The cultured traveler – A column that explores the many miles of South Asia.
((Selected image: Gomti Ghat from Suman Bajpai)
After a year of forced hiatus due to a pandemic, I finally decided to travel and booked an early morning plane ticket (I thought this rush wouldn’t be heavy, but I was wrong, the flight was full) until after Rajkot and then on to Dwarka.
Today’s Dwarka is on the coast of the Arabian Sea across from the Gulf of Kutch. Known as the capital of Lord Krishna’s kingdom, Dwarkadhish Temple holds important heritage as one of the most important places for Hindu pilgrimage. It is said that when Lord Krishna and Yadavas left Mathura and arrived on the coast of Saurashtra, they decided to establish their capital in the coastal region. With reference to Vishwakarma, the deity of building, it is believed that the “City of Gold” was built in a day.
Sudhama Setu – witness sunrise and sunset
After lunch and some rest, I went to Sudama Setu across the Gomti River.
Sudhama, Lord Krishna’s best friend, is said to be present in the land of Dwarka. The bridge that connects both sides of the Gomti River is called Sudhama Setu and it can be really lovely to watch the sunrise and sunset from this place.
There I saw the sacred five wells built by the Pandavas, including the famous meditation place of the five rishis. Camels can be seen decorated in bright colors, and camel riding on the banks of Gomti is one of the best things to do in Dwarka. The sight of the ghats and the boating is a great experience.
Dwarkadhish Temple – Stories tell of its fame
Dwarka, the city, has been claimed six times by the sea. Although a few kilometers away, I could see the flag of the temple – Dhawajaji or the Kirti Pataka, which is changed five times a day. Soon the huge dome of the temple could also be seen. Shree Dwarkadeesh ruled here 5000 years ago and his presence can still be felt today.
On the way to Dwarkadhish Temple, you will find a variety of shops on either side of the street selling bags, juttis, shell items, candy, puja supplies and prasad. The air smells of salt and incense. Chants of Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevaay, Om Namah Shivaay and the Hare Krishna Mahamantra perform against the backdrop of bathers, shoppers and the colorful bazaar. In the evening, different shades of light enhance the beauty of the temple, which will fascinate you when you enter.
The Sri Dwarkadhish Temple is a five-story building built on 60 pillars and crowned by a towering, intricately carved tower. There are two gates or gnomes to the temple. The north gate is called Moksha dwar – the path to salvation from where devotees enter, and the south gate is called Swarga dwar – the gateway to heaven from where they exit.
According to legend, the temple was originally built by Krishna’s grandson, Vajranabha, over Lord Krishna’s place of residence (Hari-Griha). Adi Shankaracharya, the venerable 8th century Hindu theologian and philosopher who united the main beliefs of Hinduism, visited the sanctuary. After his visit, the temple became part of the sacred pilgrimage to Char Dham, which is essential for Hindus to obtain moksha.
The limestone temple complex has several shrines. The main deity is Lord Krishna, also known as Dwarkadhish or Ranchor ji. The basement has an ancient Shivalinga along with Ma Amba, Aniruddha, Pradyumn, Rukmani, Satyabhama, Jamvanti and Laxmi are also venerated.
The place under the temple is known as the Chakra-Tirth. Shell-like stones, mostly colored white, are only available at Dwarka and are sold here. This chakra is a sacred object that gives purity and salvation. Gopi Chandan, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, is also sold here.
The temple was full of devotees so in line with my mask on, I visited the adorable aarti of Dwarkadhish.
Nageshwar Shiva Temple – A great idol attracts
The next morning I went to Nageshwar Shiva Temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in the village of Nageshwar in Gujarat. As soon as I entered, I was surprised by a very large idol of Lord Shiva standing high in the open sky.
The Nageshwar Temple is one of the oldest temples mentioned in Shiva Purana. The Swayambhu Lingam that is kept in the underground chamber of the Nageshwar Temple is known as the Nageshwar Mahadev. It is believed that this Jyotirlinga protects from all poisons and one who prays here receives freedom from all kinds of poison.
There is a legend behind this temple that was told to me by its priest there. A demon named Daruka once lived there, who was extremely cruel and tortured people. One day he and many others captured a Shiva devotee named Supriya. The prisoners were held in the underwater city teeming with sea snakes. Supriya recited the Shiva mantra ‘Aum Namaha Shivayay’ to protect her. Daruka tried to kill Supriya, but Lord Shiva appeared in his full glory and killed the demon and resided in the mighty Jyotirlinga.
The temple is a simple structure with typical Hindu architecture. Here the Shiva Lingam faces south and the Gomugam faces east. The Shivalinga in Nageshwar is a Tri-Mukhi Rudraksha that is about 40 cm high and 30 cm in diameter. Goddess Parvati as Nageshwari along with the Shivalinga can also be seen.
Rukmini Temple – stands on dry land
The almost 2000 year old Rukmini Temple is located in a deserted area. Its intricate carvings have made it a nationally protected monument. The temple of Rukmini Devi, the chief queen of Lord Krishna, is located on the outskirts of Dwarka City. Interestingly, drinking water is offered as a donation to the temple. Donating money can help bring drinking water to this area.
Why this temple is far from the temple of Lord Krishna is associated with a legend.
Saga Durvasa was once invited to dinner by Krishna and his wife Rukmini. Krishna and Rukmini pulled his wagon. On the way, Devi Rukmini was thirsty, asked for water and Lord Krishna tended it by banging his toe on the ground. Without offering Durvasa, Devi Rukmini drank the water. The wise man was offended and cursed her – she would live apart from her husband. That is why in this temple Rukmini is worshiped alone without Lord Krishna. As a result, it is believed that this is the reason for the lack of drinking water.
Rukmini’s temple stands on very dry land, completely isolated, with no building or house next to it. The fascinating architecture of the temple with tiny carvings and paintings shows different stories. There are other temples within the complex that are also dedicated to Amba Devi, the Kul Devi of Krishna.
Once you get the chance to travel, this should be on your list as one of the first places in India!
Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 10 books on various subjects and translated around 130 books from English to Hindi.
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