Temples and Impotent Places at Dwarka


"Whatever a great leader does, that alone common people follow. Whatever example and standard he sets up, all the people follow in his footsteps." (Bhagavad Gita 3.21)

      Dwarka is a small town in the modern day Jamnagar district, in the state of Gujarat. It lies on the western tip of India, on the banks of River Gomti and the Arabian Sea. Dwarka is located at 22.23° N latitude and 68.97° E longitude. It is one of the four Char Dhams, the others being Badrinath, Puri, and Rameshwaram. It is also one of the seven Saptapuris, the others being Varanasi, Haridwar, Ujjain (Avantikapuri), Ayodhya, Mathura, and Kanchipuram. This gives Dwarka the unique distinction of being the only place in India which is both one of the Char Dhams and Saptapuris.

      There are many who wonder why Krishna chose Dwarka for His new capital. Mathura is located in the northern part of India, in the present state of Uttar Pradesh. Dwarka is on the western tip of India, in the present state of Gujarat. Both are separated by a few hundred kilometers. Even with trains and cars, it takes a minimum of three days to travel between these places. During the Dwapara Yuga, where the common means of transport was riding a horse, or bullock cart, it would have taken a few weeks to travel from Mathura to Dwarka. So, why did Krishna choose Dwarka?

      It is believed that Krishna's ancestors were from a place known as Kusasthali. Many generations and battles later, they abandoned Kusasthali and migrated to Brij Bhoomi. It was Krishna's desire to go back to His ancestral kingdom of Kusasthali. The place that He built as Dwarka was on the site of Kusasthali. So it was a journey in the reverse direction compared to what His ancestors had done.

      Any story about Dwarka is incomplete without mentioning Mirabai who is considered to be one of the greatest devotees of Lord Krishna. Some consider this saint to be an incarnation of Radha, whereas others believe her to be an incarnation of Lalitha, Radha's famous sakhi (friend). Mirabai was a famous poetess whose songs about Lord Krishna made her a household name in India. Mirabai was born in 1498 AD in a village named Merta in Rajasthan. Her father, Ratan Singh, belonged to the Rajput community. Her family members were ardent followers of Lord Vishnu so she was under a strong Vaishnava influence right from her childhood.

      One day, her mother gave Mirabai an idol of Lord Krishna. It is believed that once Mirabai asked her mother who her husband would be. Her mother, jokingly, pointed to the idol of Lord Krishna and said, Lord Krishna is your husband." Mirabai took her word seriously. From that day onwards, she began to treat Lord Krishna as her husband and would sit the whole day talking, dancing, singing, and playing in front of the idol. Her family worried seeing her deep attachment to Krishna. They decided that getting her married would divert her mind towards familial affairs. Mirabai was married to Rana Kumbha of Mewar. However, marriage did not change her. She continued to look upon Krishna as her sole Lord and Master. Her devotion towards Krishna made her family furious. They felt it was scandalous for a married woman from their community to be singing and dancing in front of Lord Krishna's idols in the temples of their town. The story of Mirabai's troubled domestic life has different versions. There are some who believe that she neglected her family and devoted her time to praying and singing in temples. There are others who insist that she was a dutiful wife and would complete her household chores before going to the temple. Whatever the truth, several conspiracies were hatched to defame her. There were a few people who even tried to kill her, but by God's grace, she managed to survive these attempts. Her devotion to Lord Krishna was her sole pillar of strength amidst the storm brewing in her community. On the advice of some of her contemporary saints, she left Rajasthan and went to Mathura and Vrindavan to keep herself away from all controversies. After a few years, she went to Dwarka and devoted most of her time to singing the glories of her Lord. She composed hundreds of songs on Krishna which are popular even today and sung by His devotees. She spent the rest of her life in Dwarka, singing, and dancing in public. She was so immersed in her love towards Krishna that she was oblivious of what society thought of her.

      It is believed that one day, in 1547 AD, she entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Dwarkadheesh Temple at Dwarka and began to pray with great ecstasy and joy, imploring Lord Krishna to take her away from this materialistic world. The doors of the temple automatically closed. Later when the doors re-opened, the priests found that Mirabai had disappeared and her sari was wrapped around the idol of Lord Krishna. People believe that this event symbolised Mirabai's union with Lord Krishna.


      After Krishna left Mathura, He stayed at Dwarka for 96 years. He stayed in His palace along with Goddess Rukmini and 16,000 queens whom He had rescued from the clutches of the tyrant King, Jarasandha. Apart from Goddess Rukmini, who is an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, His other famous queens include Satyabhama and Jambuvanthi.

      Krishna's palace was built by the architect from Heaven, Vishwakarma. It is believed that Dwarka was the most beautiful city on Earth and the palaces that Vishwakarma built were the most beautiful palaces in the world.

      There are different versions regarding the location of Krishna's main palace. Some believe that the main palace stood where the present Dwarkadheesh Temple is situated, in the heart of the city. They believe that Krishna's great grandson Vajranabha built this temple over Krishna's original residence.

      The second version says that the location of Krishna's opulent residential quarters was where the Dwarkadhish Temple stands at Bet Dwarka. This could be the reason why the to Dwarkadhish Temples, one at Dwarka and the other at Bet Dwarka, are similar in many ways and compete with each other, in claiming to be the original site of Krishna's palace. Apart from this, there is a third version that says that the palace of Krishna was submerged when gigantic waves swallowed the entire city. The palace is submerged in the Arabian Sea and cannot be seen.

      People have researched the history of Dwarka and each person has proof to corroborate his theory. So the exact location of Krishna's palace is still shrouded in mystery.


      Dwarkadhish means Lord of Dwarka', another name for Lord Krishna. The Dwarkadhish Temple is located in the heart of the city. This is the biggest and the most famous temple in the temple town of Dwarka. Many believe that this was the original location of Krishna's palace.

      This beautiful temple is also known as Jagat Mandir and is made of sandstone and granite. It has five stories. At a height of approximately 160 feet, the top of the temple has a beautiful conical spire. Sixty pillars support the temple.

      The temple has two entrances. The one on the north side is called Moksha Dwar which means Door to Liberation'. The entrance in the south is known as Swarga Dwar which means 'Door to Heaven'. Most the visitors enter through Swarga Dwat and exit through Moksha Dwar.

      The Dwarkadhish Temple is not one single temple, but houses many temples within its hallowed premises. The first temple is very close to the entrance, on the right. It has a white idol of Sri Satyanarayana. To the left of this is another altar that is known as Kusheshwar Mahadev. This has a black Shiva Linga. Behind the Shiva Linga is a black idol of Goddess Parvati.

      Proceeding straight towards the main temple, on the right side, is the temple of Goddess Ambaji. Next to this is the temple of Lord Purushottama represented by a black idol of Lord Vishnu. Further down is a temple that has an idol of Lord Brahma. A few metres away is the main inner courtyard. A few steps to the left leads to the main altar that has the one metre high black idol of Dwarkadhish, Sri Krishna. The salient feature of the Krishna idol here, as in other Dwarka Temples, is that it shows Lord Krishna as a four-armed God, like Lord Vishnu. He is sober and erect. In His four arms, He is holding the Shanka, Chakra, Mace, and Lotus. This is quite unlike the Brij Bhoomi temples that show Lord Krishna as a handsome, playful two-armed Boy standing cross-legged and playing the flute that gently caresses His lips. Krishna is popularly known as Ranchodrai here. Ranchod means 'one who fled the battlefield'. Krishna had fled from the battlefield at Mathura when He was attacked by Jarasandha and He and Balarama had flown from Mathura to Dwarka and established Their Kingdom here. Hence, the name Ranchodrai. What people should understand is that Krishna fled from the battle, but He was not a coward. It was part of His plan to kill Kal Yavan and also to ensure that Jarasandha did not attack the innocent people of Mathura if He had remained in Mathura.

      Right opposite the main altar is a small altar that houses a black idol of Devaki, Krishna's mother. Next to this temple is the Radha Krishna Temple. This is a temple that has idols in the typical Brij Bhoomi manner. A black idol of Krishna stands next to a white idol of Radha.

      Behind the main altar is another huge courtyard. As I stepped into this courtyard, I noticed many rooms. Each room was like an altar that housed idols of different Gods. There were four rooms to my left. These housed the idols of Jambavathi, Radhika, Lakshmi Narayan, and Hanuman. There were four rooms to my right which had idols of Saraswati, Satyabhama, Lakshmi, and Gopal Krishna. The idols of Hanuman, Gopal Krishna, and Saraswati were white and the rest of the idols were black.

      To the right of the main temple is a small white temple. This has a white idol of Sage Durvasa with a Shiva Linga in front of it. To the right of Sage Durvasa Temple was another huge temple, beige in colour. This is the famous Sharada Peetha. As walked inside, I came across a huge dome structure that had the white idol of Goddess Saraswati to my left and the idol of Shankaracharya on my right. To the right of the Sharada Peetha is another temple. This has a huge black idol of Lord Balarama. Opposite the Balarama Temple is another temple with a small black Idol of Lord Krishna known as Sri Madhavaraiji. To the right of the Balarama Temple is a huge gate. This is the second entrance to the Dwarkadhish Temple, known as Moksha Dwar.

      To the left of the main temple is a small temple that has idols of Pradyumna, son of Krishna and Anirudha, Krishna's grandson. The big black idol on the left is that of Pradyumna and the small black idol on the right is that of Anirudha. This temple is opposite the Purushottama Temple. To the left of this temple is the Gayatri Devi Temple that has a white idol of Goddess Gayatri adorned with five heads and six hands. Next to this is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple that has a Shiva Linga. To the left is the shrine of Kolwa Bhagat. This four-armed idol resembles Lord Vishnu.

      Hundreds of devotees arrived suddenly. They began to perform Parikrama of the main temple and kept chanting loudly Ranchod Rai ki Jai.


      Rukmini Temple is on the way to Bet Dwarka. As I travelled a couple of kilometers from Dwarka city and headed towards Bet Dwarka, I came across a Y-intersection. I took the road on my right which led me to the famous Rukmini Temple.

      This temple is dedicated to Goddess Rukmini, who is considered to be the most important among all the queens of Krishna, She is none other than Goddess Lakshmi who took birth on Earth during Krishna's presence on this planet. Though Rukmini was Goddess Lakshmi incarnate, She had to struggle in Her endeavours to marry Krishna.

      When I reached the temple entrance, I saw a flight of steps leading me to two small temples. The one on the left was the Hanuman Temple and the one next to it was the Annapurna Temple. On my right, I saw four more steps that led me to the main shrine which had a beautiful white idol of Goddess Rukmini. On the wall, I saw a painting that depicted an incident involving Krishna, Rukmini, and Durvasa. The incident culminated in the short-tempered sage cursing Krishna and Rukmini.

      It is believed that this is the reason why Dwarkadhish Temple and Rukmini Temple are at different locations, separated by around two kilometres. It is also believed that due to Sage Durvasa's curse, the area surrounding Rukmini Temple is totally dry and there is no water there. The temple authorities get water from Dwarka. According to the temple custom, after seeing the Rukmini idol, we should drink the water that the priests offer us and then perform a parikrama of the idol.

      The priests allowed groups of 10-15 devotees at a time inside the main temple. All of us sat in front of the Goddess Rukmini idol. The priest narrated the story of Sage Durvasa's curse. He then asked us to descend the steps and go to the main courtyard. Here, the devotees were given water to drink and asked to perform a parikrama of the main temple.


      The ISKCON Temple is in the middle of the busy market area. This is a two-storey building and the main shrine is on the first floor. The entire place has white marble floors. Unlike most ISKCON temples that have idols of Radha and Krishna, this temple has idols of Rukmini and Krishna, probably keeping the local sentiments in mind. Both the idols are white. The idol of Goddess Rukmini is to the right and that of Lord Krishna, playing His flute is on the left. Most of the temples in Dwarka do not show Krishna holding His flute; however this temple seems to be an exception.

      On the left side of the room is a diwan with a statue of Srila Prabhupada in a sitting posture. Though this ISKCON Temple is quite small compared to the other bigger ISKCON Temples across the globe, it is worth a visit to look at the exquisitely carved idols of Goddess Rukmini and Lord Krishna.


      The Gomti is considered to be one of the most sacred rivers in this part of the country. The River Goddess Gomti is worshipped here just as Ganga is worshipped in Varanasi. It flows just behind the Dwarkadhish Temple. On the banks of the river, there are numerous steps that stretch for more than a mile. These steps form the Gomti Ghat and allow the devotees to take a holy dip in the sacred river. It is believed that anyone who takes bath at this Ghat attains salvation and reaches the Abode of God.

      As I came out of the back entrance to the Dwarkadhish Temple, I could see the Samudra Narayan Temple on the far right and Gomti Temple on the far left. On the opposite bank of the Gomti was the Panchanada Teerth.

      The entire stretch of Gomti Ghat has a tiled walkway of about a kilometer. As I walked from Samudra Narayan towards Gomti Temple, on the right hand side, I saw a flight of steps throughout the stretch of Gomti Ghat. On the left side, I found numerous temples, next to each other. All these temples are known as Gomti Ghat Temples.


      The Samudra Narayan Temple is at the farthest end of Gomti Ghat. This temple is located at the confluence of the Gomti and the Arabian Sea. Samudra Narayan Temple is at the farthest tip of Dwarka, and Dwarka, in turn, is at the western tip of India so you can say that Samudra Narayan Temple is at the western-most tip of India. Three sides of the temple are surrounded by the Gomti and the Arabian Sea. Ferocious waves beat the rock the whole day, even during early morning. This is quite unusual because in most places, the high tide comes in only during the evenings and it is during such times that the waves lash against the rocks. The waves here seem to be beating the rocks to the tune of Srimad Narayan Narayan Hari Hari that I heard continuously from the temple.

      The temple building is painted beige and white. There are five steps leading to the temple entrance. As I entered, on the left side, I saw a small cave-like room that had an idol of Goddess Gomti. Here, the locals worship the Gomti in the form of a Goddess. Goddess Gomti sits on a lion, reminiscent of Goddess Durga.

      As I walked straight past the temple entrance, I came across a room that had a sand-coloured idol of Lord Samudra Narayan. The Lord here is known as Samudra Narayan, which means Narayan residing in the Sea. This is probably because the temple is located at the tip of the Arabian Sea. To the left of this idol is an idol of Goddess Gomti.


      I walked from Samudra Narayan Temple towards the opposite end of Gomti Ghat. When I reached the end of the walkway, I took the narrow path on the left and then the next right turn. I found the Gomti Temple on my right.

      This temple has different altars, each in the form of a small room. The one in the centre houses the idol of Sri Gomti Mataji which is a white coloured marble idol. On the right is a white marble idol of Sri Mahalakshmi Mataji. On the left is a sand-coloured idol of Sage Vashishta. Between the Sri Gomti Mataji idol and Sri Mahalakshmi Mataji idol is a black idol of Sri Dwarkadhish. An orange-coloured idol of Lord Ganesha is kept above the altar door of Gomti Mataji. The River Gomnti was brought from Heaven to Earth by Sage Vashishta and his idol has been placed here to commemorate that incident.

      Opposite the Gomti Temple, there are many steps that lead to one of the entrances of Dwarkadhish Temple. It is believed that devotees must first visit Gomti Temple before visiting Dwarkadhish Temple.


      Behind the Gomti Temple is the Sri Krishna Temple. While walking from Samudra Narayan Temple along Gomti Ghat, this temple is at the opposite end. The temple building is white and the altar has a black idol of Lord Krishna. An orange idol of Lord Ganesha adorns the door of the altar. As in most temples of Dwarka, here too, the Lord is four-armed, sans the flute. Behind this temple is the Hari Kund where Lord Krishna and Goddess Rukmini had a bath.

      In front of the idol, there is a huge weighing scale fixed from the ceiling For a first-time visitor, this may appear odd. Though it is quite common to see weighing scales in temples, they are generally kept in the back courtyard or at one end of the temple premises. Generally, in most temples, the weighing scales are for the tulabhara of the devotees. Tulabhara means the devotee gets weighed against items of his/her choice (this could be bananas, coconuts, jaggery, etc). After the tulabhara, the items weighed are given away. However, here, in this temple, the weighing scales episode that happened 5000 years ago. That's why they take centre stage here.


      Gopi Talav is located about 12 kilometers from Dwarka, on the way to Bet Dwarka. Talav means lake' in Gujarati. This place is known as Gopi Talav because this is the lake where the gopis met Krishna and had their final bath before attaining moksha to return to the spiritual world.

      People believe that anyone who has a bath in this holy lake will attain liberation of the soul just as the gopis attained it. I found many people selling gopichandana (the holy mud) in small packets. It was available in the form of small cuboids.

      Opposite Gopi Talav, is a temple known as Gopi Krishna Temple. This has white marble idols of Radha and Krishna. There is also a painting depicting the incident at Gopi Talav involving Lord Krishna and the gopis. Next to this is the Rukmini Temple that houses a white idol of Goddess Rukmini. Next to Rukmini Temple is the Lakshmi Narayana Temple. This has black idols of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Narayana. This temple also has idols of many other Gods and Goddesses.

      In front of Gopi Talav is another temple that has idols of Lord Rama, Goddess Sita, and Lord Lakshmana. A salient feature of this temple is that it has a floating stone with Sri Rama written on it. It is believed that this floating stone was one among the many stones used in Treta Yuga by the monkey army of Lord Rama, to build a bridge from India to Lanka.


      Gita Temple is a little away from the heart of the city, closer to the beach. There is a gate at the entrance that leads to a huge field. The temple is located at one end of this field. The appearance of the building is hardly that of a temple. I almost mistook it for a government building from afar.

      The temple depicts Lord Krishna narrating the Bhagavad Gita to His favorite disciple, Arjuna before the commencement of the battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The blue idol of Lord Krishna is standing erect, holding His conch in His left hand and the Sudarshan Chakra in His right hand. Arjuna is kneeling down to his left, listening intently to the sacred verses emanating from the divine mouth of Lord Krishna. All the surrounding walls are made of white marble with Sanskrit inscriptions from the Bhagavad Gita on them.

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