Spiritual Saurashtra - I


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April 24th 2016
Published: April 24th 2016
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Dwaraka ...

Ranchod… meaning the war deserter.... is the name by which Lord Krishna is known in the Saurashtra region of the state of Gujarat. Having run away from fighting a battle with Jarasandha, he earned this derogatory name.

The legend says, Jarasandha, the King of Magadha was very furious with Krishna for having killed Kamsa, his son-in-law. The Yadavas, the Krishna’s clansmen, were concentrated in and around Mathura. The furious Jarasandha vowed to battle with them and destroy their clan forever. He repeatedly attacked Mathura and during his seventeen attacks, he caused massive death and destruction to the property. When Jarasandha was preparing for all out attack to exterminate Yadavas, Krishna strategically decided to shift his capital from Mathura to Dwarka. This would spare numerous lives and agony to the masses. However, there was a drawback that Krishna would forever be labeled as Ranchod… a man who had run away from the battlefield. Krishna did not flinch because he felt that one more addition to his several names would not make any difference if the mass destruction can be averted. There was hardly any time left for the shifting because Jarasandha’s army had started advancing towards Mathura from all sides.

Foreseeing the future course of events, Krishna had commissioned Vishwakarma, the architect of Gods, to help in construction of the new capital for Yadavas. Vishwakarma appeared at Mathura and presented the plan for the new city, which according to him was already built under the water. He needed permission to raise Dwarka from the ocean and place it on land so as to make it habitable for immediate occupation. It is believed that Krishna reclaimed 12 Yojanas or 96 Sq Km of land from the sea to create this new town. Thus the capital of Yadavas came into being at Dwarka, the gateway to the heaven.

The present day Dwarka, is a small pilgrimage town in Devbhoomi Dwarka district of Saurashtra region of Gujarat. It is located on the western shore of the Okhamandal Peninsula on the right bank of the Gomti River. It is one of the foremost Chardham, religious seats, established by Adi Shankaracharya, centuries ago. The other three dhams are located at Badrinath in the North, Jagannath Puri in the East and Rameswaram in the South.

We embarked on our journey to Dwarka by road, from the Rajkot Airport, in the wee hour in chilly winter morning. The distance from Rajkot to this southern coastal town of the Gulf of Kutch was about 225 km and we were targeting to reach by noon. The vehicular traffic was very sparse on the well-asphalted wide highway. The most unusual vehicle one finds in the state of Gujarat is highly decorated and modified motorcycle to accommodate large number of passengers or goods.

As we passed Gondal, we took a short break to have our breakfast, at a roadside dhaba. Freshly fried Jalebi in pure ghee accompanied by crispy Gathiyas, the most popular breakfast cuisine in this part of the country, was served with marinated chillies, in steel plates. The accompaniment was spongy Bhajiyas, made from chickpea floor with hardly any traces of onions. Straight from the frying pan into the dishes. The tea, the most popular hot beverage in whole of India, tastes very differently in every state and Gujarat was no exception. Thick orange milky brew flavoured with ginger and boiled for long was served in large glasses. Sitting on a wooden bench, in the open, on a winter morning and sipping the steaming hot tea, sip by sip, was an experience to cherish.

Our next halt was little distance away at Virpur, the birthplace of Jalaram Bapa, a great social reformer in the nineteenth century. This great ascetic, deemed to be the divine incarnation of Lord Vishnu, by his followers, is being highly revered by both the Hindus as well as the Muslims. His disciples are spread all over the world and they regularly visit this shrine. His house itself was the main shrine, where his belongings including Jholi and Danda, supposedly given to him by the god, were kept. The idol of Jalaram Bapa was in the form of smiling man holding Danda and wearing a white Pagadi, headgear and white dhoti. Additionally there were idols of Ram, Sita, Laxman and their supreme devotee Hanuman. The monochrome portrait of Bapa, on the display, was believed to have been taken a year prior to his departure to the heavenly abode in 1881.

It was said that Jalaram Bapa started “Sadavrat” a feeding center, where sadhus as well as the needy could have food any time of the day. No exception on account of caste, creed and religion was ever made. The tradition of feeding people unceasingly continues even now. Every visiting pilgrim was offered Dal-Khichda, rice & dal cooked together and a sweet. It is unique that since 2000, the temple does not accept any offering or solicit donations. Still unsure as to how the funding was being done.

In the adjoining rooms, there was extraordinarily large pair of grinding stones and oil extraction unit, which used to be driven in circles by bullocks in the good old days. There were utensils of matching size for mass cooking on the display. It has been believed that the Jholi of Bapa will never ever be empty. After offering our obeisance to this great ascetic and receiving the prasadam, we continued our journey.

The road to Dwarka was through the Jamnagar city. The Oil City of India, where Reliance and Essar have world’s largest oil refineries. The streetscape underwent a hug makeover after we reached this mega city. The vehicular speed suddenly touched the nadir. Massive traffic jams and unending stream of industrial labor moving in all types of vehicles and also on foot almost brought our vehicle to standstill. The road was lined with street-side eateries, large residential complexes, hotels of different sizes catering to the needs of business travellers and not be missed the petrochemical tanks, vessels, towers, chimneys, railway sidings, huge gates, security posts et al. It took almost an hour for us to reach the other side of town.

As we passed Khambalia town, the district headquarter of Devabhoomi Dwarka, the road became narrower and the density of villages thinned drastically. There were farms on both sides of the roads. Occasionally a few peacocks or peahens would cross our path. Before we could take out our cameras, they would disappear in a flash. Their appearance was much slower than their disappearance. As the destination was nearing, there were hundreds of windmills incessantly harnessing the wind power on the coastal side of the road.

Suddenly, the magnificent imposing structure of Dwarkadhish Mandir and its colorful Dhwaja fluttering in the clear blue sky emerged on the horizon. The sight was full of divinity and straight out of tourism brochure of Gujarat Tourism. Having kept the natural breaks to the bare minimum, we could manage to reach Dwarka little after the noon.

The online reservation for AC Deluxe rooms at GTDC Toran Bungalow, was made sufficiently in advance. Despite being a government-managed facility, the rooms were spacious and clean. The large open space within the complex was very comforting. From the appearance it appeared that the bungalow had undergone renovations recently. Except the casual attitude of the “government” staff, there was nothing much to complain about the place. Since the occupancy was very low on the particular day, we almost had the entire complex for us to use.

After completing the check-in formalities, in pursuit of authentic Kathiyawadi meal, we went to a small dining room few meters away from the hotel. Though the ambience was not flashy, the aroma of the food emanating from the open kitchen was irresistible. The walls had painting of Krishna and Krishna Leelas with his consort, in vibrant colors, probably done by a local artist. A simple meal consisting of homemade full-grain wheat rotis, not-so-spicy vegetables, rice, dal, kadhi, papad and pickles was served in no time. The best part was the farsan served with green & tamarind chutney. Bright yellow, Khaman Dhokla, was one of the best we ever had, spongy, fresh and delicious with sprinkling of mustard seeds and coriander leaves. The serving of aromatic pure ghee with the local gol or jaggery was far from generous. The pace at which the food was served did not match with the speed of our consumption. It was ultra-fast. The value-for-money meal resulted in drowsiness necessitating an immediate siesta in the comforts of our air-conditioned rooms. The afternoon tends to become very hot and sultry in this part of the country even in winters.

Tea & biscuits at the Toran Bungalow’s restaurant were followed by a stroll on the banks of the Gomati. A holy bath at the confluence of the Gomti River and the Arabian Sea, is believed to purge the soul. It is the strong faith of devout pilgrims, that the holy bath will cleanse them of all their sins and offer them liberation, draws them to this ghat every day. Since it was an evening hour when we reached, there were very few pilgrims engaged in the ritual bath. The solemnity of this belief contrasts with the lively atmosphere of local children riding on the waves in acrobatic movements. There were few country crafts offering a short sail to render panoramic glimpses of the Dwarkadhish Temple from the waters.

Cattle wandering on the bank in search of food, decorated camels offering a joyride, music shops blaring devotional songs in local language, bare-chested sun-tanned vendors selling shells, conch & stones, stalls selling religious books, photo-frames, decorative articles made from seashells and other touristy material such as key-chains, bags, toys, scarves, junk-food packets, cold-drinks and beverages add color to the landscape. The tea stall had an unending stream of customers. The only disturbing factor was the filth and trash scattered everywhere and the lack of civic sense on the parts of the tourist visiting the ghats. There were no washroom facilities in the vicinity and pilgrims were expected to relieve themselves in the open.

The bank of river Gomati was dotted with innumerable shrines dedicated to various deities such as Saraswati, Mahalakshmi, Ram, Krishna, Krishna's friend Sudama; and above all, the Gomati temple, which has an idol of the river goddess Gomati, which is said to have been brought to earth by the sage Vashistha. The Samudra Narayan Temple was situated at the confluence of the Gomati and the Arabian Sea. Panchanada Tirtha, consisting of five sweet-water wells, was surrounded by salty seawater. At Chakra Narayana, Lord Vishnu has been manifested as a stone marked with a chakra on the seashore. The divinity and the churning of the positive energy were vibrantlyly felt in the environment.

The Dwarkadhish temple opens at 17:00 hours, when the God wakes up after the daily siesta. The Chappan Sidhi, or 56 steps leading to the temple through Swarga Dwar had pilgrims converged from all parts of the country eagerly waiting for the doors to open. The security personnel were having a tough time in establishing an order. The shops abutting the steps were busy urging pilgrims to buy pooja material from them. After depositing our footwear for safekeeping we too joined the waiting pilgrims. As the doors opened, there was a mad rush to enter the complex. However, personal frisking by the security personnel was mandatory and consequently the queue got regulated and order established.

Ranchodji, in this Jagat Mandir was Chaturbhuj or having 4 hands. Each of four hands held Shankh or a conch, Chakra or a wheel, Gada or a mace and Padma or a lotus. The black idol, which was about 2.25 feet tall, was attired in colourful Sandhya Aarti costume and adorned with elaborate jewellery. The decorative lights added to the grandeur and the serenity. All eyes were sharply focused on Ranchodji. It was a truly enchanting divine sight. The aarti lasted for about 15 minutes, where all pilgrims joined in the chorus and generated positive vibes in the environment. The beating of drums and the ringing of bells in synchronization provided the desired beat. On conclusion, the Prasadam was available outside the sanctum sanctorum.

The Dwarkadhish temple consists of Garbhagriha, Antarala, Mandapa and Ardhamandapa. The Mandapa is open on all sides and rises to five storeys. It has 72 pillars to support them. The temple has richly carved high conical Shikhara, spire with a height of about 78 meters. The pyramidal roof of Mandapa is adorned with a series of tiny bell shaped domes. From the temple dome fluttered a 52-yard long multicolored Dhwaja or the holy flag, decorated with the symbols of the sun and moon. The exterior facade and the Shikhara of temple are profusely carved but internally it is plain. A shrine of Shakti-Mata is located on the fourth storey of the temple.

Within the huge temple complex, there were shrines dedicated to Pradyumnaji, Devakiji, Purushottamji, Kuseshvar Mahadev and Adi Shankracharya, the founder of the Sharda Peeth, in the parikrama route.

The present temple constructed, in Chalukya style, in 15-16th century, was still in pristine condition. The limestone structure displays intricate sculptural detailing done by successions of dynasties that ruled the region. It is believed that Dwarka got submerged into the sea immediately after the death of Krishna. Only a miniscule part of it is visible in modern days of the Kaliyuga.

The Dhwaja atop the temple has a very special religious significance. The Dhwajarohan, the hoisting of the flag, was being done five times a day, following a solemn ritual. The devotees, who get an opportunity to hoist the Dhwaja consider it to be a great boon bestowed upon them by the Lord.

52-yards of colorful cloth is used for the Dhwaja and 52 nos. of small flags were joined around border. These 52-yards symbolize fifty entrances as well as Swarg Dwar & Moksha Dwar of Dwarkadhish palace. The 52 small flags symbolize flags on the residences of 52 Yadava officers, during the lifetime of Krishna. The Dhawaja was Saptrangi, 7-colors and each of the color has a specific significance; like Red for inspiration, Green for peace & progress, Yellow for knowledge & integrity, Blue for strength, White for peace, Saffron for bravery and Pink for joyfulness.

Since the time for the sunset was nearing, we walked towards the Dwarka beach where the old lighthouse, the treasured historic monument, stands prominently. A flagmast was provided at Dwarka to hoist an oil-wick lamp to serve as the lighthouse. Later, at the present location, a square masonry tower of 18 meters height was erected. The wick lamp got eventually replaced after few decades. It had undergone a number technological advancement from time to time. However the lighthouse continues to draw a number of tourists visiting Dwarka.

The evening had descended and we were walking towards our hotel. There were a number of ashrams en route where the daily Satsang, religious discourse, was being held. The pious sadhvis were reciting hymns from the religious scriptures and narrating the wisdom and values imbibed in the verses. The audience, in that chilly night was scantily clad with blankets draped around them. They were listening with apt attention to comprehend the most complex thoughts explained in the plain simple language. Occasionally the sadhvi would urge the audience to join her in chorus while singing the hymns. Probably that was her unique way to ensure that the audience does not go to sleep intermittently.

The functional freshly cooked hot meal was available at the hotel restaurant. A small stroll in the hotel complex under the moonlit sky was very pleasant and relaxing. When we returned to our rooms, there was hardly any energy left to watch the TV, however while taking the stocks of the happenings around the world in TV news…. did not realize when the eyes were shut for the day or for that matter for the night.

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