*This article (plus original photography) on Mathura is a guest post by Maider from www.packandclick.com.
India is like no Other!
It is no secret that visiting India is like no other travel experience you will go through in life. You will either love it or hate it. Yes, it is that extreme, so why sugar coat it?
Its chaotic cities crowded with people, cows, cars, rickshaws, motorcycles, street vendors and a long etcetera will leave you initially shocked… and probably nauseous.
Mathura and Vrindavan during Pilgrimage Season
Now, take that initial shock and multiply it times a hundred when visiting Mathura and Vrindavan during pilgrimage season. That’s exactly what happened to me when I set foot in India on August 10, 2016.
I had arrived at New Delhi airport at 3:20am and after going through all the necessary bureaucratic procedures to obtain my visa on arrival, I hired a driver to take me to the holy cities of Mathura and Vrindavan.
These are two of the most sacred sites to visit in India as it is here where Lord Krishna is believed to have been born sometime in the year 3,000BCE.
Krishna is one of the most venerated deities in the Hindu belief and as a provider, he is usually pictured surrounded by cattle. It is because of this that cows are considered holy by Hindus.
Little did I know, however, that monsoon season is actually pilgrimage season. But, now that I think of it, it all makes perfect sense.
Monsoon season is considered auspicious for Hindus as those who live in the country side mainly rely on having a prosperous harvest season to survive. When the rains come, Hindus walk for miles and miles at a time to thank their gods for an abundant year.
While I had been mentally preparing myself to feel that initial shock I was talking about, no one is ever ready to see hundreds and hundreds of people sharing narrow streets with cattle, monkeys, pigs, camels, bikes, motorcycles, rickshaws, tuk-tuks and God knows what else.
Tuk-tuks on the streets of Mathura. Photography by Maider of www.PackandClick.com
The Shri Banke Temple
It was extremely hot and humid, and because I was covered up trying to keep a modest attire, I nearly fainted when we entered the Shri Banke Bihari temple.
The devotion Hindus have for Krishna is like nothing I have ever seen before. Hundreds and hundreds of people crowded together, in a tiny space, hoping to reach the statue of an infant god.
Devotees pushing each other and laying on the ground, praying for an auspicious year. Visiting this temple is not for the faint of heart.
It is not a site many tourists visit. I was, in fact, the only non-Indian person while visiting the heart of Mathura. And I quickly became an attraction myself as locals started asking me to take a “selfie” with them.
ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple in Mathura. Photography by Maider of www.PackandClick.com
Other Temples of Mathura
When I left the temple, my driver quickly saw the overwhelmed expression on my face and suggested going to a quieter place. We then visited other temples in the area.
These were bigger and more modern sites. Less crowded and more welcoming than Shri Banke Bihari.
I must have visited seven or eight temples that day. It was interesting to learn that, in a city of 90,000 inhabitants there were, in fact, as many as 10,000 Hindu temples.
It helps to understand the relevance of Mathura and Vrindavan for Hindus, and especially those who follow Krishna.
My initial shock slowly faded as I became more accustomed to the country. The humidity was, however, taking a toll on me.
And just when I thought I couldn’t bear the heat any longer, my prayers to Lord Krishna were answered and rain started pouring in Vrindavan.
I had never been so happy to get soaked like that. I had, unintentionally, joined all the locals thanking Krishna for the rainy season.
It was then when I realized that, despite that brutal first shock, everything would be fine in India.
Prem Mandir or Love Temple located in Vrindavan. Photography by Maider of www.PackandClick.com
About the Author
Born and raised in the Basque region of Spain, Maider relocated to the United States in 2010 to pursue her dream of establishing a career in the communications field. An avid traveler, she has visited over 30 countries in the past decade alone and has recently started sharing her experiences through her Spanish-written blog www.packandclick.com. She can also be found on Instagram (@packandclick) where she posts daily pictures of her trips around the world.