History Of Mathura

Mathura Related Links

The founding of the Mathura city is ascribed to Shatrughna, the younger brother of Rama, who attacked and killed the Demon Lavansur, the son of Madhu, who had held sway over the area. Shatrughna cleared the forest of Madhuvan and celebrated his victory by founding the city of Mathura. This name is variant of Madhura from Madhu. The building of a city by Shatrughna would suggest that Mathura began as a royal capital and later developed into a commercial centre. We are told that Shatrughna had two sons, one of whom was Shurasen and his descendants ruled Mathura. The other version mentions Shurasenas as descendants of Sura of the Vrishni clan, who in turn were part of the Yadav lineage. The Yadavas are also called Madhavas which would link them with Madhu and thus make them the original settlers of the region. The Bhagwata Purana narrates the story of Krishna as member of Andhaka-Vrishnis clan. His story starts from the episode of his birth to the eventual migration away from Mathura. Here his portrayal is that of a pastoral hero and the incarnation of divinity. The episodes thread together the topography of the region. The story does not end with the defeat of Kansa but continues to the animosity of Jarasandha, who seeks revenge. A close relative of Kansa, Jarasandh attacked Mathura. The city was subjected to eighteen campaigns before it was conquered. Ultimately the Yadavas led by Krishna fled to the south-west to Dwarka in Saurashtra. Thus the original inhabitants of Mathura were ousted by the power based in Magadh The geographical link between Saurashtra and Mathura is certainly feasible. The route from Mathura to Dwarka linked the mainland to the sea which was and still is beneficial for international trade.

The Mahabharata mentions the Shurasenas as among those who fled from Jarasandh. A statement in Manusmriti implies that the Shurasenis were good warriors. Jaina and Buddhist texts also refer to the importance of Mathura. Jaina sources describe Shurasena as one of the arya-janapadas lying to the south of the Kuru and the east of the Matsya. Its capital was at Mathura which was listed among the ten most important capitals of Janapadas. Buddhist texts list the Shurasena as one of the sixteen maha-janapadas and state that it had close links with Machchha/Matsya. The capital of the Shurasena was the city of Mathura, and was situated on the bank of Yamuna. In one Buddhist text the king of the Shurasen Janapada is called Avaniputta and is described as sympathetic to Buddhist teachings. Another post-Maurayan Buddhist text refers back to an earlier period describing Mathura as the place of residence of a famous courtesan and a city of rich traders and businessmen.
The historicity of the Shurasen is further attested by Greek and Latin writers quoting Megasthenes. Arrian writes that the God Herakles was held in special honour by the Sourasenoi–an Indian tribe which possessed two large cities, Mathura and Cleisobora and through whose country flowed a navigable river called the lobaras. Pliny writes that the river Jomanes flowed through the Palibothri into the Ganges between the towns of Methora and Calisobora. Ptolemy refers to a Modoura–the city of the Gods.
According to the popular Hindi saying Mathura occupies a unique place in the three traditional worlds (Teen lok se Mathura nyari). This saying may have been derived from the heretical character of the city in Maurya-Shung times. It was only in the later times that this place became a centre of the Krishna cult. Mathura enjoyed an important place because of the strategic and geographically advantageous position. The later importance of Mathura was derived more from its being a place of pilgrimage than from its being a centre of crafts, commerce, arts and administration.

Mathura as an Ancient Urban Centre

In the immediate neighbourhood outside the walled city, monasteries, stupas, shrines, tanks and wells were built for the use of priests, monks, devotees, travellers and the general public as suggested by inscriptional data. This was further confirmed by the travel accounts of the Chinese travelers and by an impressive brick-built complex exposed at the site of the Jaina establishment of Kankali Tila. The numerous images recovered from Mathura mounds show diversity in more than one respect bespeaking cosmopolitan (Sarvabhauma) character of ancient Mathura. Patanjali's observation regarding Mathura, namely that the natives of this city were more prosperous than those of Shankasya and Pataliputra becomes meaningful in the light of the rich haul of remains, ruins and antiquities recovered from its mounds, wells and riverbed Lastly, but not the least important, the following references about the city of Mathura are available in the Harivansha Purana:

Sa Puri paramodara satta-prakara torana
Sphita rastra-sanakirna samrddhbala-vahana
Udyana-vana sampanna susima-supratisthita
Pramsu prakara vasana parikhakula nekhala
Calattalaka keyura prasadavara kundala
Susamvrtta dvaravatfi cattvarodgarhasini
Ardhachandra pratikshasha Yamunatira shobhita
Punya-panavati durga ratna sanchaya garvita
                                         (Harivansha Purana I chap. 55)

"The verses quoted above in praise of ancient Mathura distinctly refer to the crescent-shaped, we established, well demarcated, prosperous and cosmopolitan city of Mathura on the bank of Yamuna wit its high defences and moats as known to the authors of Harivansha-Purana."