Mathura (About this sound ) is a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is located approximately 55 kilometres (34 mi) north of Agra, and 145 kilometres (90 mi) south-east of Delhi; about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from the town of Vrindavan, and 22 kilometres (14 mi) from Govardhan. It is the administrative centre of Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. In ancient times, Mathura was an economic hub, located at the junction of important caravan routes. The 2011 Census of India estimated the population of Mathura at 441,894.

In Hinduism, Mathura is believed to be the birthplace of Krishna, which is located at the Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex.[5] It is one of the Sapta Puri, the seven cities considered holy by Hindus. The Kesava Deo Temple was built in ancient times on the site of Krishna's birthplace (an underground prison). Mathura was the capital of the kingdom of Surasena, ruled by Kansa, the maternal uncle of Krishna. Janmashtami is grandly celebrated in Mathura every year.

Mathura has been chosen as one of the heritage cities for the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana scheme of Government of India.[6]

Gate of Shet Lukhmeechund's Temple, a photo by Eugene Clutterbuck Impey, 1860s.

Mathura has an ancient history and also believed to be the homeland and birthplace of Krishna who was born in Yadu dynasty. According to the Archaeological Survey of India plaque at the Mathura Museum,[7] the city is mentioned in the oldest Indian epic, the Ramayana. In the epic, the Ikshwaku prince Shatrughna slays a demon called Lavanasura and claims the land. Afterwards, the place came to be known as Madhuvan as it was thickly wooded, then Madhupura and later Mathura.[8]

Archaeological excavations at Mathura show the gradual growth of a village into an important city. The earliest period belonged to the Painted Grey Ware culture (1100-500 BCE), followed by the Northern Black Polished Ware culture (700-200 BCE). Mathura derived its importance as a center of trade due to its location where the northern trade route of the Indo-Gangetic Plain met with the routes to Malwa (central India) and the west coast.[9]

By the 6th century BCE Mathura became the capital of the Surasena Kingdom.[10] The city was later ruled by the Maurya empire (4th to 2nd centuries BCE). Megasthenes, writing in the early 3rd century BCE, mentions Mathura as a great city under the name Μέθορα (Méthora).[11] It seems it never was under the direct control of the following Shunga dynasty (2nd century BCE) as not a single archaeological remain of a Shunga presence were ever found in Mathura.[12]

The Indo-Greeks may have taken control, direct or indirect, of Mathura some time between 180 BCE and 100 BCE, and remained so as late as 70 BCE according to the Yavanarajya inscription,[12] which was found in Maghera, a town 17 kilometres (11 mi) from Mathura.[13] The opening of the 3 line text of this inscription in Brahmi script translates as: "In the 116th year of the Yavana kingdom..."[14][15] or '"In the 116th year of Yavana hegemony" ("Yavanarajya")[12] However, this also corresponds to the presence of the native Mitra dynasty of local rulers in Mathura, in approximately the same time frame (150 BCE—50 BCE), possibly pointing to a vassalage relationship with the Indo-Greeks.[12]

After a period of local rule, Mathura was conquered by the Indo-Scythians during the first 1st century BCE. The Indo-Scythian satraps of Mathura are sometimes called the "Northern Satraps", as opposed to the "Western Satraps" ruling in Gujarat and Malwa. However, Indo-Scythian control proved to be short lived, following the reign of the Indo-Scythian Mahakshatrapa ("Great Satrap") Rajuvula, c. 10–25 CE.

The Kushan Empire took control of Mathura some time after Rajuvula, although several of his successors ruled as Kushans vassals, such as the Indo-Scythian "Great Satrap" Kharapallana and the "Satrap" Vanaspara, both of whom paid allegiance to the Kushans in an inscription at Sarnath, dating to the 3rd year of the reign of the Kushan emperor Kanishka c. 130 CE.[16] Mathuran art and culture reached its zenith under the Kushan dynasty which had Mathura as one of its capitals.[17] The preceding capitals of the Kushans included Kapisa (modern Bagram, Afghanistan), Purushapura (modern Peshawar, Pakistan) and Takshasila/Sirsukh/ (modern Taxila, Pakistan). During 3rd century Nagas ruled Mathura after decline of Kushan Empire.[18]

Chinese Buddhist Monk Faxian mentions the city as a centre of Buddhism about 400 CE. He found the people were very well off, there were no taxes other than for those on farmers who tilled the royal land. He found that people did not kill animals, no one consumed wine, and did not eat onion or garlic. He found that engraved title deeds were issued to land owners. Visiting priests were provided with accommodation, beds, mats, food, drinks and clothes to perform scholarly works.[19][page needed] Xuanzang, who visited the city in 634 CE, mentions it as Mot'ulo, recording that it contained twenty Buddhist monasteries and five Hindu temples.[20] Later, he went east to Thanesar, Jalandhar in the eastern Punjab, before climbing up to visit predominantly Theravada monasteries in the Kulu valley and turning southward again to Bairat and then Mathura, on the Yamuna river.[21]

The city was sacked and many of its temples destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1018 CE[20] and again by Sikandar Lodhi, who ruled the Sultanate of Delhi from 1489 to 1517 CE.[22][23] Sikander Lodhi earned the epithet of 'Butt Shikan', the 'Destroyer of Hindu deities'. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, built the Shahi-Eidgah Mosque during his rule, which is adjacent to Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi believed to be over a Hindu temple.[24] He also changed the city's name to Islamabad.[25]

Mathura is a holy city for Hinduism and is considered the heart of Brij Bhoomi, the land of Krishna.[26][27] The twin-city to Mathura is Vrindavan.

There are many places of historic and religious importance in Mathura and its neighbouring towns.[6]

Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex is an important group of temples built around what is considered to be the birthplace of Krishna.[28][29] The temple complex contains Keshav Deva temple, Garbha Griha shrine, Bhagavata Bhavan and the Rangabhoomi where the final battle between Krishna and Kamsa took place.[30][5][7][28]

The Dwarkadheesh Temple is one of the largest temple in Mathura.[5] Vishram Ghat at the bank of river Yamuna is said to be the place were Krishna had rested after killing Kamsa.[5]

Other notable Hindu religious sites and heritage locations includes the Gita Mandir,[31] Govind Dev temple,[31] Iskcon temple,[5] Kusum Sarovar,[31] Naam yog Sadhna Mandir, Peepleshwar Mahadeo Temple[32][33] and Yum Yamuna Temple[32]

Jama Mosque, Mathura is a notable site for Islam. It was completed by Abd-un-Nabi, governor of Aurangzeb in 1662.

The Mathura Museum is notable for archaeological artefacts, especially those from the Kushan and Gupta empires. It has sculptures associated with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[7][34]

Janmashtami is grandly celebrated every year in Mathura. Every year 3 to 3.5 million devotees celebrate Janmashtami in Mathura, with the most people in Keshav Deva temple and Dwarkadheesh temple.[35][36] People generally observe a fast and break it at midnight when Lord Krishna was believed to have been born. Devotional songs, dance performances, bhog and aartis are observed across Mathura-Vrindavan.[37]

Mathura is located at .[38] It has an average elevation of 174 metres (570 feet).

The 2011 census of India estimates the population of Mathura to be 441,894, a decadal growth rate of 22.53 per cent from 2001 census of India. Males account for 54% (268,445) and females for 46% (173,449) of this population. Sex ratio of Mathura is 858 females per 1000 males, which has increased from 840 in 2001. However, national sex ratio is 940. Population density in 2011 has increased from 621 per km2 in 2001 to 761 per km2. Mathura has an average literacy rate of 72.65 per cent which has increased from 61.46 percent in 2001 but still lower than the national average of 74.04 per cent. Male and female literacy rate are 84.39 and 58.93 per cent respectively. 15.61 percent of Mathura's population is under 6 years of age. This figure was 19.56 per cent in 2001 census.[41]

Mathura Junction railway station is situated on the major Delhi-Mumbai train route. Both Central Railway and Western Railway routes pass through Mathura. Trains from NCR (north-central railway) to ER (eastern railway) also pass from the Mathura junction railway station. Mathura Cantt railway station is a major route for an eastern and central railway.

Important train that origin/terminate from Mathura: 12177/Howrah - Mathura Chambal Express.[42]

Mathura is connected by road to the rest of Uttar Pradesh and India. NH-19 (NH-2 as per old numbering system) which is having connectivity from Delhi to Kolkata and diversion for Chennai also passes from Mathura. Yamuna expressway Greater-Noida to Agra(165 km 6 lane access controlled express highway) also passes from here so there is connectivity to Noida and Agra and Lucknow.

A tram network has been proposed in the city, which would make Mathura only the second city in India (after Kolkata) to get tram transport. In 2017, the local MLA Shrikant Sharma announced that the trams will be operational in Mathura and Vrindavan by 2018.[43]

Currently the city has no airport, nearest airport is Agra (about 60 km away) and Delhi Airport (about 160 km away) with major national and international air routes. Under-construction Jewar Airport in Greater Noida will be approximately 75 km away from Mathura and is expected to be country's largest airport when fully operational. Land has been earmarked, and construction is in progress near the Yamuna Expressway, with plans to open in the next five years with regular flights to major national and international air routes in future.[44][45][46]

Then civil aviation minister Ajit Singh suggested Mathura's name for the site of a new greenfield international airport to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav in 2012. Mathura's name came into play when group of ministers terminated the planning of building Taj International Airport at Agra.

Mathura is the home for I Corps (Strike Formation)[47][48] within the Indian Army's Central Command, hosting Strike I Corps headquarters in a large classified area in the outskirts of the city known as Mathura Cantonment (Central Command itself has its headquarters at Lucknow). It hosts Strike Infantry units, air defence units, armoured divisions, engineer brigades, artillery Units, and classified units of Strategic Forces Command. The I Corps is primarily responsible for the western borders of India. In 2007 during Exercise Ashwamedha, all the armoured, artillery, and infantry divisions performed a simulation of an overall NBC (nuclear-chemical-biological) environment. The aim was to show operational ability in high intensity, short duration and 'sudden' battles.[49]

Mathura Refinery located in the city is one of the biggest oil refineries of Asia with 8.0 million tonnes per year refining capacity.[50] This oil refinery of the Indian Oil Corporation is a highly technologically advanced oil refinery and provides local employment opportunities.[50]

All India Radio has a local station in Mathura which transmits various programs of interest.