I am going to divide this trip into four blog posts, not because I simply want to add more posts, but because it is the best way to do it.
We had, during this trip, gone to Vrindavan Mathura, Govardhan and Gokul. These two towns and two villages (the ones with the G are villages) fall in an area called the Braj Bhoomi or the Land of Krishna. This is where the story began. This is where the legend of Krishna began on a rainy night. He was born at midnight, during a stormy night, and was smuggled out of the town of Mathura. There was a myth that stated that he would kill his uncle – the evil Kans – and the uncle had killed all the brothers and sisters who came before him by bashing their heads against the wall.
Every year his birthday is celebrated during a festival called Janam Ashtami. Indian festivals follow the lunar calendar, so don't go looking up the Gregorian calendars. If you want to know the date for 2015, check the Hindu calendar.
We had driven into Vrindavan, and were staying at the Nidhivan Hotel. Very decent I must say, and we had booked it via booking.com
Once in the town, take an auto rickshaw. Don't drive your own car unless you want a hefty repair bill. the local cops told me that 6 million pilgrims visit the town during these days.
This year was strange. It did not rain. We got off at the main market, at the Jama Masjid and walked. We passed the main, Vishram Ghat (on the banks of the Yamuna River) and walked across to have lunch at a very good Gujarati restaurant. We did pass something called Gandhi Park, which was apparently a British jail in the early part of the last century.
People thronged the roads, and the flow of people seemed like a river in flood. The town has decaying buildings with wonderful doors. Check them out!
We went for a boat ride at sunset, witnessed the evening prayers at the Vishram Ghat, and then headed off to the Dwarkadeesh Temple where the main prayers take place. Vishram means rest, and ghats refer to steps leading down to a body of water, and this is where he rested after killing Kans.
He was actually born at another spot, and Aurangzeb (the last of the great Mughal Emperors) had built a mosque over the spot. The temple and mosque are joined at the hip as it were, and I am told that he was actually born in a spot covered by the mosque. Most temples in Mathura follow a style of a "birthing room' surrounded by other sanctums.
Cameras are not allowed in the temples, so beware!
Decaying buildings, cows (which are revered), people, a procession and what have you but the makings of a grand celebration. Street food is something that you need to try with care! There is a fantastic sweet shop called the Gosai Pede Wallah, near the Vishram Ghat in case you want to buy some stuff.
Talking of Ghats, there are 25 of them, with the Vishram Ghat in the centre. Nice architecture, and this is quite a change from the faceless, characterless, bland rubbish that we see nowadays.
One word – you do get tea in a nice earthen cup called a 'kullar' in Mathura. This is the way to drink masala chai!