The melodies of a distant shenai are wafting in the air, I hear the drumbeats. I lift my head and I see a large maroon flag sweeping the blue sky. It’s striking, splendid; connoting majesty !!! There is a bustle around me, a sense of urgency, people are rushing in a direction. I join them. As I walk ahead, the drumbeats and the shenai melodies are getting more intense; now I hear the rhythmic beating of the cymbals and people clapping to match the tunes. I am standing at the far end of a queue that passes through a small entrance. I lift my head, raise on my toes and my eyes try to locate what’s at the end. I see a black diety in all its splendor. My ordinary eyes meet his lotus eyes and through the raised arms of the servants, I see the almighty master, I see Lord Dwarkadheesh – the ruler of Dwarka. With that glimpse, I complete my Char Dham Yatra, voyage of the four holy dhams of Hinduism which is a matter of utmost virtue for any Hindu.
When I came to Gujarat for a 2-month internship, Dwarka along with the Gir forest was at the top in my list of places to visit in Gujarat. It was not until 1 month later that I could finally make a plan to visit Dwarka. Dwarka is a coastal town in the western tip of India and is a highly revered pilgrimage destination for the Hindus. It has 2 iconic Hindu temples – Dwarkadheesh temple (a holy dham) and the Nageshwar temple ( a Shiva jyotirlinga).
How to reach? The nearest airport is Porbandar. It’s another 2 hours ride from there. The best option is to land in Ahmedabad and take an overnight bus to Dwarka. It is also connected via rail routes with Ahmedabad and Somnath.
Best Time? Nothing in particular. Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna is the most important festival followed by Holi during which lakhs of devotees visit Dwarka. You may choose to avoid or travel on these days depending on whether you like such congregations or not.
Popular destinations? Dwarkadheesh temple, Bet Dwarka and Nageshwar temple. A 2D 1N trip would be ideal.
I boarded a private bus from Dwarka at 11:30 PM and reached Dwarka at about 8:30 AM. It’s a long journey. The bus passed through the hinterlands and in the last hour or so, it passed through dry stretches dotted with large windmills. The state government of Gujarat has taken some serious measures to harness the renewable wind resources of the state. The private bus stand is relatively close to the Dwarkadheesh temple and on reaching, I walked to my hotel near the temple which I had pre-booked. The hotel was average but was reasonably priced and comfortable enough to accommodate me for a night. Initially, I thought of taking a nap to recover from the overnight journey but decided against it as I was unsure of the temple timings and the crowd. The harsh summer afternoons were also a deterrent and I wanted to be back in the comforts of my AC room before afternoon. I freshened up, had a good bath and I was ready to visit the Dwarkadheesh temple.
The temple was at a walkable distance and I passed through narrow alleys with shops lined up on both sides. The first glimpse I had of the temple was its pointed canopy with a large maroon flag magnificently unfurled on top of it. The flag has its unique significance in the temple rituals and is changed 5 times a day. Offering flag at the Dwarkadheesh temple is considered to be of utmost virtue, an opportunity bestowed only by the choicest blessings of Lord Krishna. The slots for the same are booked 3-4 years in advance. The flag is brought to the temple in an elaborate procession with family members taking turns to carry the flag on their head. One such flag procession was on the way to the temple and I walked past it to reach the entrance gate. At the entrance, there are free counters to deposit electronic goods and footwear. I deposited them, collected the tokens and went to the security check gate.
On entering the temple premises, the majestic, five-story structured temple, and its intricate sculptures immediately capture the imaginations of the devotees. Its an excellent structure built on limestone and in spite of being on the shores of Arabian Sea, it has managed to remain pristine. As I entered, The first shrine I came across is the Satyanarayan temple and Lord Kushweshwar temple on the right of the gate. On the left, is the temple of Shri Anirudha and Shri Pradyumna (the son and grandson of Lord Krishna respectively). I walked ahead, the aarti of Lord Dwarkadheesh, accompanied by the drums, cymbals and rhythmic clapping of the devotees, was in its closing stages. I stood at the end of the queue and watched the aarti. The divine feeling of the moment will stay in my memories forever. After the aarti ended, the queue started to inch forward and after 10-15 mins, I was standing right in front of the prepossessing idol of Shri Krishna. Adorned with jewels and colourful costumes, the black granite idol looked stunning. I came out after praying to Lord Dwarkadheesh.
There are a few other temples within the premises. In front of the main temple is the shrine of Mata Devaki (the mother of Shri Krishna), then there is the Bal Radha Krishna temple and the shrine of Maharshi Durvasa. Behind the temple, on the right, is the seat of the Shankaracharya of Dwarka pith, one of the four seats of learning founded by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. Here, you can see, the original manuscripts of the four holy Vedas encased in glass boxes.
Lord Dwarkadheesh is adorned with colourful clothes and scented flowers and you can see a group of people continuously engaged in stitching them for the lord. Dwarkadeheesh Temple has 2 entrance gates – The main entrance gate in the north is called the Moksha Dwara and the south gate is called the Swarga Dwara. From the south gate, there are 56 steps leading to the Gomati River. I spent about 45 mins in the temple after darshan of Lord Dwarkadheesh and then returned to the hotel after lunch to doze off for 3-4 hours.
In the evening, just before sunset (being in the western tip of India, at Dwarka, the sunset happens after 7 PM), I walked to the Sudama Setu. It is a cantilever bridge constructed over river Gomati. There are bathing ghats on the banks of river Gomati. Here, the river is quite shallow here and people have fun bathing in the river. Feeding the fishes in another popular activity. It is at this point that river Gomati meets the sea. It was a unique experience to stand right at the confluence and watch the river, after covering miles, finally disappear into the vast ocean. This place also offers an excellent view of the sunset and people gather to watch the sun disappear over the horizon behind a lighthouse.
The narrow alleys around the temple are lined up with shops on both sides. There are good options for vegetarian meals, sweets, lassi, etc. The other shops sell souvenirs, religious and decoration items. I explored these shops after sunset and spent some time talking to the locals, trying to understand the history of Dwarka and lifestyle of the residents. After an eventful day and sumptuous dinner, I went back to my hotel. Next day I planned to visit Bet Dwarka and Nageshwar Jyotirlinga.
The trip to Dwarka is incomplete without a boat ride to a small island in the Gulf of Kutch called the Bet Dwarka. It is believed to be part of the original Dwarka kingdom established by Lord Krishna which later submerged in the sea after he departed to his heavenly abode. It is at this place where Lord Krishna met his childhood friend Sudama and rescued him from abject poverty. It is this belief rather than anything else that draws devotees to Bet Dwarka, or else, there is nothing to see there and is rather disappointing. The best part of the journey is the 15 min boat ride from Okha jetty to Bet Dwarka where you can see hundreds of seagulls and other birds. Being close to the marine border, you will find every boat sailing in this gulf having the Indian tricolour hoisted on its mast. Bet Dwarka can only be reached by these boats from Okha, which is about 30 kms to the north of Dwarka town.
Once you alight from the boat in the Bet Dwarka island, its a steep walk from the jetty to the temple. The road is congested and devotees have to jostle through sellers and cows to reach the temple. Infront of the temple, there is a counter to deposit the electronic items. Its a small temple and its structure is similar to an old haveli with rooms, corridors and courtyards. The black granite idol of Shri Krishna is strikingly beautiful. Given the crowd, it will take 15-30 mins to explore the temple. The temple is closed in the afternoon from 12 PM to 5 PM, so time your trip least you find yourself stranded on a crowded island having nothing to do and nowhere to go for 4-5 hours. In May, the weather is too humid and I was drenched with sweat running down from head to toe. It is always humid there so keep yourself hydrated with coconut water. There are few other attractions in the island like the Dandi Hanuman temple where Lord Hanuman is worshiped with his son Makardhwaj. I had to visit the Nageshwar Jyotirlinga on returning to Dwarka so I didn’t have much time to visit the other places on the island. I had a quick lunch in one of the many not so good restaurants on the island before returning to Dwarka. Read about my visit to the Nageshwar jyotirlinga here:
There aren’t many things to see in Bet Dwarka and you may return disappointed but if you are visiting Dwarka for the first time, it is worthy to take a little more pain and visit the island as well just to enjoy the boat ride and have darshan of Lord Krishna at his original home.
I hope you liked this post. Looking forward to your comments and feedback; also share your own experiences of Dwarka in the comments section below. Now that I have completed visiting all the four holy dhams, I have successfully completed a personal milestone which I added to my to-do list when I visited Badrinath Dham 6 years back. Here are the links to the posts I published earlier on my experiences of traveling to the other three dhams: