Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
The Shri Krishna Janmasthan Temple, also known as the Keshav Dev Temple, is the major temple of Mathura, one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism. Dedicated to the Lord Krishna, it stands on or near the place believed to be the site where Krishna was born. It is believed that the current temple may be a descendent of one of the very first major temples ever constructed in India. Thanks to its prominent location near Agra on the road to New Delhi, it is one of the most visited major Hindu shrines in India.
The history of Mathura is one of the oldest in India. According to tradition, in ancient times that may stretch back five thousand years or more, a man named Kamsa once ruled a kingdom centered in Mathura. A terrible tyrant, Kamsa ruled brutally over his people. However, it was prophecied that he would eventually be slain by the eighth son of his sister Devaki.
Kamsa had his sister’s children killed, but the eight, Krishna, survived. Krishna, accounted to be a manifestation of the Lord Vishnu, grew up and fought against his uncle’s minion. Eventually Krishna fought Kamsa and killed him, thereby freeing Mathura from his tyranny. Since that time, Mathura has been inextricably linked to one of Hinduism’s greatest figures.
Mathura was one of India’s most important cities and religious centers throughout much of its ancient history. It served as the capital city of several kingdoms and empires in north-central India. Over its long lifespan the city became a major Hindu Pilgrimage center and adorned with thousands of temples and shrines.
A temple commemorating the birth of Krishna and his triumph over Kamsa may have stood in Mathura as early as 3,000 BC. At least three other temples have stood on the site since, all of which were subsequently destroyed by conquerors. For nearly three centuries, from 1669 until the 20th century, Mathura went without its centerpiece temple. A new one, the current structure, was finally completed in 1965.
Despite its relatively recent construction, the Shri Krishna Janmasthan Temple is built in a traditional style that evokes an earlier age. Because of its relatively new construction in the city center, the temple is closely hemmed in by the surrounding neighborhood, making it difficult to take in. However, its red-brick spire domes do peak above the nearby buildings and can be seen from the surrounding streets.
Immediately to the north of the temple is the city’s main mosque, built on the site of the previous temple. Therefore there is some question exactly where the site was that Krishna was born. However, most Hindus believe that it is neither under the mosque nor the current temple, but rather on another site within the temple complex. This small room, built over the site of Krishna’s birth, is one of the holiest places in the Hindu faith.
The Shri Krishna Janmasthan Temple is located immediately adjacent to the Jama Masjid in the city center of Mathura, approximately eighty miles south of New Delhi. The temple is open daily from 4:30am-8:30pm. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.up-tourism.com/vrindavan (official tourism website of Mathura).
Like the other major sacred Hindu cities, Mathura is overflowing with temples and shrines. Beyond the Shri Krishna Janmasthan Temple is the locally popular Dwarkadheesh Temple, as well as the Vishram Ghat, where Krishna is believed to have rested after fighting a demon.
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