The legendary Braj Bhoomi is the land where Lord Krishna was born. He spent his childhood and early adolescence here. While several millennia have passed since his ascension to the heavens, Krishna is still very much present in the Braj land. And if you listen intently, you might even here the music of his flute that enchanted the women of Vrindavan.
Mathura and Agra are the biggest towns in the Braj Bhoomi. The word Braj means pastures. It is said to have derived from the Sanskrit word Vraja. Mathura on the banks of river Yamuna is famous as the birthplace of Krishna. He was born in a prison to the Yadava prince Vasudeva and princess Devaki. He spent his childhood in Gokul and Nandagaon under the care of his foster parents Nandagopan and Yashoda. Nandagopan was the chief of a village of cow herders. Vrindavan, a small village near Nandagaon was famous for its fragrant groves. Krishna used to frequent this place. Often he took his cattle there and played his legendary flute. His music was so mesmerizing that it would transport even the birds and animals of Vrindavan, not to mention the Gopis, (women of the village) into a state of trance.
The Braj Bhoomi is in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Mathura, its nucleus, is 58 km north-west of Agra. It is about 145 km south-east of Delhi. The Braj Bhoomi today covers an area of 3,800 sq.kms. Places like Gokul, Mahavan and Baldeo are in the eastern part of Braj land whereas Vrindavan, Barsana, Govardhan, Nandgaon and Kusum Sarovar are in the western part. Surdas, an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna was born at Runakta in the Braj Bhoomi.
The legacy of Krishna
Krishna is the most endearing of all Hindu deities. He is playful, loving, mischievous and enigmatic. He is the ultimate symbol of love and friendship. He played numerous mischievous pranks and performed extraordinary exploits that won him the heart of millions. No other man or deity has had a greater influence on Indian arts, culture and literature than him. He is the ultimate lover, the best friend, and the wisest teacher. For millions of Hindus, Krishna is the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Mathura is a beautiful town on the banks of River Yamuna. The city is famous for its picturesque Ghats – steps leading to the river – temple spires and arched gateways. Mathura owes its existence to the Krishna legend. He was the best loved, the most enigmatic and the best known incarnations of Lord Vishnu. While he is no longer physically present in Mathura, you find him everywhere.
Mathura is an ancient city. It is mentioned even in Ramayana which is older than Mahabharata. It is an important pilgrimage center in Uttar Pradesh and stretches along the right banks of River Yamuna. The long stretches of the picturesque Ghats look marvelous when viewed from the opposite side of the river.
Mathura has numerous temples and shrines. The place where the Katra Keshav Dev Temple stands is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna. It is a beautiful shrine. Another important shrine, the Gita Mandir, has a splendid image of Lord Krishna in the sanctum. The walls of this temple are unique in that they have the whole of the Bhagwad Gita inscribed on them. The Dwarikadhish Temple, located on the northern part of Madhura, is the most famous shrine in the town. It was built in 1815 by a staunch devotee of Lord Krishna.
Ghats and Kunds of Mathura
Madhura has about 25 Ghats. The most famous is the Vishram Ghat where Lord Krishna is believed to have rested after killing his tyrannical uncle Kansa. The circumambulation of all the major cultural and religious centers of the city starts and ends at Vishram Ghat. There are 12 Ghats to the north and 11 Ghats to the south of Vishram Ghat.
The Vishram Ghat is lined with some of the most elegant temples of Madhura. Each evening an elaborate arti (worship involving fire) is performed at Vishram Ghat. The little oil lamps floating on the river add sparkles to it and create vivid memories.
Your pilgrimage to Mathura would be incomplete without a visit to its famous kunds. There were numerous of them, but only four survive today. The kunds used to be the source of potable drinking water for the villages. The Potara Kund is closely associated with Lord Krishna. Other kunds are Shiv Tal, Balbhadra Kund and Saraswati Kund.
Mathura has several Shaivite (those dedicated to the worship of Shiva) temples too. The most famous among them are the Bhuteshwar Mahadev Temple, Gokarneshwar Temple, Rangeshwar Mahadev Temple and the Pipaleshwar Mahadev Temple.