Hidden beauty of Kusum Sarovar

Architectural wonder

Hidden beauty of Kusum Sarovar

A long awaited chance of re-visiting Kusum Sarovar came almost a decade later. The magnificence of the monument, which was still fresh in my memory, rekindled an intense desire to see it once again. But there was every possibility of the structure being shut for renovation, repairs, or even having been demolished.

Moreover, the tedious drive through the modern city of Mathura, engulfed in excessive retail trade causing obstructions en route, was not encouraging either.

However, it was heartening to see the structure emerging right ahead. Fortunately, it was very much intact and in good state of preservation. In addition to this, the official notification issued by the Department of Archaeology and adequately substantiated by the local guides made the visit all the more interesting.

The region, which was once replete with myths woven around Krishna’s childhood pranks and youthful dalliances, Jalakrida (water sports) in Yamuna river, green pastures, cowherds, godhooli or ‘the cow dust’, in course of time had acquired immense significance. The place has remained an endless source of inspiration for artists and poets of yesteryears, who through their works had made Kusum Sarovar a reality.

Kusum Sarovar was named after the flower garden and the tank. The Kadamba grove surrounding it had been an added attraction. It is said that Radha, who lived in the neighbourhood (now known as Radha kund because of a large tank), frequented the garden in order to gather flowers for the worship of Thakur (as Krishna is addressed here in veneration).

In 1707-1763, Kusum Sarovar, along with Mathura, had been conquered by the Jat King Surajmal of Bharatpur, Rajasthan. Fascinated by the environs, he built a complex with a lovely palace, constructed with a pleasant blend of Mughal and Rajasthani architecture. While the Mughal-like domes and arches dominate the structures, the designs decorating the palace and pavilions reveal predominantly Rajasthani traits. The pavilions in particular are similar to the structures known in Rajasthan as chatri. Around 450 m wide and 60 m deep, Kusum Sarovar is an impressive water body that attracts a large number of pilgrims and tourists alike.

The greatest attractions are the murals painted in the interiors of the palace domes and the pavilions, narrating interesting anecdotes from the life of Krishna. The most famous among these is the mural depicting Radha being caught while stealthily gathering flowers in the garden for the worship of Krishna, and the latter appearing in the disguise of a watchman, admonishing her with a stick. Radha is shown emptying flowers at his feet hurriedly. Krishna, pleased with her ardent devotion, revealing his true self to her. Apart from these, many more mythological themes like Kalingamardana. Govardhanadhari, Raas and others appear among the murals.

Stylistically, these murals are similar to Rajasthani miniature paintings. The anatomical details, coiffeurs, costumes, jewellery and above all, the vibrant colours are seen as Bundhi and Kotah miniature paintings being replicated here.
It is possible that King Surajmal transported many architects, artists and artisans from Rajasthan to beautify Kusum Sarovar. In doing so, they have left behind a rich legacy for the future generations. Kusum Sarovar is situated at a distance of about 210 km via Mathura, on the Delhi-Agra Highway. The nearest railway station is Mathura, and the nearest airport is New Delhi.

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