Two months of the new year gone already. Time just flies. Phew!
Looking back, 2018 has been a complete roller coaster ride for us as we shifted our home 1275 miles west from home. Kolkata to Mumbai. Settling in the new city kept us on our toes and travel took a back seat for some time. So while we were in Ahmedabad in December for a family wedding, we took a small road trip to Devsthan Dwarka, Somnath and nearby places.
This blogpost makes for a perfect 2 Nights 3 Days tour to Dwarka, Somnath and everything around starting from Ahmedabad and back. First destination being Dwarka, it is advisable to start from Ahmedabad early as one would have a distance of 440 km approx. to cover before reaching the Devsthan of Lord Krishna. It took us 9 hours with two breaks in between. For the ones unaware, Dwarka is one of the Char Dham or four abodes which is a set of four Vaishnavite pilgrimage sites in India defined by Adi Shankaracharya. The other three are Badrinath, Puri and Rameswaram.
You can check our Puri blog here and we are yet to visit the rest two 🙂
One thing that deserves mention is that the roads in Gujarat are extremely good thus making the long road journeys hassle free. As we reached Dwarka, we could see a beautiful designed ochre gate at the entrance of the city. Dwarka literally means ‘gateway to heaven’ and derives its name from the word ‘Dwar’ meaning gate and ‘ka’ denoting Brahma.
Situated at the western coast of India at the confluence of river Gomti and the Arabian sea, it is a peaceful place that thrives mostly on tourism. Dwarka hosts a wide range of hotels from low to high budget. Most of the hotels inside the city are on the bank of the river and at a walking distance from the temple.
This ancient kingdom of Lord Krishna is full of ancient tales. Pandas, shopkeepers, hotel staff, locals, everyone has a different version to excite the curiosity of the travelers. How Lord Krishna constructed a picture perfect city borrowing land from the sea? How the original city got submerged? How was he cursed by Queen Gandhari which led to submersion? How was the temple constructed, attacked, destroyed and re-built? How the current idol is not the original one? How Dwarka is cursed of no cultivation in 60 km radius (they say it is still valid)? Why is the Rukmini temple away from Dwarkadhish temple? And so much more. There are multiple legends, views and archaeological facts to all such tales and internet overburdening with information doesn’t help much, thus leaving the travelers (believers or non-believers) longing for answers.
The outer dome of the centuries old temple is beautifully constructed comprising of seven stories in the form of a mountain peak. The seven stories depict the seven sacred ancient cities or the Sapta-Puris of India, Dwarka being one of them. The other six are Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi, Ujjain and Kanchipuram. The temple on the inner side is comparatively less ornate and houses few small temples of deities from Lord Krishna’s family like his mother Devaki, elder brother Balarama and his queens apart from the Dwarkadhish himself.
The temple follows its timings to clockwise precision and it is better to have extra time in hand in case there is a lot of rush. Otherwise it would be better to hire a panda (Brahmins in the temple who would help with the puja rituals) to save time and get some insight on the history and tales of the temple. The temple timings are 6:30 am to 1:00 pm in the morning and 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm in the evening. For more details, please visit the official temple website.
Dwarka also houses one of the four cardinal mathas or seats of learning founded by Adi Shankara in 8th Century CE. It is the western matha representing Sama Veda.
Another ritual that is practiced in Dwarka is Tula-daan, which meaning donating essential food items like rice, wheat, sugar, milk, ghee etc. equal to the weight of one’s body to the locals out there. This has come down from the act which queen Rukmini performed of donating gold equal to the weight of Lord Krishna. It is said that this practice relieves the donator of bad health.
Also, the flag at the top of the temple dome is changed 5 times a day but we could witness it. But we had the pleasure of darshan twice in the evening and next day morning. If you stay back in Dwarka for the night, do not miss the sunrise at the Sudama Setu (bridge) on Gomti river.
As we started from Dwarka, our next destination was Rukmini temple at a distance of 4 km. It is said that visiting this temple is a mandate after Dwarkadhish otherwise the darshan remains incomplete. This one is a small temple with less rush. It is said that there is no fresh underground water in a radius of 60 km due to a curse from a saint and clean water is brought in tankers. Devotees donate in the capacity for the same.
It was the month of December and was quite cold and windy. As we were nearing the sea for our next destination Bet Dwarka, winds grew stronger. Our halt was at the sea port in the coastal town of Okha, from where ferries are available for a trip to the island of Bet Dwarka.
Unfortunately, strong winds led to a shutdown of jetty service and we couldn’t go further but we did enjoy our time at the port feeding the birds and left with a slightly unhappy heart.
20 Km to the east in Daarukavanam (Dwarka distt) is one of the twelve jyotirlings mentioned in the Shiva Purana, Nageshwar. We have been to a few other of the twelve shrines and were amazed to find this one comparatively empty. It has a small shivalinga and devotees pray only from a distance. In case, someone wishes to perform a puja of the linga, devotees are allowed inside at a fee and the men would have to change their lower garment and wear a dhoti instead.
The temple timings are 6.00 am until 12.30 pm in the morning and 5.00 p.m. to 9.30 pm in the night.
Being on the road gives the flexibility of taking small detours to places not on the itinerary primarily. On our way to Somanth, a detour took us to Porbandar, better known as the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi and Sudama (friend of Lord Krishna).
We visited the Kirti Mandir, built in memory of Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi and the ancestral house adjacent to Kirti Mandir, where Mahatma Gandhi was born. This place has a reception hall, a museum displaying their belongings and a library.
Drive to Somnath is fascinating as roads go along the beaches of Arabian sea at many places and Gujarat tourism has done its best to develop any place in the state with slightest of tourist interests. Horse and Camel rides at the beaches is one of them. We stopped at a beach to relish some coconut water and enjoy the sea.
Our next destination was Somnath, to visit shree somnath jyotirlinga temple which is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. The temple of Somnath has an elongated history as to how many times it has been destructed and reconstructed by gods, rulers and leaders at the same spot. The present temple was made in 1951 and stands tall by the sea and the sound of the roaring sea could be heard throughout the premises.
Image Courtesy: Tour My India
Temple timings for the devotees are from 6:00 am to 9:30 pm and one can check the official website for other details. While you are there, do not miss the light and sound show in the open arena that would enlighten you on the history and the true meaning of Shiva while enjoying the calming sea breeze.
*Electronics and gadgets are not allowed in the temple.
We felt this place was more about peace and rejuvenation than tourism.
There are few more temples nearby dedicated to Lord Krishna, Adi Shankaracharya and few others along with the Triveni sangam which is the confluence of three sacred rivers – Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati.
Last leg of our trip was the Gir forest which was on our way back to Ahmedabad.
Although we could not manage time for the three house wild safari, we could take a trip to Devaliya National Park which is also referred to as the ‘Gir Interpretation Zone’.
It is an area sliced out as a separate Eco-tourism location allowing tourists to view lions and other rare wild animals like black-buck, spotted dears, wolfs and leopards of Gir within a short time span of 30 minutes. This is an attempt made by the Eco-tourism department to lessen the tourist pressure on Gir as a whole and to increase the chances for tourists to view the wild animals.
There are restaurants, food stalls and souvenir shops too.
A lot on our bucket list is left for Gujarat for next time J
1. Mobile phones, cameras or any other gadgets are not allowed inside the temple premises. There are locker rooms outside.
2. Shoes are not allowed inside like any other temple. There is a dedicated space outside to keep shoes.
3. It is advised to wear covered clothes ( knee and shoulders) as the locals might find it offensive to show skin.
4. Although Gujarat is not very cold, but it is windy all the time and in the winter season it can get chilly in the evenings and at night, so carry your jackets and mufflers.
5. While on the drive, carry some packed food and a few bottles of water in the car.