Friday, 27 March 2020

In Search of Ranchhod and His Kingdom - Dwarka & Bet Dwarka

The Great Gujarat Road Odyssey – Day 9

The fatigue of the past days is catching up. You are still suffering from the after effects of the drive from North Kutch into Saurashtra. Today’s itinerary thankfully does not involve much driving.

A painting of Sudama walking to Dvaraka - 18th Century

You are in the town of Dwarka. You can still remember the childhood story of Sudama who goes to Dwarka from Mathura to meet his childhood friend Krishna. You did not really know where Dwarka was but you had always wanted to visit Dwarka and were not sure if you will ever make it here. Your God had migrated here 1300 kms away from His home in Mathura. Mathura is where your family began many generations before. Finally, two Mathura natives are in the same town. 

So why would the God leave us and settle down all the way in the West by the sea?

The legend goes that when Krishna and Balram were faced by the huge combined armies of Magadha King Jarasandha and his allies, instead of subjecting the people of Mathura to misery and death, the brothers decide to move to Dwarka with the citizens of Mathura. When Jarasandha arrives, he finds the city empty. He calls Krishna Ranchhod, one who flees from battlefield. In Dwarka, Vishwakarma would build Krishna a beautiful city.

Painting of Dwarka done during Akbar's reign (photos from wiki and net)

Dwarka (Dvaraka or Dvaravati) which literally means a Gateway, was Gujarat’s first capital and is a place where mythology and reality comes together, blurs and then conjures this delicious world where reasoning is suspended and it transports you to the times of Mahabharat which describes Dwarka as utopian and opulent. Upon Krishna’s death, the capital disappears into the waters from where it once arose; and in its place myth surfaces. And so begins the Age of Kali or Kalyug.

Arjun, visiting Dvaraka after the conclusion of Kurukshetra war witnesses the submergence, and describes the sobering experience in the Mausala Parva of the Mahabharat: (Wiki)

The sea, which had been beating against the shores, suddenly broke the boundary that was imposed on it by nature. The sea rushed into the city. It coursed through the streets of the beautiful city. The sea covered up everything in the city. I saw the beautiful buildings becoming submerged one by one. In a matter of a few moments it was all over. The sea had now become as placid as a lake. There was no trace of the city. Dvaraka was just a name; just a memory.

You feel like an archaeologist who has dedicated his life to find Atlantis and Krishna’s capital of Dwarka. Today, you will go visit Bet Dwarka, the island where the capital existed once and now is submerged in the waters of Gulf of Kutch.

The majestic gateway to the city called Gateway or Dwarka

You will visit the Dwarkadhish Temple, one of the Chardhams tomorrow. But now you are heading towards the western tip of Saurashtra on the way to Okha and Bet Dwarka. Long time ago you had seen the train to Okha pulling out from Mumbai Central. You always wondered it would be cool to visit the town on the tip of Gujarat.
Instead of taking NH 947 North, you will first drive East to Nageshwar Jyotirling.

After a spin through the Dwarka outer roads you are on your way.

The Chakda of Kutch and Saurashtra

Every town in India has its own unique design, colour and style of rickshaws and auto-rickshaws. In Gujarat, borne out of good old gujju jugaad are the chakdas. They are flamboyant, ooze attitude, their chrome gleams under the sun, as they paint the monochrome landscape with all these happy colours.

The chassis is unmistakably Enfield along with the gear box. The power comes from a diesel Crompton engine. A modified heavy duty suspension that gives it a commanding height and you are all set to rumble in Gujjuland on this tri-cycle desi wonder.

Dwarka Railway Station. Love how the architecture of the city is depicted in the railway station building

Kalikamata Temple, Saindhavas, middle 9th Century, Dhrasanvel, Devbhoomi Dwarka District, Gujarat

Looking out from the balcony window towards road to Nageshwara Jyotirling

The first surprise of the morning comes early. Standing by the road the strange looking temple is lucky to have survived this far. It is gross bad luck of monuments that they find themselves in states like Gujarat & Maharashtra. This one is lucky that they have patched it together with some cement plaster instead of usually leaving them to die. The temple has sloping roofs on the sides, balcony type windows, a narrow circumambulatory passage inside with no ornamentation.

And the temple is built by never heard before Saindhavs or Jayadraths of Ghumli who ruled this part of Gujarat from 735 to 920 CE, probably as successors to Maitrakas. You were unlucky to have missed out on Ghumli which has some surviving temples. 

Names like this would have you believe you are in Mathura. But then this is extension of Mathura

Gujarat Roads

The Gateway to the Nageshwar Jyotirling in Devbhoomi Dwarka

A pimped up Chakda
You expected to see a 12th century stone temple - Nagesvara Jyotirling

Of the twelve Jyotirlings, two are in Gujarat. Nageshwar Jyotirling is thankfully not crowded today. In terms of architecture or antiquity the temple does not offer much. It is a new cement building with a giant statue of Lord Shiv in the premises. Offering your prayers you are back on the road headed towards Beyt Dwarka.

The Gopi Krishna Temple at Gopi Talab

Gopis making a beeline to meet their Kanhaiya

Gopis Styling
Spot Billed Duck in the waters of Gopi Talab

The Gopis doing their laundry

Just beyond Nageshwar Jyotirling is the Gopisar or Gopi Talab. One version says that when Lord Krishna came to Dwarka he missed the Gopis. He asked Uddhav to bring them from Mathura. The Lord built this kund just like He had built the Shyam Kund in Vrindavan. Lord Krishna played with the gopis in this talab and the Chandan on his body washed off into the waters. Since then it is believed whoever wears Gopi Chandan tilak made of the golden mud of the lake will attain Him. 

Gopi Chandan made from mud of Gopi Talab

Gopi Chandan

Around the lake you can see shops selling the Gopi Chandan rolled into candle like sizes. Now you are wondering the girls you met outside Imphal were wearing the elongated tilaks - did the chandan came from here?

Salt Pans keep making their appearance in this part of Gujarat

Here in Gujarat there is a constant interplay between the land and the Kutch

Okha on the left, Bet Dwarka on the right

Bet Dwarka: Boats on the jetty that will take you to Beyt Dwarka

Bet Dwarka: You feel like being in the boat scene of Swades

Sea Gulls will keep you company all the way to Bet Dwarka - you still remember them as you made your way on a fishing boat to Hope Island

The boat after safely bringing you to the other side - being a mythical legend will have to wait. Look at them teal coloured waters

The jetty on Bet Dwarka - yes it has changed a lot in the last 4000 years

Bet Dwarka as the name suggests is an island and you climb into a crowded boat that will deliver you to the mythical city of Lord Krishna. Another version is that the word Bet or Beyt is derived from Bhent - here Krishna met his childhood friend Sudama.

Though you turn squeamish on water but then it is the boats that have always brought you memorable surprises - Hope Island, Yanam, Hooghly, Murud Janjira and Chilika, and yes that coracle ride on Krishna river in Alampur.

Along with Gopis, cows also follow Krishna to Dwarka: Beyt Dwarka

There is no Social Distancing in Bet Dwarka. The water is beautiful green. Seagulls are everywhere. The lighthouse shimmers in the distance. The boat is packed. You feel like on the boat in Swades. In India, there is no getting away from people – whether Lakhpat or here. If the boat goes down like Lord Krishna’s city, you will become a mythical legend too.

And if you were thinking you will discover the submerged city in one outing on a packed boat, you are mistaken. You are just trying to follow your Own God from your native town of Mathura to Kurukshetra and now to to Dwarka.

And that's the truth

In Dwarka, the palaces and houses and the walls were all encrusted with jewels and pearls

Social Distancing on the way back to Dwarka

There is not much to do on the island. Rampant construction blights every inch of the island. The devotees that got off the boat with you are taking autos to the temples beyond. Architecturally, they don't offer much to you. It is dusty here - Why is every place so dusty and grimy?  

Well you will just sit in the courtyard of this temple and hope to catch the vibe. You just wanted to be here in Beyt Dwarka to make the connection. And to wonder how everything comes together in our blessed country – Mythology, Epics, Gods and the Present; all connected in this continuum. This time it makes so much sense. 

The 12th Century Rukmini Temple dedicated to Krishna's Chief Queen

Rukmini Temple, Dwarka, Gujarat

Back from Bet Dwarka, your last stop of the day is the golden Rukmini Temple on the outskirts of the city poised over vast tract of saltland as another saline riverine flows into the Arabian Sea.

Maybe it is the salt in the air that is causing the sandstone of the temple to melt, turning the once upon a time beautiful sculptures into a grotesque show. Nothing is timeless - sometimes it is the hammer of the conquerors, sometimes it is the seemingly harmless air. The twilight is called golden hour and this is when the sandstone turns into gold; the dhwaj atop the gold spire flutters in the now cool evening breeze. 

Another day draws to close in Krishna's city. With each passing day the legend grows stronger and with it the faith. But then why do we need proof of evidence. The faith of a single believer is greater than hundred theories and findings of scientists. Just like Nandgaon and Barsana and Goverdhan, Dwarka too has the fragrance of Braj land. Dwarka is actually Braj Extension. Krishna frolicked in Mathura, fought in Kurukshetra and ruled as the King in Dwarka. Some things just are. 

Day's Stats
  • Route Taken – From Jamnagar taken NH 947 West. Just beyond the Reliance Refinery turned right towards Vadinar to reach Narara Marine Park. Came back to NH 947 driving all the way to Dwarka
  • Distance covered today – 76 kms
  • Total Distance covered so far - 2542 kms 


Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency: Kathiawar

Dwarka – Atlantis of the East:

Related Links on this blog

Day 1 - Viratnagar
Day 2 - Pushkar
Day 3 - Vadnagar

Day 4 – Siddhpur

Day 5 - Dholavira

Day 6 - Lakhpat

Day 7 - Narayan Sarovar
Day 8 - Jamnagar

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