Vrindavana and Mathura are the most important places of pilgrimage for devotees of Krishna. Krishna was born in Mathura and spent His childhood in Vrindavan. There are over 5,000 temples in Vrindavan.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

The city of Mathura, in Uttar Pradesh, the nucleus of Brajabhumi, is located 140 km south-east of Delhi and 60 km north-west of Agra. Covering an area of about 3,800 sq. km., Brajabhumi can be divided into two distinct units - the eastern part in the trans-Yamuna tract with places like Gokul, Mahavan, Baldeo, Mat and Bajna and the western side of the Yamuna covering the Mathura region that encompasses Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Barsana and Nandgaon (Nandagram).

The city of Mathura is located in the western part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, in the north of India. It is a part of the great northern plains and is situated on the west bank of the river Yamuna. Mathura is 140 km south of Delhi and 60 km northwest of Agra. The climate of Mathura is extreme and tropical. Summers are extremely hot and winters are cold and foggy. It experiences southwestern monsoon rains from July to September.

An ancient city whose origins fade into the mists of history, Mathura's strategic location at the cross roads of various trade routes - that went westwards to West Asia and the Roman Empire; northwards, via Taxila, Pushkalavati and Purushapur to Central Asia and the Silk Route and eastwards to China - ensured its position as a center of trade and a meeting point for varied cultures. By the fifth century BC, during the time of Buddha, it was a major metropolis and the capital of the Surasena kingdom - one of the 16 Mahajanapadas of the period. Mathura saw its `golden age' during the rule of the Kushanas and the able governance of rulers like Kanishka, Huvishka, and Vasishka, when the arts flourished and economic wealth grew. It remained a center of power during the Mauryan period, through the enlightened rule of Emperor Ashoka to the Gupta era (4th century AD).

The Dvarkadhish Temple, built in 1814, is a popular temple in the center of Mathura town. This is the most visited temple in the center of Mathura and is managed by followers of Vallabhacarya. Once you enter this temple from the street, it is fairly interesting architecturally. It is located in the eastern part of Mathura, not far from the Yamuna River. The temple is a hub of activity during the festive days of Holi, Janmashtami and Divali.

Jami Masjid on a plinth raised above street level a little way north, was completed in 1661 by Aurangzeb's governor Abd-un-Nabi. It has long since lost its original vivid glazed tiles, but remains surrounded by four minarets and assorted outer pavilions. Around 500 m west stands another of Aurangzeb's mosques, the impressive red sandstone Katra Masjid. This was erected on the foundations of the once-famous Kesava Deo temple, destroyed by the Moghul emperor, which had itself been built on the ruins of a Buddhist monastery. Some traces of the Hindu temple can be seen around the back, where the Sri Krishna Janmasthan or Janmabhumi complex now stands. Directly behind the mosque, approached through a corridor, a shrine marks Krishna's exact birthplace (janmasthan); its cage-like surround signifies that He was born in captivity, when His parents were prisoners of the tyrant king Kamsa.

Madan Mohan Temple on the riverside is the oldest structure in Vrindavan. This famous temple was established by Srila Sanatana Gosvami and was the first Gosvami temple built in Vrindavan, which at that time was just a forest. The original Deity of Madana Mohana was discovered at the base of an old vat (banyan) tree by Advaita Acarya, when He visited Vrindavan. He entrusted the worship of Madana Mohana to His disciple, Purusottama Chaube, who then gave the Deity to Sanatana Gosvami. Sanatana Gosvami spend 43 years in Vrindavan. Worshiped along with Madana Mohana are Radharani and Lalita, who were sent to Vrindavan by Purusottama Jena, the son of Maharaja Prataparudra.

Govinda Dev Temple was a grand seven-story structure, with an altar of marble, silver and gold. Architecturally this temple is one of the finest in North India. A sculptured lotus flower weighing several tons decorates the main hall ceiling. It was built in 1590 by Raja Man Singh from Jaipur, a general in Akbar's army, who was inspired to do it after meeting Rupa Gosvami. It was said to have cost ten million rupees and several thousand men were working for five full years to complete it. Akbar himself had donated the red sandstone for its construction. In 1670, during the rule of a later Mughal king, Aurangzeb, it was plundered and destroyed leaving only three stories of the original temple. During this attack, when few stories remained, all of a sudden the ground began to shake violently and Aurangzeb's men were terrified and ran for their lives, never to return.

Radharamana Temple is the famous temple of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Radharamana means "one who gives pleasure to Radha". It is one of the many names of Lord Krishna. The seva puja of Radharamana was established in 1542, after the Deity self-manifested from a salagram-sila on the full moon day of Vaisakha (April/May). This event is celebrated every year by bathing the Deity with 100 liters of milk and other auspicious items. The remnants of this abhiseka (bathing) are like nectar. Gopal Bhatta Gosvami's other shalagram-shilas are worshiped on the altar here. The appearance place of Sri Radharaman Deity is next to the temple. Radharamanji is one of the few original Deities of the Gosvamis still in Vrindavan. The standard of worship is very high.

Radha Damodara Temple is one of the most important temples in Vrindavan. The original Deity was hand carved by Rupa Gosvami and given as a gift to his beloved disciple, Jiva Gosvami, who later built a temple. Formerly this spot was in the middle of Seva-kunja and it was the bhajan place (where he performed his devotional activities) of Rupa Gosvami. Other Deities here are Vrindavan Candra worshiped by Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Gosvami, Radha-Madhava of Jayadeva Gosvami and Radha-Chalacikana of Bhugarbha Gosvami. When the original Deities are moved, the replacement Deity is called a pratibhu-murti and is considered as good as the original Deity. The samadhis of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Jiva Gosvami and Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraj Gosvami are here. Srila Prabhupada spent here most of his six years (1959 to 1965) before coming to America. He translated the first three cantos of the Srimad-Bhagavatam here.

Opened in 1975 by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Raman Reti, 3 km from the center of Vrindavan. The principal Deities of this temple are Krishna with His brother Balaram. Next to Them are Radha (Krishna's consort) with Syamasundara and Gaura-Nitai. The samadhi (cenotaph) of ISKCON's founder-acarya, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in pure white marble is within the complex in front of the temple. His private chambers have been converted into a museum. The temple is built in the Bengal Renaissance style with bright frescoes on Krishna's life. There is also a guesthouse, restaurant, gurukula and gosalla. Hare Krishna devotees from all around the world come here, bringing a truly international flavor to this ancient holy city.

Among the new temples springing up along the Mathura-Vrindavan road is the Gita Mandir which houses the Gita Stambh, a pillar with the entire Bhagavad Gita carved on its surface.

The imposing temple, built by one of the country's leading industrial families, the Birlas, is overshadowed by multistoried edifice known as the Pagal Baba Mandir just down the road.