing very religiously every day. This temple provides meals to poor kids covering almost every school in the district and nearby villages, a continuation of such work after successful implementation by ISKCON, Bangalore. The temple is also known as Akshaya Patra temple, a name provided very thoughtfully taken from Puranas which literally means a Never-Ending Food bowl. The preparation of food is with the help of huge machines primarily for chappathi (Roti) making – from mixing of wheat flour to the final shape which can make 1000s of rotis within an hour or so.
THE MAIN DESTINATION REACHED
On an honest note, this was a temple that had come on our way because of not knowing the exact route to the original destination but it was equally worth it, like any historical temple witnessing how they were making a real change to the society. Soon we proceeded to the location of Lord Krishna’s birthplace by getting to know about the road that was to be followed. As we reached very close to the temple location, it seemed like despite being a destination where so many people across India come daily and even foreigners, the place has not received its due or recognition or its real value which it possesses. Congested roads with no signboards for how to reach there made us again confused a little bit. It is not about changing the aesthetic originality of the temple, but the infrastructure of the location could have been developed for making the life or travel of visitors easier.
But it was not a concern to be bothered about, as soon as we realized the importance of this place that looks like still enveloped with the divine aura spread by Lord Krishna with the presence of thousands of devotees chanting Hare Krishna as we entered the road towards the temple complex in which the prison where Lord Krishna was born is still preserved in its original condition.
A RESEMBLANCE TO WHAT IT WAS 5000 YEARS AGO
The street looked like they were part of ancient times with cows wandering as if it belongs to them on a logical thought based on Lord Krishna’s life. The temple premises or the Janmasthan turned out to be way different than how the street looked like. The temple and the complex were treated as very sensitive locations with the presence of heavy security found all over the place. Mobile phones and cameras were banned inside the temple premises, so special arrangements for depositing those stuff safely were available at the entrance.
The temple is constructed in such a way that it is exactly at the location where Lord Krishna was believed to be born as per the stories we came across. Once inside and in the place where Lord Krishna has born – precisely the prison area changed the course of thought to divine and soul-filling. The unique ambiance and silence despite being many visitors inside have truly made it more memorable. Many faces from many places and states were found to be content with the blessed moment of being in such a place.
THE BIRTH SECRET
Kansa – the cruel maternal uncle of Lord Krishna wanted to kill all the sons of His parents as there was a prediction through a voice from the sky during his sister Devaki’s wedding with Vasudev that he will be killed by one of their sons, the precise reason why Lord Krishnas’s parents were being imprisoned so to kill each child born to them. The story goes like that Kansa killed all 7 newborn babies immediately after birth and when Lord Krishna was born, Vasudev escaped from prison and moved far away to a safe home with infant Krishna.
The Janmabhoomi complex consists of a temple known as Keshav Dev temple and most of the visitors might consider this to be the temple where Lord Krishna was believed to be born. This temple – one of the thousands of Lord Krishna temples is situated within the city albeit with another name, as per the history books, the main deity was installed by the great-grandson of Lord Krishna around 4000 to 5000 years ago.
THE FAMOUS STEP WELL
Another magnificent location at a walkable distance from the Janmasthan that is related to the stories of Lord Krishna is a water body a step well, known as Potra Kund with specially designed steps all around. Lord Krishna’s parents used this area for bathing and washing clothing. The steps constructed with red sandstones were maintained carefully by concerned authorities that looked free from any major damages.
Mathura, which may also be called a city of temples for the number of divine locations in this small city is having opens up another temple while moving into any direction, most likely famous too. Dwarakdeesh temple with the literal meaning of Lord Krishna being the owner of Dwarka close to the banks of the river was another famous one visited. Relatively new and it is known for its architectural works and paintings on ceilings. There were no doors to the idols but instead it was a curtain that will be slid toward both sides to give darshan to all. The temple looked always crowded.
ON THE BANKS OF THE SACRED RIVER YAMUNA @ VISHRAM GHAT
A few steps from this temple flows the sacred and revered river, Yamuna, through the heart of the divine city of Mathura which people across India would like to visit once and do a Parikarma pooja by taking a bath in the holy water of the river. The name of the place where pilgrims gather is Vishram ghat, the central ghat among 24 others with 12 each on either side. Ghats are riverbanks with steps in the shore that lead into the river. It is believed that Lord Krishna came to this place for resting after killing the demon Kansa, thus the name Vishram ghat. Unlike river Ganga another sacred river in India with the amount of divinity it carries across India flowing through 11 Indian states which seems furious in many locations’ river Yamuna looked at a standstill and peaceful inviting every onlooker on the ghat to take rest by spending some time in front of thereby making the name of ghat meaningful.
It was the start of winter with a perfect climate and standing in the Vishram ghat where the Yamuna River is flowing a few feet away felt like a blissful and dreamlike scenario waiting for years to come. The silent Yamuna River, not so big in width that the other side is just a few meters away with boats plying with visitors and feathered white birds flying in huge numbers (I am not sure about its name) only added the charm of the holy river to spend as much time there.
ENJOY THE PEACEFULNESS OF RIVER YAMUNA THROUGH BOATING
Made some customary poojas for the departed soul of my father, mother, and a younger brother who left the world at a much younger age with a heavy heart and spent some time taking a deep breath while sitting on the banks of this sacred river. A boat ride looked really interesting and a must-do here and as the thought went by not much time was required to get into a boat with their planned itinerary rowing across to reach the other side of the river. A tiny temple complex inside a village close to the shore with two or three small buildings was there but what seemed to be interested is the vast difference on either side of the river Yamuna. On one side the hustle and bustle of a famous tourist location and on the other side a pukka village that looked like even basic necessities are yet to reach. The same boat will stay there to bring back and show the important places on the riverbank mostly related to the stories of Lord Krishna.
There were many more temples that are famous and special in their own unique ways in Mathura. Nidhivan and Sevakunj or Banke Bihari where time does not feel to move while enjoying the special place to be in even in the long queue to have the darshan was the next one visited. So many stories are being told by an old fellow nearby while on the slow-moving line emphasizing the importance of this place for Lord Krishna and his Rasleela.
The place was surrounded by Tulsi plants of different types and astonished to see Tulsi being planted as a forest. Most of the trees are seems to be intertwined with hollow trunks associated with them. The trees are protected by a fence on both sides of the small corridor through which people are lined up in the queue for the darshan. The fence is made up of small bamboo strips like a net so that people while waiting in the queue can enjoy the Tulsi van.
As per the mythology, this is the place where Lord Krishna, Radha, and Gopis enjoyed the rasaleela. It is believed that this place is still part of Lord Krishna, Radha, and others such that every day after the evening Arti the temple shall be completely given for them as a routine custom. As per the locals, neither anyone pass through this area after the evening nor dare to check what is happening inside. The windows of nearby homes with their direction towards this temple open only in the morning once they close it after the Arti time. All these beliefs show how deeply the city of Mathura is still involved with the life of Lord Krishna and its rituals.
As we came out after the darshan, it is seen that many people that includes old, young, kids, ladies, and gents were dancing in a joyful mood in a space that looked to be used only for dancing. Maybe it is a form of worshipping the rasleela, and after watching those dance steps for a while we too joined and made some movements or danced for some time. And was thinking maybe it was blessed by Lord Krishna, because of the fact that till that day in life we never ever thought of trying to make a few dance steps ever.
Mathura is one of the holiest places that has been preserved intact despite many controversial happenings took place in this location for a long time; from the time of Emperors ruled till recent, for any new people coming over to experience the history of this city, to witness this beautiful temple along with, the great significance with this divine location associated with the birth of the most loved God in India makes it worth it but having visited many Lord Krishna temples with one special mention of Sri Guruvayoor temple in Kerala and had seen how affectionately the visiting devotees are embraced in the temple premises for Darshan, then it would be very easy to understand the extent of Importance and expectation this place carries over the centuries:
- This story has been first published in my private blog https://exploredeindia.wordpress.com/
- Wikipedia page for more stories of Lord Krishna – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna