Legend has it that Krishna relocated to Dwarka after he realised that his ongoing war with Jarasandha was affecting the peace and prosperity of his kingdom. He summoned Vishwakarma to build him a palace on the sea, thousands of miles away from Mathura.
The nine-hour drive from Gandhinagar to Dwarka is a visual feast: the clear blue sky acts as a perfect backdrop for tall, white windmills that line the road. Local and migratory birds such as Sarus cranes, flamingos, spoonbills, storks, ducks, swan, black swans, herons, kingfishers and many others flock the ponds and marshes dotting the landscape. A few cottages appearing once in a while serve as the only reminder of human existence in the otherwise deserted expanse.
I had expected Dwarka to be like the other religious towns — congested and dirty. I was therefore surprised to see how quiet and calm the town was. Other than a few stray cows on the street, it bore no sign of a usual temple town, but then who minds a few cows, especially in Krishna’s kingdom? We had reached late in the afternoon and since the main temple was closed until evening, we had decided to utilise the time by visiting Krishna’s wife.
The 2,500-year-old Rukmini temple stands alone on a barren land two kilometres outside the town of Dwarka. The reason for this distance is said to be a curse by the infamous Durvasa rishi. The story goes like this — while pulling Durvasa’s chariot, Rukmini got so thirsty that she drank water without offering it to her guest, Durvasa. This angered him and he cursed Rukmini to be separated from her beloved husband. Some locals also believe that it was on Krishna's behest that Durvasa had cursed Rukmini (Krishna had wanted to punish Rukmini for her arrogance).
The temple has a beautifully carved spire, similar to, although much smaller than the Dwarkadhish temple. Human figures in various poses adorn the top levels of the spire and elephants stand guard at the bottom. A plain, hemispherical dome sits between the large spire over the sanctum and a smaller one over the entrance — both richly adorned. Inside the temple stands a lonely Rukmini with only the priest and tourists for company.
The evening arti was on when we reached the Dwarkadhish temple. After a near stampede situation, I finally managed a few seconds with my favourite God. The jet-black idol of Krishna, elaborately adorned with gemstones and silks, is among the most awe-inspiring idols I have ever set my eyes on. I would have stood there forever had the temple security and the crowd from behind not pushed me ahead.
Our driver, also our guide, informed us that the Dwarkadhish temple was built over two and a half thousand years ago by Vajranabh, the great grandson of Krishna. Standing tall at the coast, the exquisitely carved temple can be seen from as far as 10 miles, and from every corner of the town. Its 52-yard long flag, fluttering in the sea breeze, adds to the grandeur of the soaring, multi-layered spire. Illuminated with soft yellow lights, the temple looked even more resplendent in the night, the corrosion from the sea winds notwithstanding.
Your trip to Dwarka supposedly remains incomplete unless you visit the Krishna temple in Beyt Dwarka. Thirty km from the town, off the port of Okha, Beyt Dwarka is a tiny island, believed to be a part of the original kingdom of Krishna, which according to legend, lies submerged in the ocean. So we set off, early next morning, to ensure our trip did not remain incomplete. The road from Dwarka to Okha runs along the last few km of the west coast with most of the stretch flanked by the creek on both sides. At seven in the morning, the sun was big and bright, and hung low; the rippled ocean sparkled under its rays and hundreds of fishing boats bobbed on the water, at an arms length from the road. On the rare stretch where there was no water, there were rows of fish drying in the sun.
It took us less than thirty minutes to reach the jetty from where we were to take a boat for Beyt Dwarka. On the short walk along the jetty, I noticed many broken, abandoned boats lying partially submerged in water and that perhaps triggered the hydrophobic in me (not that the sight of the huge country made boats ferrying hundreds of people at one go was very inviting). While my family sailed into the choppy sea along with hundreds of other people, I stood alone at the jetty watching them traversing the water to complete their pilgrimage. My pilgrimage however, remained incomplete, at least for now.