Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Other places in Uttar Pradesh

Around 150 kilometres south of Delhi on the highway to Agra are the towns of Mathura and Vrindivan.
Mathura is known as the birthplace of Krishna while he spent his childhood in the forests of Vrindivan. The towns are considered important sacred places by a number of the religious traditions in India and there are many temples and holy sites.
Mathura was also familiar to me on my visits in 2001 and 2004 due to its “drive in” McDonalds that was visited on any journey south down the highway towards Agra. No beef burgers but in 2001 the Maharajah Mac was a very tasty lamb burger although by 2004 it had become a rather less impressive spicy chicken burger.
The most popular temples in Vrindivan is the Banke Bihari squeezed into the back streets. Packed with worshippers in an open courtyard outside the gods chamber where the god is intermittently revealed by opening and closing the shutters of its chamber. The lower tier is the original temple with a modern upper tier with the building away from the street topped off with a rather incongruous looking corrugated tin roof.
The Rangaji Temple dedicated to Lord Ranganatha is built in the South Indian Dravidian style and is a large temple complex with its own water tank and is accessed via a tall gateway.

The temple has six storeys and a gold plated Dhwaja stambha (pole) 15 metres high.

Vrindivan is also home to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) that was formed in 1968 and has a large temple complex here.

The complex has an impressive array of friezes depicting scenes from Krishna’s life and a mausoleum for the movement’s founder, but the whole area is swamped with beggars.

In nearby Mathura is the main Krishna temple which has large stone columns of gods. In 2004 the whole area was heavily guarded by military and no photography (or even cameras) allowed past the entry gate.

Mathura and Vrindivan photo collection:

More on the temples of Vrindivan:
More on the Krishna Temple at Mathura:

Meerut is 90 kilometres north east of Delhi and is very much a military town and reputedly where the 1857 Mutiny started.

The Augurnath Temple which claims the origins of the mutiny is very impressive and has a number of impressive friezes.

Unfortunately on my visit in 2004 the Martyr Memorial and gardens were closed so it was a shorter visit than planned.

Just outside Meerut is Sardanha which is a fascinatingly incongruous village that is a very difficult journey through back roads to find the first Roman Catholic Basilica and convent built in India.

The Begum Samru founded the building of a church in 1822 and also one in Meerut. The Sardanha church was awarded Basilica status by Pope John XXIII in 1961. From the entrance gate the path leads through a small cemetery towards the Basilica and is lined by statues illustrating events from the life of Christ.

Walking past the convent buildings to the left of the Basilica you need to walk around into the gardens to the West to get a full view of the towers and domes of the building.

The gardens here have an outdoor memorial to St. Mary.

Inside the Basilica has a number of marble statues and a large marble altar believed to have been made with marble brought from Rajasthan. The ceiling is curved in a half-cylindrical format common among several churches built during the 19th century.

Meerut photo collection:

Sardhana photo collection:

More on Meerut:

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