A major pilgrimage centre for the Hindus since long, Mathura district has emerged as a major tourism hub for visitors from within the country.Around 10 crore people annually visit the holy places connected with Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha -- including for circling the holy Goverdhan hill that the Lord Vishnu incarnate lifted on his little finger.With a string of festivals occurring round the year, there are no seasonal ups and downs here, as the district is fast evolving as a favourite getaway for busy urbanites from the national capital, who wish to mix pleasure with religion.In recent years, the Braj circuit that also includes Agra, has become very popular. Weekend tourism has picked up and visitors are combining pilgrimage with pleasure. Mathura's profile is all set to further change as it has been listed as a heritage city for development."No other district in India attracts so many visitors -- call them pilgrims or tourists -- as Mathura district does. The pressure never ends. It is the favourite getaway point for people from Haryana, Punjab and Delhi who drive in through the Yamuna Expressway over the weekends or on festivals," says restaurant owner Mahesh Kumar.
The ghats of the Yamuna river in Mathura and Vrindavan -- where the evening 'aartis' have become a major attraction for the pilgrims, the Mathura museum, the Birla Mandir, dozens of ashrams in Vrindavan, the temple of Bihari-ji, Rangji temple, the renovated Brahm Kund, the newly- constructed Prem Mandir and the ISKCON temple are among those figuring high on the list for tourists. Vrindavan, with over 2,500 small and big temples, and scores of sprawling ashrams of the old and new-age gurus, is now just 90-minute drive from Noida via the Yamuna Expressway.For the vegetarians, Mathura and Vrindavan provide a wide choice of foods and sweets made of milk. "No visitor forgets to buy the famous Mathura peda," says Mangal Shukla, a panda in Vrindavan.The transformation of the district into a major tourist hub has been facilitated by the state government, which is executing a dozen-odd infrastructural projects in the district to provide better and efficient connectivity, parking slots, shelter homes and a 'haat' for local products that include dresses for deities, garlands of diverse range, brass statues, hindolas and ritualistic paraphernalia. The silver industry of Mathura has emerged as a major revenue generator for the district.
"The Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority has taken up many projects for providing facilities to domestic tourists. Mathura parliamentarian Hema Malini wants to exploit the tourism potential of the district for economic development. "She has adopted Radha's birthplace Raval for development. Better road connectivity has helped increase tourist inflow to Gokul, Mahavan, Goverdhan, Barsana and Nandgaon," say members of the Braj Bachao Samiti in Mathura.Work on a ropeway to connect the Radha temple on the hill in Barsana has begun along with widening of the road from the Yamuna Expressway to Vrindavan. Even the road to Goverdhan is being beautified and the 21-km 'parikrama marg' has been streamlined. "In Goverdhan, a number of hotels have come up while Vrindavan too boasts of quality hotels. The hotel industry in Mathura is upbeat as business has picked up in recent years. A large number of political conventions are now regularly held in Vrindavan, which has brought the area on the tourism map," says guest-house owner Rakesh Sharma. Earlier, only the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh held its conferences in Vrindavan, but now the Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Choudhary Ajit Singh and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi too have been attracted by the charm of Vrindavan.