Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dwarkadhish Temple, Rukmini Temple, Dwarka, Gujarat

Autorickshaw, parked at the edge of Aji Dam, outside Rajkot, Gujarat
This is a post about the temple city of Dwarka. Not the Dwarka in Uttar Pradesh, but the Dwarka where Lord Krishna escaped to and established the city of Dwarvati to escape from the repeated attacks by his uncle Kansa's father-in-law Jarasandha. On a more modern footing, the town of Dwarka falls within the district of Jamnagar, and is in the state of Gujarat. Jamnagar is famous for the massive refineries and petrochemical plants run by the Tata, Reliance, and Essar groups.

There are two ways to get to Dwarka, and while all routes do lead to God, on the more physical plane, you can either approach it from the coastline that runs along the southern border of Gujarat. This would mean driving past Diu, Somnath, Porbandar, and on to Dwarka. NH 51  runs along this coast and is mostly in bad shape, and driving is slow.

The other option is to take the Ahmedabad-Rajkot state highway, proceed on to Dhrol, and then via Jamnagar, Khambaliya, and on to Dwarka. This is a beautiful highway, and the four-laning work there is nearing completion. This particular stretch below is from the state highway SH25, a short distance from Rajkot, on the way to Jamnagar.

There are places, like the one above, where a flyover is being completed, so you have to take a diversion. Similarly, there were a few places where a water tanker trudges slowly and a man guides a pipe running from the tanker to water the freshly planted saplings on the median.

This signboard, just outside Jamnagar, points you to the highway to take to Dwarka or to Somnath. By the way, in case you didn't notice, that is a very ideologically confused sign, if I may say so. For moksha, salvation, deliverance, you need to take a left for Dwarka and Somnath, while the doors to capitalism that is the petro-chemical town of Jamnagar is on the right. Heh heh... feeble attempt at humour, nothing else folks.

As you pass Jamnagar, you cannot but miss the massive complex of Reliance Industries. On the right side of the highway is the plant - the refinery, while on the left side are the residential quarters. It is more like an entirely self-contained township, with everything you would want available within the township. It is also another matter that the closest city is Rajkot is about 100kms away - more than a hour's drive, while Ahmedabad is even further away, more than 300 kms away. To the west of Jamnagar you have even smaller towns, the biggest being Dwarka and Okha.

After you exit Jamnagar, the highway becomes an undivided two-laned road. Traffic is sparse, and the road is straight and flat as a pancake, and you can make good time on this highway. Under the glistening afternoon sun, at around 2pm, the road shines with an almost unbearable glare.

If you look straight ahead, the heated air near the road makes the approaching traffic shimmer and dance on the road. Gujarat is one hot state. Even in the month of December it used to get uncomfortably hot during the day.

I was pretty sure that this milestone marker for NH8E was an error, since NH51 is the coastal highway that connects Bhavnagar to Dwarka. But I was mistaken. Wikipedia tells me that NH8E is more than 440kms long. The reason behind my confusion is that this stretch of NH8E is no more than a few kilometers, and is preceded by a state highway and succeeded by NH51. But the milestone marker was there, and there is no mistaking that.

Once we took the coastal highway NH51, and were driving parallel to the Arabian Sea coastline, there was a veritable explosion of windmills. Most of them seemed to be from Suzlon, but in any case, dotting the landscape, and many placed a few yards from the highway, these windmills are an indication of the investments made in Gujarat to harness the immense potential of renewable energy in the state. Some of these newer windmills, like the ones below, are each capable of generating 2MW when operating at peak capacity.

View Larger Map of Shri Krishna Dwarka Temple

The spires of the Dwarkadhish Temple at Dwarka, as seen from the highway, 2 kms away
Drive up on the highway, and even as you are a few miles away from the Dwarkadhish Temple of Lord Krishna, you can see the exquisitely carved pillars of the 51m tall temple. The spire of the temple is 78.3 m high (that would be 260 feet). That is like having a twenty-five storyed building by the coast, and with a flat coastline and no other buildings that are tall, this temple is visible for miles. I can imagine in the years gone by, this temple would have been a very prominent and visible beacon to travelers from miles away, both onshore and offshore. The lighthouse came up only hundreds of years later. The fluttering flag, the dhwaja, at the top is equally massive - and looks at least fifty feet across.
The temple however does not exist in some sort of splendid isolation. It is surrounded by more modern buildings - guest houses, business establishments, shops, and the like - on all sides. These buildings have come up over the centuries, though going by their appearance, they all seem to be twentieth-century monstrosities.

A helpful banner across the road informs you that Bet Dwarka is 36 kms away, while the Nageshwar Jyotirlinga is 17 kms away. Bet Dwarka is actually a corruption of the word "bhent Dwarka" (भेंट  द्वार्का), but that is a topic for a future post.

After you enter the town limits of Dwarka, you need to take a fork and drive to the left on a road that takes you to the temple. There is ample parking space near the temple. Ample but barely maintained. There is of course a person with a very fake looking ticket booklet in his hand, waiting to charge you a parking fee for the privilege of parking in what is basically an open lot of land beside the Gomti Ghat. Don't believe me? Zoom and pan the Google Map satellite view to the right and see for yourself where the vehicles have been parked.

This is a view of the Gomti Ghat, taken from the western tip of the land. The Dwarka temple is to my left. Several people take a dip in the waters here before proceeding to the temple. Apart from the steady stream of the devotees, you will also find the requisite peddlers peddling their wares, like conch shells, sea shells, plastic toys, and other trinkets designed to appeal to the young and old.

At the very tip of the Gomti Ghat is a small temple, the Samudra Narayana Temple, and which houses an idol of the Goddess Gomti. The facade of the temple facing land is not very spectacular, at all, but when you view the temple from the side, it's striking.
Samudra Narayan Temple, Gomti Ghat, Dwarka
Samudra Narayana Temple, Gomti Ghat, Dwarka
Closeup of Samudra Narayana Temple, Gomti Ghat, Dwarka
If you look the other way from the temple, you will see a lighthouse. This is the Dwarka Lighthouse, and is less than a kilometer away from the temple.

Closeup of the Dwarka Lighthouse
Coming to the temple, it has a fascinating history, and while the original temple is said to be 2,500 years old, the present temple is a little over 400 years old.
A temple was built at the site around 400 BC by Vajranabhji, the great grandson of Lord Krishna, however the present structure was built during the 16th century in a typical Chalukyan style of architecture. The beautiful temple rises up to a height of 51.8 mts. Also known as the Jagat Mandir, the temple has two Sikhara. The Nij shikhar (The longer sikhar) is where the deity of Lord Dwarkadhish is placed. The huge temple consists of 60 exquisitely carved pillars and a number of sculptures that depict the influence of various dynasties such as the Guptas, Pallavas and Chavdas (referring to Chavda Kingdom) that ruled Dwarka over the years.
The entrance to the temple is from the north, also known as the Moksha Dwaar while towards the south is the Swarg Dwaar, from where a series of steps leads down to the banks of river Gomti. According to legend, the temple was constructed in a single day by Vishwakarma, the lord of construction. The deity of Lord Dwarkadhish is made of shiny black stone and is about 2.25 ft in height. The four hands of the Lord carries a conch, wheel, a mace and a lotus each and is popularly known as 'Shankh Chakra Gada Padma Chaturbhuj'. It is said that the deity was hidden for years to protect it from invaders while another deity brought from the Rukmini temple was installed in its absence. The original deity was reinstalled during the 16th century after the construction of the new temple. [Wikipedia contributors, "Dwarakadheesh Temple," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 30, 2012).]
Photos from inside the temple are difficult to get, for the simple reason that photography is not allowed inside the temple. The other, more ominous reason, is the constant threat of terrorist attacks from Islamic fundamentalists. The terrorist attacks on the Akshardham Temple in 2002 were probably a trigger for enhancing the security across buildings and places that were deemed as high on the terrorists' hitlist. Hence you will notice a constant presence of security forces, armed. While at most temples you are asked to deposit your camera at the entrance before proceeding ahead, at most if not all temples in Gujarat that we went to, not only the camera, but also the cell phone, the wallet, shoes, and the leather belt also needed to go. So you feel quite vulnerable when entering the Lord's abode on Earth.

A closeup of the spires of the Dwarkadhish Temple, Dwarka

Rukmini Temple

View Larger Map of Shri Rukmini Temple

If there is a Krishna temple in Dwarka, can a Rukmini temple be far behind? No. There is a Rukmini Devi temple a few kilometers from the Dwarkadhish Temple. If you see the temple on a map you will notice that it is by a road that is set apart from the town. While the town of Dwarka is itself quite congested, this particular road does not have any establishments or houses.

While at the temple, the priest made the devotees sit while he recited a story. The story was quite engrossing, but the smell of socks on devotees that had not seen soap or water for days, perhaps weeks, was an olfactory experience no less engrossing.

Rukmin Temple, Dwarka
Anyway, the story goes something like this. Rukmini and Krishna had been married, and living in Dwarka. One day, they went to the sage Durvasa and invited him to come to their palace for food. Now, Durvasa muni was a person with a hair-trigger temper. It didn't take long to anger him. In fact, there is a story in the Mahabharata that talks about Duryodhana's attempts to get the sage to curse the Pandavas, but that is another story (that story does not find a mention in the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata, a pity). Coming back to the story, Durvasa muni agreed, but on the condition that the he be seated on a chariot, and both Krishna and Rukmini pull the chariot. The couple agreed, and the sage set off. Dwarka can get hot in the summers, and pulling a chariot is no mean feat, even for the Lord. So, after some time, the dainty Rukmini was thirsty. But how could she have any water before the sage, a guest, an honoured guest at that, and an easily offended sage with vast yogic powers, was fed? Well, Krishna could not bear his wife's thirst, and he struck his toe into the ground, and sprouted fresh water from the ground. Rukmini slaked her thirst. The rishi noticed that. He flew into a rage. No amount of repentance could assuage his anger. Out came a curse. Rukmini would live separately from Krishna. For a period of twelve years. But the sage was not done. Furthermore, there would be no fresh water to be found in Dwarka. Fresh water would have to be fetched to the city from far away.

And so it came to pass that Krishna's principal wife, Rukmini, has a temple, but outside Dwarka.
Rukmin Temple t night, Dwarka

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.