Mathura - the birth place of Lord Krishna is located 180 km from Delhi. The city in the state of Uttar Pradesh is quaint and religiously significant to date. Krishna was born in Mathura in a jail where his parents Devaki and Vasudev were imprisoned by his uncle King Kamsa.
Kamsa imprisoned his sister as he was aware that the 8th child of Devaki would kill him. Having lost their first 7 children, when the divine Vishnu avatar Krishna was born, the gates of the Mathura jail miraculously opened and all guards fell asleep. Vasudev carried his new born child from Mathura to Gokul to the palace of King Nanda. Gokul is 10-12km from Mathura (as per today's GPS) and one needs to cross the holy river Yamuna to reach Gokul. When Vasudev reached the river Goddess Yamuna, she split open and carved the path for Vasudev to walk through.
Krishna was swapped with King Nanda and Yashoda's girl child and hence Krishna grew up in Gokul. As mentioned in our puranas, Krishna and his brother Balarama used to play in the hilly streets and rocks of Gokul and even today we can see that the streets of Gokul are inclined and filled with memories of Krishna's childhood.
The Gokul temples are mostly having idols of Nanda, Yashoda, Krishna, Balram and Yamuna devi - all together.
Krishna moved with his family to Vrindavan (10km from Mathura) a few years later. The people of Vrindavan till date are in love with their supreme God and actually believing that they are living with Krishna. Krishna performed innumerable miracles since his childhood killing all the asuras sent by his uncle Kamsa to kill Krishna.
Once, a gigantic horse demon named Keshi was sent to kill Krishna. Keshi attacked Krishna with his wide open mouth wanting to eat Krishna but Krishna teasing Keshi with His thumb put his hand inside Keshi's mouth and choked him. After killing the demon he washed his hands in the banks of the river Yamuna and the exact place is now called "Keshi Ghat".
Krishna and Balaram being cowherds, used to spend several happy hours roaming near the Govardhan hill (located close to Vrindavan), around it's shady groves, caves and lush cow-pasture. As per our puranas, Krishna once questioned his father on why huge offerings need to be made to Lord Indra (God of rain and thunder). He explained that the people must just follow their dharma (duties) and do not need to conduct sacrifices for natural phenomenon. Indra was angered by this and flooded the village. Krishna saved the villagers by lifting Mount Govardhan on his little finger thus protecting the people and cattle from rain.
A small temple built in the location where Krishna actually lifted Mount Govardhan. It is located in the middle of the 21 km parikrama (circumference around of the hill) around Mount Govardhan
Once Krishna slayed an asura in the form of a bull. His love Radha thus asked him to wash away his sins by taking a dip in various holy rivers. Krishna laughed and banged his foot against the ground and the mighty rivers emerged and formed a kund (pond) in front of him. Krishna then took a dip in this kund. This kund was called Shyam Kund.
Quite annoyed with this, Radha and her friends tried to dig out another kund nearby but of course the water did not rise up. They tried to fill it with water from Manasi Ganga (another kund at Govardhan). Krishna did not want to disappoint Radha and hence let the water flow from Shyam kund to fill Radha kund on the eighth day of the waning moon in Kartik month (typically October-November). He then dipped himself in Radha kund as well.
For years, these 2 kunds were lost and no one was aware of where exactly they were located. Sri Chaitanya came to Vrindavan in 1514 and rediscovered them through his divine powers.
The city of Vrindavan has over 500 temples of Lord Krishna and Radha Rani. Each temple has religious significance and a reason and story behind why they were built! It is believed that when once prays to Radha Rani, they pray to Krishna directly. Hence the form of greeting one and all in Vrindavan is only - "Radhe Radhe". One could spend several days walking around the streets of Vrindavan, mesmerized by the aura of Radha Krishna. The 7 temples of Thakur of Vrindavan are Shri Banke Bihari Ji, Shri Radha Vallabh Ji, Shri Govind Dev Ji, Shri Radha Raman Ji, Shri Radha Madhav Ji, Shri Madan Mohan Ji and Shri Gopinath Ji.
In Nidhivan, Vrindavan, Swami Harihas was once engrossed in singing praises for Lord Krishna. Radha-Krishna appeared in front of him and on his request merged into one and the idol of Banke Bihari appeared there (the exact idol seen in the temple today). The idol was established in Nidhivan and moved to the temple later.
Nidhivan was not only the place where Banke-ji appeared, it is also the place where Lord Krishna and his gopis perform the Raas lila dance every night TILL DATE, yes, I mean till date. The place is filled with tulsi plants which have never been watered (of course the occasionally rains do happen but if you see the roots and ground in the picture below, they are just dry but with beautiful lush green leaves). These tulsi plants turn to gopis at night and ras-lila happens, where Krishna dances with each of the gopis. The whole area including the monkeys and insects apparently move out past 8 pm and the place is shut. A few people who have tried to peep in at night have either lost their eye sight or become dumb. For some, these may be just stories but for the ones who have experienced, this is bliss!
Inside this area is a small room. The temple pandit decorates the room every night for Radha and Krishna with all essentials in front of devotees and closes the room before 8 pm. In the morning, the bedsheet in the room is crumpled, the items used and the fragrance is blissful! For the ones who have witnessed it themselves, the Lord comes every night in one of his million forms!
The story of another appearance of the Lord - Saint Shri Advaitacharya meditated under a tree for several years. Pleased with his devotion the lord himself appeared in front of him at the same tree you see in this picture. A temple is now built beside the tree.
According to historical writings, in the 16th century, Saint Rupa Goswami was mystically guided by Lord Krishna himself to the spot where he uncovered the magnificent ancient deity that Krishna's great grandson Vajranabha had created 4,500 years ago. This deity was located in the Govind Dev ji temple in Vrindavan until the Mughals destroyed the temple in the 17th century. The main deity was then moved to Jaipur where it is present now. The devotees however still pray in this temple as they believe that it is still having the aura of the 4500 year old deity.
There are multiple such miraculous temples and places in this divine city which take you through the life of Krishna, his childhood and his miracles.
In the recent temples, Prem Mandir is a magnificent temple showcasing the life of Lord Krishna.
Lord Krishna lived in Vrindavan until the age of 11. At 11, he killed the demon king and his uncle Kamsa and freed his parents and the people of Mathura from his torture. After killing Kamsa, he walked down to the banks of river Yamuna and sat there to relax. This place where Lord Krishna rested is now called Vishram Ghat (Vishram meaning rest).
After a few years, Krishna moved to Dwarka. He reclaimed 96 square kilometres of land from the sea to create Dwarka. After his lifetime, the city of Dwarka thus sank into the sea and went back to where it belonged!