The Golden triangle tour of North India is the preferred way to get exposed to the three cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
For many, the Taj Mahal in Agra is the prime reason to visit Delhi, or even to come to India. As India is both far and expensive for many Westerners to come to, landing in India just to visit Taj Mahal is not considered as money well spent.
Beyond Agra, more destinations are desired to be included in the itinerary. This is where Delhi and Jaipur become significant. It is a different matter that both Delhi and Jaipur are important tourist destinations within their own right, but the glamour of the Taj Mahal overshadows everything that these ancient cities have to offer.
Nevertheless, once you have opted to do the Golden triangle tour of India, we propose that you think about a halt at the two Hindu holy cities of Mathura and Vrindavan. Both Mathura and Vrindavan are situated on the banks of the River Yamuna, and are on the route to Agra from Delhi.
The detour to visit Mathura and Vrindavan is not long and does not consume much time. Both are about an hour drive before Agra.
Both Mathura and Vrindavan are towns chiefly devoted to Lord Krishna. Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna. Krishna was born in a prison cell. His mother had been imprisoned by her own brother Kans, who was also the King, as it was foretold that the King Kans would be killed by the child of his own sister. Lord Krishna was the eighth born after all seven sons born before him had been slayed by the King. Lord Krishna did kill the King Kans.
The prison where Lord Krishna was born is a grand temple today, the Keshav Dev temple. Bajranabh, the great grand son of Krishna had installed the original deity here in this temple. Mathura is amongst the seven holy cities of India.
Mathura has been plundered and its temples destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni (1018) and Sikandar Lodi, Delhi's Sultan (1489 to 1517). Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor, built Jama Masjid, a grand mosque, here after partially destroying the Keshav Dev Temple. Similar such alleged temples destruction by the Mughals at Ayodhya and Varanasi is a cause of much angst amongst the right wing Hindus.
Mathura has substantially contributed to the Indian culture. The ethos of Mathura is about tales of Krishna.
Another interesting place in Mathura is the Vishram ghat located on the banks of the River Yamuna and the most important of the 25 other ghats. Legend is that Lord Krishna had rested here after killing his maternal uncle Kans. Vishram means rest.
Vrindavan is the town where Krishna spent his childhood and youth. Over here, there are countless temples dedicated to Krishna and Radha, his consort. Vrindavan used to be a vast forest area that has now dwindled to few patches of forest here and there. Krishna was very naughty as a child and mischievous as a youth.
Vrindavan was rediscovered in the 16th century by Chaitanya Maha Prabhu, a staunch devotee of Krishna. He had toured this area in the year 1515, with the objective of locating the lost holy places connected to Krishna. Chaitanya Maha Prabhu in spiritual trance of Divine love went around the various forests and located Krishna's important places by his divine power.
The oldest temple in Vrindavan is the Madan Mohan Temple. This is the temple that is associated with Chaitanya Maha Prabhu. The original deity had been shifted to Rajasthan, to protect it from Aurangzeb. Even today it is the replica image of the deity that is worshipped here.