The very well maintained road and scenic landscape between Porbandar and Dwarka reduced both the expected stress and time in reaching our destination. At or around 6 pm we reached the most awaited revered holy land of Dwarkadhish. Without wasting one extra minute we landed in one of the many hotels near the main shrine. There are plenty of ac/non-ac accommodations available, including excellent to budget hotels and also good dharamshalas on reasonable tariff ranging from Rs. 500/- to Rs. 2000/-. It is advisable to stay as close as possible to the shrine. Parking is not an issue, you may park your car at any suitable place, without fear of any pilferage. After a quick shower, we were restless to visit the holy shrine before it was close at 9.30 PM after the Sandhya Aarti.
A few minutes walk through the bustling lanes narrowed due to encroachment by rows of small to medium sized shops. You have to make your way between the extended temporary stalls selling catchy, glittering idols of the Lord of Dwarka and various cheap but priceless religious items comprised with devotional songs playing in praise of the revered Dwarkadhish. The common sight of the streets will leave you with the same general and casual impression as of any religious place in the country.
Contrarily once we reached near the shrine premise, we were glad to see that despite of innumerable devotees there was no chaos and seemed that excellent care has been taken to maintain the sanctity in a well managed way. Far from the entry, cloak rooms with numbered bags are kept in trolleys which can be used to keep off the shoes of the entire group together and deposit it in queue by any one person and obtain a token for free. The valuables like mobiles, cameras etc can also be deposited in another such cloak room adjacent to the shoe stand. It is better to keep the cameras, mobiles & other valuables back in your hotel to avoid delays at depositories.
A team of well mannered security staffs are always ready to guide you amicably for entering into the shrine. Different check points for ladies and gents are equipped with metal detectors and scanners in ‘working condition’ besides physical checking but without hassle. In no time we entered through the giant gate inside the premise and were soon lucky to catch the Shayan Arti at 8.30 pm. The divinity and magnificence of the deity left us in awe and nostalgic. The glittering glossy idol, laden with gold and gems and ornamented with a tilted crown touched the heart immensely and deep immersed the soul in an ocean of sanctum satisfaction with fulfillment. It is perhaps because Lord Krishna is worshiped here as the emperor of Dwarka. The Shayan Arti is performed for 5 minutes only but the rhythmic devotional vibrations lasted till long after. Similarly the divine darshan of the lord continued captured back on memory in persistence of vision.
The queue inside the main shrine is such managed that you can have a glimpse of the deity as soon as stepping in. This enable devotees to have enough time to hold the captivating magnificence of the deity while chanting prayers and wish blessings consistently moving closer and exit with no regrets to be deprived of a thorough and eyeful Darshan of the revered deity. No pushing, no pulling, no thrashing and no money matter thus no grudging. The ashram of Jagadguru Sankracharya is situated adjacent to the temple premise. With great satisfaction, we came out of the main shrine to grab the opportunity to visualize the stunningly lit temple and its amazing cleanliness. Since our hotel was nearby, I rushed to bring my camera and tried few clicks of the shrine which illumined liked spangled with gold.
After the divine darshan we roamed around the shops through the zigzags of the narrow lanes, selling local stuffs and other earthly goods. We reached our hotel after having a sumptuous meal at one of the nearby restaurants to wake up as early as possible next morning. The morning Arti known as “Mangla Aarti” is performed at 6.30 am and considered to be very pious to participate in.
I was on constant solo drive for more than 4000 kms in 11 days and needed some proper rest hence preferred to sleep till late however, my wife who was also fatigued but decided to visit the shrine at 6 am.
Next morning I woke up at 9 am till then my wife was back and described about the very devotional and holy Mangla Arrti followed by Mangla Darshan. Alas! I missed the opportunity as I was still fatigued. To avoid further stressing, we decided to visit the other sites around Dwarka by hired taxi. It was however informed by our hotel’s manager that there are many private operators offering deluxe-bus service for sight seeing at Rs. 150/- each. This service starts at 8 am and 2 pm daily and tickets are readily available at various tour operator counters.
A holy dip in the river Gomti was an awaited task for me on the day’s schedule. I generally avoid the kind of holy dips for obvious reasons but sometimes we need to do things pretending to be more than happy doing that. Very contrarily, I was amazed to see the cleanliness of the well maintained Ghats which was still under renovation. The long banks have cemented steps equipped with appropriate safety chains and rows of carved cenotaphs with seating arrangement. A group of very talented sculptors were busy sculpting the huge yellow sand-stones which may form a part of the proposed modern structures and enhance the beautification of the river front in future.
After the rituals and enjoying the stream of cool-clear water of holy Gomti we enjoyed the calm soothes of the river front gazing at the revered shrine visible from the banks. At 1.30 pm we boarded the bus which was though not a deluxe one but comfortable enough for a 30-40 km journey. The trip starts with halts at Rukmini Temple, Nageshwar Mahadev Jyotirlingam, Gopi Lake and finally to Bet Dwarka where the land merges with the giant blue of the Arabian Sea at the extreme west.
The land is full of mythology and every site boasts historical evidences to prove the myths. Nonetheless, the shrines are well sculpted and beautifully carved in the contrast of arid landscape. Brief facts of the sites are complied for readers’ references.
Nageshwar Mahadev Temple is one of the prominent Jyotirlingas, and it was my fifth Jyotirling darshan. We paid obeisance to the lord in a hassle free manner, without a long wait, unlike in other such temples. It was hard to believe that one of the Jyotirlings is so easily accessible and trust me my devotion was multifold with nothing to grudge upon. A giant idol of lord Shiva in the premise attracts visitors to pose against its backdrop for photography, thus marking their presence.
Gopi Talav (lake) is the place where Lord Krishna used to play with the Gopikas. It is prevalent that the Gopis reached there all the way from Braj, to play Ras-Leela with Krishna. The soil turned soft and pale after the Gopikas laid down their lives there. There is also a small pond where it is said that Lord Krishna used to play with the Gopikas. The lake didn’t impress much and lying in unattended and polluted.
Rukmini Mandir is solitarily situated in the outskirts of the city. According to mythology Rukmini was cursed by Rishi Durvasa to keep away from Lord Krishna. Because of which the temple is situated outside the city and due to the curse and also the water in Dwarka city is saline. Structural design of the shrine is however, impressive. Priests in the temple deliberately try to impress the visitors in group about the mythology and conclude with insistence to pay for buying drinking water for temple use.
Bet Dwarka is the place where Lord Krishna used to reside and met his friend Sudama and blessed him. The temple also has the main Dwarkadish Diety which was believed to have been made by Krishna’s chief Queen Rukmini and in which Meera Bai merged and disappeared from the material world.
At around 4.30 pm the bus dropped us at Bet-Dwarka with an ultimatum to return by 6 pm else the bus may leave for Dwarka without waiting. The bus was parked atleast one km away of the Jetty from where one has to sail on a ferry (motor boat) run by private operators. Hundreds of sailing and swaying boats and ferries on one end and the giant to big vessels at the restricted territory of INS with a huge harbour were an unstoppable hilarious sight. The hovering water birds overhead in the sea were another astonishing sight compelling to wait and watch the magical moments. Bet-Dwarka is a small island quite visible from the main land but it takes almost 30 minutes to reach there through the available boats by paying Rs.10/- either way.
The boats sail upto 6 p.m. only and fare is collected once you board it, which is often over-loaded in absence of any regulating body. Due to lack of any grass-root infrastructure for tourist convenience, which I felt missing in whole of Gujrat, people have no choice than to jump into those overloaded boats. Pertinent to mention, there are no safety measures, not even a life jacket nor any life boats around and they are dangerously over loaded for petty profits, by the private operators. People who visit the farthest end, few with a long time savings and life time desire, in sake of religious gains can dare to any extents. Thus, things are going right in Gujrat with increasing inflow of pilgrims rather than general tourists. Government needs to pay a little heed into the basic infrastructure, convenient for general tourists than only glamorizing the state’s branding for commercial and political gains.
We were no exception and boarded one of the crowded boats to reach the far end. Like other devotees our mindset also tuned us to do the dare, in the name of lord and faith in destiny. The fear took a fare-well once we found people’s calm faces chanting prayers delightfully. My wife was busy balancing herself standing aside the generator cabin and often wiping her face due to showers of saline water splashing through thumping base of the heavy boat. I on the other hand was focused in clicking few frames after fixing my stability between the gaps of two seat planks. After landing we rushed to the shrine, around half kilometer through a row of shops, usual presence in all religious surroundings. An easy and comfortable eyeful darshan of the deity however, relieved all strains.
Hanuman Mandir is also in Bet Dwarka where it is believed that Lord Hanuman fought with his son Makaradhwaja. We were informed that the place being far from the jetty, it was not possible to visit there unless visited early in the morning.
It was 5.30 pm till we reached the jetty for our return journey to the main land. The jetty was over crowded because the boats stop sailing after 6 pm. Without wasting a moment, we pushed ourselves to catch the earliest trip. After 2-3 boats gone loaded with more heads each time, it was our turn to step in & luckily got to sit in one of the planks. The smile faded soon as the boat was speeding to its maximum for a chance to reach the island once more to carry the remaining passengers waiting on the island. The water splashed high breaking into sprinkles and poured on us like heavy showers, drenched us completely including my camera. The only good thing happened was, we were able to catch our bus just at the nick of time.
Another visit to the holy shrine in the evening, some buying in the local market including packs of very nice salted groundnuts, we slept with relief and excitement of continuing our journey towards KUCHH next morning.
For further details, you may browse the official site; http://www.dwarkadhish.org
The Journey continues………