I have visited the city of Lord Krishna at least a dozen times before, but this was the first time I was able to see the city from the eyes of a traveller. It was only in this trip that I realized that this city has a lot to offer. Even if you are not a religious person you must visit this place for the history and folk lore associated with every nook and corner of the city.
I began the tour of the city with Govardhan mandir which is around 30 mins away from Mathura city. This is the starting point of govardhan parikrama, the spiritual walk (21 kms) around the hill that devotees undertake to offer their prayers to the hill and lord Krishna. I didn’t do the parikrama but if you are in the mood for adventure or share the same religious beliefs, this should be fun.
The next stop for me was Karshani Ashram, Raman Reti which is around 70 minutes away from Govardhan. I thought I would stay there for a few minutes only and leave for lunch but once I entered the campus I lost all track of time. I reached at the time of prasadi (lunch) and they were serving kadi chawal which were just perfect for the moment. Since it was March-end it was slightly warm during the day but inside the ashram the cool sand and soothing chants completely changed the atmosphere. After lunch I started exploring the campus. The main temple of Ramanbihari ji, the lake, gaushala (cow shed) and the mud huts that the sages live in were all a treat to the eyes. The campus is full of wildlife and there were deer, black buck, peacocks and to add to all of that I saw an elephant walk by.
Around 6 PM, all the sages collected in the main mandir and the evening arti began. It was a complete celebration, with people singing and dancing away in a state of trance. And the main attraction, the elephant, is trained to perform the rituals of Aarti. It was a perfect end to day one.
The first stop next day was bankey bihari temple. Here they keep closing and opening the curtains so the idols are visible only for a few seconds. The belief here is that lord krishna is very easily lured and if a devotee looks into the eyes of lord with love and devotion he just decides to walk away with him. Somehow the story adds a charm to the place and the idols look even more beautiful as you just stand in the temple and wait to be able to see them again.
There is a small market which leads to the temple and there are many small shops here which mainly sell souvenirs or Prasad to be offered to in the temple. There are also many options of street food available here so if you are hungry this would be a good place to stop and munch on delicious local snacks.
Krishna Balram Mandir – Isckon Temple
The Isckon temple is one of the most well kept temples of Mathura. Visit any time of the day and you will see both foreigners and Indians meditating here. It is amazing to see the level of devotion which takes these people to a state of trance and, religious or not, when you are here you want to somehow feel that high that these people experience.
Inside the campus of the temple there is a book shop, various souvenirs shops and a meditation centre. You can easily spend hours in this place.
This temple should be visited between 7PM and 7:30 PM because that is when they have a sound and light show. The show is just ok but the sculptures that they have in the temple and in the campus are breath taking. More than praying all you want to do here is absorb the sight of the fountains, sculptures & lights.
Raman reti and Iskcon temple were my two favourite spots. If you don’t want to go into crowded areas, don’t want to explore every nook and corner of the city but just find a nice place, relax and meditate or enjoy the aarti celebrations you should spend most of your time at these two places.
Other places to visit
I wasn’t in the mood for touch and go visit to temples so I let some places be, which I plan to cover when I visit Mathura next. If you want to see everything at once maybe you could also swing by Janam Bhoom, Dwarka Dheesh, Paagal baba ka mandir, Kesi ghat, Rangaji temple.
One place I missed on is Madhuvan gardens. I am very intrigued by the story I was told about it. It’s said that Lord Krishna with Radha and all his gopi’s still visits these gardens at midnight and they sing and dance just like the old times. No one is allowed to enter this place after evening and it is said that anyone who stays there and watches this phenomenon either doesn’t survive to tell the story or loses his senses. People believe that the scene at midnight here is so beautiful that the whole world becomes meaningless for one who had laid eyes on such beauty. On the other hand, the gardens are said to be beautiful too so a visit in the day time might be a good idea.
This city is a paradise for vegetarians. Good vegetarian food available everywhere at very reasonable prices. And if you are fond of the street food, chat per say, then you are in for a treat.
Brijwasi is a famous shop here and the sweets (peda) is supposed to be good. Food was good here but I felt it is overrated. The much cheaper street food was far better.
Mathura – Vrindavan can easily be covered in two days but if you are on a tight schedule you can cover the major points in one day too.
There is a roadways bus service available from Mathura bus stand that picks you up at 8 in the morning and takes you to major destinations and finishes the tour by 8 in the evening. Such bus services are available from Vrindavan also. They charge in the range of INR 100 – 150 per person.
How to get here
- There are many buses available from Sarai kale khan, ISBT, Delhi at regular intervals
- Trains also run from Delhi to Mathura
- It’s a 3 hour drive from Delhi and the drive is a very pleasant one if you take the Greater noida expressway.
Where to stay
Hotels of all budgets, guest houses and dharamshalas are available. It is advisable to stay in Vrindavan for one day and Mathura the other so that you can easily cover all the places.
Since I have my relatives in Mathura I did not take a hotel so I can not recommend a place but I can share a couple of numbers of hotels I saw there to give you a fair idea.
- Bankey bihari guest house, Vrindavan (Ph: 0565–2443529 ) Double room INR 900
- Hotel Vrindavan garden, Mathura (Ph: 0565-2442230 ) Double room INR 1800
- Gaurav boarding house, Mathura (Ph: 0565-6455166 ) Double room INR 600
How to travel
Taxi is the most convenient since all the three places – govardhan, Mathura and vrindavan are at least 30 minutes away from each other.
If you are travelling alone there are sharing autos easily available which will take you to all the destinations
Word of caution
- Avoid wearing any jewellery specially chains since there have been incidences of chain snatching
- Wear a sling bag across your neck and keep your valuables in it
- Don’t leave your shoes unattended outside the temples and always keep them in the authorized shoe racks only.
- In some of the temples they will force you to donate money, specially in most of the old temples like govardhan, bankey bihari, janam bhoomi and dwarka dheesh. If you put money in the donation box instead of handing it to the priest he might even resort to fighting with you. So in case that happens, don’t let it spoil your mood.
Planning a trip to Mathura?
For your convinience, we have shared an entire Flickr Album of our noteworhty shots to give you a feel of the trip. Access it here.
If you want to take a printout/PDF version of this post to refer on your trip, you may request the same in the comments below. We will be glad to mail you the same in an attempt to make the planning process easier for you.
If you have already been here or to other similar places, share your experiences or engage in a conversation below. (Alternatively, here’s a link to the discussion on our facebook page)
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One thought on “48 Hours in Mathura: The mystical city of saints, food and folklore”
I’ve been to Mathura a number of times, but I’ve never been to Raman Reti. Just did the usual, Baake bihari and iscon temple. This place really seems nice. will surely visit it the next time!