Dwarka (Dwaraka, Dvarka)
Lord Krishna established Dwarka as his capital 5,000 years ago, just after he left Mathura. Lord Krishna spent one hundred years here. Modern-day Dwarka is a small city located at the western tip of the Gujarat peninsula on the Arabian Sea. Dwarka has a climate that is nice in the winter and not too hot in the summer. It is a peaceful place to stay for a few days.
Dwarka is a Saptapuri, one of seven main holy cities. The others are Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kashi (Varanasi), Ujjain, and Kanchipuram. It is also one of the four holy dhamas in India, the others being Rameswaram, Puri, and Badrinath. Sanaka Rishi, Marici, Atri, Angira, and other sages are said to have performed penance here.
Archaeological excavations indicate that Dwarka was built on four (some say five) former cities. Much of the present town was submerged by rising sea levels. Marine archaeologist SR Rao discovered a 250kg anchor, indicating that a 120-ton ship may have used this port. There is evidence to suggest that the city was a large port at least as far back as the 15th century BC.
If you are coming to Dwarka for a day trip, you could first visit the Dwarkadhish temple, then take bath in the ocean where it meets the Gomati River, see the Rukmini Temple, and then go for lunch. You could then go to Bet Dwarka to see the temple there, which opens at 5 pm.
Dwarka means door. One of the four original maths (mutts) founded by Sankaracharya is located in Dwarka. Both Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya came here for pilgrimage.
There is a tour bus run by the Dwarka Darshan office that goes to the various pilgrimage sites outside the city of Dwarka, including the Nageshwar Temple, Patrani Temple, Bet Dwarka, and Gopitallava. There are two tours daily, one at 8 am and the other at 2 pm. The tour takes about 5 to 7 hours.
Tickets can be booked at the Dwarka Darshan office or by a local travel agent. You should book the morning tour the day before.
Description of Dwarka 5,000 Years Ago In the Srimad Bhagavatam there is the following description of Dwarka when Narada came to visit Lord Krishna:
“When Narada arrived in Dwarka, he saw that the gardens and parks were full of various flowers of different colors and the orchards were overloaded with a variety of fruits. In the city there were as many as 900,000 great palaces built of first-class marble with gates and doors made of silver. The posts of the houses and palaces were bedecked with jewels such as touchstone, sapphires, and emeralds, and the floors gave off a beautiful luster. The big avenues, crossings, lanes, streets, and also the thresholds of every residential house, were very clean. At regular intervals there were large trees that shaded the avenues so that the sunshine would not bother the passersby.”.
In this greatly beautiful city of Dwarka, Lord Krishna had many residential quarters. The architectural plans were made personally by Visvakarma, the engineer of the demigods, and in the construction of the palaces he exhibited all of his talents and ingenuity.
These residential quarters numbered more than 16,000, and a different queen of Lord Krishna resided in each of them. The pillars were made of coral and the ceilings were bedecked with jewels. The walls as well as the arches between the pillars glowed from the decorations of different kinds of sapphires. Throughout the palace there were many canopies made by Visvakarma that were decorated with strings of pearls. The chairs and other furniture were made of ivory, bedecked with gold and diamonds, and jeweled lamps dissipated the darkness within the palace.”
The five-storey 16th century Dwarkadhish temple is located right in the middle of town. Dwarkadish is another name for Lord Krishna, meaning the “Lord of Dwarka.” The temple spire is 70.5m (235 feet) high. From the temple dome waves a 24m (84 ft) long multicolored flag decorated with the symbols of the sun and moon. Lord Krishna’s grandson, Vajranabha, is said to have built the original Dwarkadhish temple over the hari-griha (Lord Krishna’s residential palace). The carvings on the temple are impressive.
The temple sanctum is formed by the Jagat Mandir, or Nija Mandir, which dates back at least 2,500 years. The Jagat Mandir has a tall tower and an audience hall.
The temple has two entrances. The main entrance (north entrance) is called “Moksha Dwara” (Door to Salvation). This entrance leads to the main market. The south entrance is called “Swarga Dwara” (Gate to Heaven).
The main Deity is Lord Dwarkadhish, who is on the center altar. The Deity represents the four-armed form of Vishnu known as Trivikrama. It is said that “Sri Krishna placed all his arts, achievements and properties into Lord Trivikrama,”
There is a temple to the right of the main Deity that contains the Deity ofLord Baladevaji (Balarama), Krishna’s older brother.
The temple to the left of the main Deity contains a large deity ofPradyumna and a smaller deity of Aniruddha, the son and grandson of Lord Krishna respectively. Opposite this shrine is the shrine ofPurusottama (Vishnu). Next to that shrine is the shrine dedicated toKuseswara Mahadeva (Siva).
The shrine across from Lord Dwarkadhish holds the deity of Devaki, Lord Krishna’s mother. Next to her is a temple dedicated to Veni-madhava (Lord Vishnu). In back of the main temple, in the eastern part of the temple compound, are shrines of Radha, Jambavati, Satyabhama, and Lakshmi. There are also shrines of Saraswati and Lakshmi-Narayan.
This temple is an interesting place where visitors can observe the extreme devotion of the pilgrims. Open 6 am to 12:30 pm and 5 to 9 pm. Non-Hindus are normally permitted to enter the temple, but may be requested to fill out a form stating that they believe in the Hindu religion to be allowed in.
Rukmini Devi Temple
This small temple, 1.5km north of town, is an architectural masterpiece. Rukmini is the most important of Krishna’s 16,108 wives. The temple walls are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting her pastimes with Krishna. This temple is said to date back to the 12th century.
The story behind this temple is that one day, Durvasa Muni, who is easily angered, was invited by Lord Krishna and his wife, Rukmini, to dinner. When a person is invited to dinner, etiquette dictates that the host should not eat until the guest has been satisfied. On the way to dinner, Rukmini became thirsty and asked Krishna for help. Krishna then put his foot in the ground and the Ganges waters flowed forth from the earth while Durvasa was not looking. As Rukmini was drinking the water, however, Durvasa turned and saw her drinking without his permission. He became angry and cursed her to live apart from Lord Krishna. That is why Krishna’s temple is in the town and hers is located outside the town.
Gomati Ghat Temples
Gomati, the descended Ganges, meets the sea at Chakra-tirtha Ghat. To take bath where the Gomati meets the ocean is said to offer liberation. If you go out the back entrance of the Dwarkadish Temple, you can see theGomati River. The temple is located almost at the spot where the Gomati meets the ocean.
The Samudra Narayana Temple (Sangam Narayana) is an imposing temple at the confluence of the Gomati and the sea. Panchanada Tirthaconsists of five sweet-water wells surrounded by seawater.
At Chakra Narayana, Lord Vishnu was manifested as a stone marked with a chakra on the seashore. The Gomatiji Temple has an image of the Gomati River in it, said to have been brought down from heaven by Vasistha Muni.
You can get a good view of Dwarka and the surrounding area from on top of the lighthouse. Open from 4 to 6 pm or one hour before sunset, whichever is earlier.
ISKCON Padayatra Gate
This 18m (61 ft) tall, 15m (50 ft) wide memorial gate is situated on the main road entering the town from the east. It was built to commemorate the ISKCON Padayatra, begun in 1984 from Dwarka. The Padayatra completed a 14,000km walking tour around India, passing through fifteen states.
Nageswara Mahadeva Temple contains one of the twelve Siva Jyotirlingas in an underground sanctum. It is located 10km from Dwarka.
Gopi-tallava is the kund (pond) where Lord Krishna met the gopis when they came to see him at Dwarka. The sacred clay from Gopi-tallava is known as gopi-candana and is used by devotees of Krishna to make the tilak marks on their bodies. It is 20km north of Dwarka on the way to Bet Dwarka.
Bet Dwarka (Dwarka Island)
Bet Dwarka is located 30km north of Dwarka on an island in the middle of the Arabian Sea, next to the coastal town of Okha. It takes twenty minutes by boat to reach the island. Bet Dwarka is said to be the remains of the 250 sq km (96 square miles) of land borrowed from the ocean to build the original city of Dwarka.
The Dwarkadhish Temple here is open in the morning and again at 5 pm. When the temple opens at 5 pm, there is a mad rush to see the deities. There is also a Balarama temple (Dauji) here. Bet Dwarka is where Sudama Brahman is said to have met Lord Krishna.
The entire trip to the island from the town of Dwarka will take at least four hours. Boats usually depart only when full, and they can seat a hundred passengers. State buses go to Okha from Dwarka (1 hr, 6 am to 8 pm) every thirty minutes. Private buses leave from the vegetable market depart at 8 am and 2 pm. You can also go by jeep or tour bus.