Before you read this article, please note that this piece doesn’t intend to cause communal violence or disorder. The focus is solely on exploring the history of one of the greatest temples of India and why it needs to be revisited.
The Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex or Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple is a group of Hindu temples in Mallapura, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India. These temples are constructed at the location where the Hindu deity Krishna is believed to have been born.
History of Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple – History
Thousands of years ago, the people of the earth were suffering under several demoniac rulers, particularly the wicked King Kamsa. At last, the rulers became so oppressive that Brahma, the chief of the demigods, appealed to the Supreme Bhagwan, Vishnu, for help. As Brahma sat in meditation, Lord Visnu transmitted a message to him, which Brahma then relayed to the other demigods: “Very soon Bhagwan Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, will appear on earth along with His highest energies.
Sometime later, a great wedding took place in what is now known as India. King Devaka gave his daughter, Devaki, to Vasudeva in marriage. Vasudeva was the son of King Surasena, the leader of the Yadu dynasty, in which Bhagwan Krishna was to appear. Following an ancient Indian custom, Devaki’s brother Kamsa took the reins of the chariot and drove the bridegroom and bride to their new home. As they moved in the chariot along the road to Mathura, Vasudeva’s home, and the Yadus’ capital city, musicians played melodiously on drums, bugles, and kettledrums.
The procession was passing very melodically when a voice suddenly reverberated from the sky: “Kamsa! You are such a fool! You are driving the chariot of your sister and your brother-in-law, but you do not know that their eighth child will kill you!”
Bhagwan Krishna was born to Devaki and Vasudeva in a prison cell where they were confined by his maternal uncle, demon Kansa, a king of Mathura, due to this prophecy of his death by the child of Devaki.
According to history, a temple dedicated to Krishna was constructed at his birthplace by his great-grandson Vajranabh. The Krishna’s Moorthy was designed by his great-grandson himself. The present day temple site known as Krishna Janmasthan (lit.’ birthplace of Krishna’) was known as Katra (lit. ’market place’) Keshavdeva. The archaeological excavations of the site had revealed pottery and terracotta from the 6th century BCE. Some late 8th century inscriptions mention donations to the site by the Rashtrakuta.
In 1017 CE or 1018 CE, invader Mahmud of Ghazni plundered and attacked Mahaban. Ghazni’s scribe, though not accompanying him on the expedition, Al Utbi describes in his Tarikh-i-Yamini neighboring sacred town, which is identified as Mathura.
He wrote, “In the center of the city there was a huge and magnificent temple, which the people believed wasn’t built by men but by the angels… Any description of the temple, either in words or in pictures, would fall short and fail to convey its beauty.”
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Vallabhacharya visited Mathura in the early 16th century. Abdullah, in the reign of Mughal emperor Jehangir, mentions in Tarikh-i-Daudi the destruction of Mathura and its temples by Delhi Sultan Sikandar Lodi in the 16th century. Lodi had prohibited Hindus from bathing in the river and shaving heads on the banks.
In 1618, Raja Veer Singh Deva Bundela of Orchha had rebuilt a temple at the cost of thirty-three lakhs. A French traveler Tavernier visited Mathura in 1650 and had described the octagonal temple built in red sandstone. Italian traveler Niccolao Manucci who worked in the Mughal court, has also described the temple. This is when Aurangzeb attacked Mathura, destroyed the Keshavdeva temple in Janmasthan Temple Complex in 1670, and built the Shahi Eidgah Mosque.
Mathura came under British control in 1804. The East India Company auctioned the land of Katra, and it was purchased by Raja Patnimal, a wealthy banker of Banaras. Raja Patnimal wanted to construct the temple but could not do so. His descendants acquired the land of Katra. His descendant Rai Krishna Das was challenged, for the ownership of 13.37 acres of land on which the shrine and the Shahi Eidgah is situated, in two civil suits by the Muslims of Mathura, but the Allahabad High Court ruled in favor of Raj Krishna Das in both suits in 1935. Post-independence, the Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh and the Shahi Eidgah Mosque committee reached a compromise agreement which granted the temple land to the Trust and the management of the Shahi Eidgah to the Eidgah committee as well no legal claim of the Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh on the Shahi Eidgah. However, people haven’t forgotten that it was Aurangzeb who had attacked Mathura, destroyed a temple, and constructed a Shahi Eidgah Mosque on it. The fight to rebuild Krishna Janmbhoomi Temple has restarted.