Sunday, 1 April 2012


First about the title of this post. I have come to believe, through actual experiences, that whilst we are reputed to have 'Free Will', there are things beyond our control. One of these is visits to holy places; I believe that we are called or invited by God to visit them at times selected by Him. Let me relate an incident. I was second-in-command of India's aircraft carrier Viraat in the year 1994-95. One of my sailors went on a pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi's Shrine. On his return he brought Prashad (blessings of the gods) for me and an amulet. He said he had prayed for my promotion. He said I must visit Vaishno Devi for thanksgiving once I got promoted. I was duly promoted. I kept thinking about the thanksgiving though and knew it in my heart that this was one promise I won't be able to fulfill. In the same year I was afflicted by a terrible skin-disease called Psoriasis and I was amongst the five percent people who get Psoriatic Arthropathy (a painful arthritis).

I got selected for the Higher Command course with the Army (at the College of Combat at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh; it has since been renamed the Army War College). The course revolved around visiting the length and breadth of the country in four major tours, understanding terrains, threat scenarios, formations etc and on return to wargame those scenarios. Our first tour was to the Army's Northern Command, headquartered at Nagrota (near Jammu). We started our tour from Amritsar in Punjab. In addition to the professional visits, we visited the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh temple, built by the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Das and completed by the fifth Guru Arjan Dev in 1604. Lo and behold, after we landed up at Nagrota, a visit to Vaishno Devi Shrine was organised for us. One has to trek about 12 kms or so from the Base Station Katra and I did it with my arthritic body. My course mates suggested I take a ride on a mule but I noticed my pains had vanished and there was renewed energy in me to climb up the hill. I had tears in my eyes when our group on the way up was greeted several times with the familiar singing by the other groups, "Chalo bulaava aaya hai, mata ne bulaaya hai" (Lets go and visit her, Maa Vaishno Devi has beckoned us).

And now about the Visit to Dwarka. The last when I visited Dwarka was in the year 1993 when the missile vessel that I commanded entered the port of Okha in Gujarat. After I retired from the Navy on 28th Feb 10, I could never even imagine going back there, much less to take my wife there. But, God, as I wrote above, beckons you in ways that appear strange to you. I joined India's largest corporate Reliance Industries as a Senior Vice President looking after security. RIL's Jamnagar refinery is the largest in the world served by RIL's own port with a throughput of 115 million metric tonnes. Lo and behold, as with visit to Vaishno Devi's Shrine, Lyn (short for Marilyn), found ourselves in the company's flight to Jamnagar and Dwarka happens to be in Jamnagar district.

This time when we visited we saw vessels in Okha similar to the one that I commanded together with the ubiquitous fishing boats proudly flying the Indian national flag.

The last time I visited Bet Dwarka the Navy had provided a fast boat to go to the Bet (a kind of small island). But, this time my wife and I went by a civil boat. We felt thrilled to be part of dozens of others similarly beckoned:
What a history Dwarka has. It is one of the seven holiest cities of India. The priest Kapil Bhai informed us that its history dates back to five thousand years ago. Krishan ji, after he killed the rakshas (demon) Kansa, who ruled the city of Mathura, made Ugrasen the king. Kansa, as we have read the story a number of times, was Krishan ji's mama (maternal uncle). Ugrasen was Kansa's father. However, the king of Magadha, Jarasandha, who was Kansa's father-in-law was unhappy with Krishan ji's decision to handover the kingdom of Mathura to Kansa. He, therefore, kept attacking Mathura and every time he was defeated. Seeing what his people had to go through Krishna decided to found the city of Dwarka away from the danger of being attacked. The city was built, at the orders of Lord Krishna by Vishwakarma. Vishwakarma was visualized as the 'Ultimate Reality' as given in the Rig Veda. As his title suggests he was given the powers to create Heaven, Earth and other Celestial realms. He was the Lord of Art, Architecture and Engineering.

Dwarka was built on the sea-shore and on the banks of river Gomati. Many times the city was submerged in the sea and re-built. As one crosses to Bet Dwarka, in addition to the air and sand being replete with Krishna's eternal presence, one is reminded of India's great maritime heritage (regrettably, the British and other Westerns conveniently try to overlook that). However, Bet Dwarka has artifacts and nautical items having been found there that date back to pre-historic times.

As Lyn and I stepped ashore from the boat at Bet Dwarka and walked through narrow streets and came to the gate of the Bet Dwarka temple, we were immediately transported back in time.

Beyond this point, the camera and the cellphones had to be deposited. I remembered visiting these in 1993 when there were no such restrictions and one could freely walk in. But a lot of water has gone down the Ganges since then. On 25th Sep 02, the carnage in Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat has brought home the point that places of worship in India are on the hit list of terrorists, mainly from Pakistan.

Bet Dwarka has an enormous temple built for Lord Krishna and Radha. It was the residence of the Lord. This is where he met Sudama and gave him the gift (bhet) of rice. We were met by Vishal, a relation of our guide at Dwarkadheesh: Kapil bhai. Vishal's father is the head priest in Bet Dwarka temple and took us around and explained the history to us. The tradition of giving rice to Brahmins continues even to this day; Lyn and I made a token contribution. The temple, however, is under renovation but largely the porticoes of the patrani, the statues and pillars are still intact.

As we took our boat back, we observed that there is a large mosque there that's visible from the sea. It reminded us of two things: one, the co-existence of India's cultural and religious diversity; and two, that gradually there is a demographic shift in the population of Bet Dwarka; out of 5000 people there, as Vishal informed us, only about a 1000 are Muslims now.

Lets now get back to the most beautiful, the most sacred and auspicious monument to see in Dwarka. Undoubtedly, it is the Dwarkadheesh temple. Once again, photographs are only taken outside since, for security purposes, the camera and cellphones are to be deposited outside. Here are some of the pics:

The history of the above temple says that seven times it was submerged under the sea. The original was built by Lord Krishna's grandson King Vajra. There are two gates to the temple: the Swarg Dwar (gate to Heaven) and Moksha Dwar (the Liberation Gate). We attended the aarti (formal prayer service performed by the priests) and when the aarti lau (fire) came to us and like other eager devotees, we put our hands over it and touched our hearts, eyes and head; this simple ritual immediately transported us into another world. Despite the surging crowds to get a darshan (glimpse) of the idol Kalyan Narayan and of the other idols of Radha, Rukmani, Sudama etc, my observation is that somehow a heavenly tranquility descends on you, especially in the evening. Without being told, everyone talks in a hushed voice so as not to break the serenity.

The flag atop the temple is hoisted five times a day and is a ritual with significance. Kapil Bhai explained to us all the important details as one moves one's eyes downwards from the top.

Here are glimpses of the sea close to the temple that I took at the sunset time. I was conscious of Arjuna's account of the city of Dwarka having submerged into the sea (the account is found in Mahabharta), some four decades after Mahabharta in third century BC:

"The sea rushed into the city. It coursed through the streets of the beautiful city. The sea covered up everything in the city. I saw the beautiful buildings becoming submerged one by one. In a matter of a few moments it was all over. The sea had now become as placid as a lake. There was no trace of the city. Dwaraka was just a name; just a memory."



 Lets now move to the other temples and palces of historic importance in the area.

The first of these is Nageshwar Jyotirlinga. What is a Jyotirlinga? It is a huge endless pillar of light created by Lord Shiva to settle the issue of supremacy of Creation between Brahma (God of Creation) and Vishnu (God of Saving). Brahma and Vishnu travelled towards the two ends of the pillar of light called Jyotirlinga but admitted defeat when they could not find the ends. In Shiv Purana, there are 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned. Nageshwar Jyotirlinga near Dwarka was the first one. Without taking you into the history of this historic and famous shrine, let me give you glimpses of what we saw:

A huge statue of Lord Shiva is in the temple premises:

A snake-charmer within the temple premises:

 The ubiquitous chhakra or a tumtum driven by Royale Enfield engine is all over in the district:

Lets now move to Gopi talao. The stories of Lord Krishna's childhood abound with youthful pranks and romance have a connection with this talao or pond. As a young boy, Krishna used to dance the raas with the Gopis (young female inhabitants) in Vrindavana. When he moved to Dwarka, the Gopis could not bear the separation and came to visit him. They united with their Krishna at the Gopi talav, 20 km north of Dwarka on the night of Sharad Purnima (full moon) and once again danced the raas with him. Legend says that, unable to part from Krishna, the Gopis offered their lives to the soil of this land and merged with their beloved. It is said that they turned into yellow clay, known as Gopi Chandan. Even today the soil of the Gopi talav is extremely smooth and yellow in color. Here are some of the pics:


The last place that we visited in Dwarka was the Rukmini temple. This temple stands 2 km away from Dwarka City. According to an old legend, once Lord Krishna and his wife Rukmini went to the sage Durvasha to invite him for dinner at Dwarka. He agreed on the condition that Krishna & Rukmini would have to pull his chariot instead of any animal. The couple happily obliged. While pulling the chariot, Rukmini became thirsty so Lord Krishna prodded his toe into the earth to draw a spring of the holy Ganga water. Rukmini took a sip without offering Durvasha. Annoyed by her impoliteness he cursed Rukmini that she would be separated from her beloved husband. Hence Rukmini temple is located 2 kms away. The temple has a painting describing this historic incident. Here are the pictures of our visit:


If you think it is all religiosity and faith and history and religion and nothing else, you are wrong. Inside Dwarkadheesh temple, for example, there is an inner domed Bhawan that has been constructed with funds donated by Smt. Kokilaben Ambani, wife of Reliance founder chairman Sh. Dhirubhai Ambani. It has a library and a teaching centre to teach two of the four Vedas: the Atharaveda, the Samaveda, the Rigveda and the Yajurveda. Kapil bhai took us there and we saw young would be priests being taught the vedas, in their yellow monk's clothes. No wonder Kapil Bhai himself is so knowledgeable.

In the night, our driver locked the car with key inside and we slept in the Smt. Kokilaben Guesthouse (being run purely on charitable lines) without having our phones, camera and baggage. We had planned to leave for Somnath temple near Veraval, 235 kms south, by 8 AM. By 10 AM, when our baggage etc had not fetched up, a thought crossed our minds that our planned programme was adversely affected. It is at this stage that Kapil bhai came to see us. He had his total equanimity with him when he told us, "Aate bhi usi ki ichha se hain aur jaate bhi usi ki ichha se hain" (You arrive here at a time desired by Him and you would depart at a time willed by Him).

Kapil bhai, even when we were departing, gave us the truth of life in very simple words.

I am waiting for His next summons to visit another place, temple, and shrine that He has intended for us.


  1. beautiful pictures and wonderful narration!

  2. What a beautiful post. The story about your psoriasis and arthritis was very moving. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Stan. Coming from you I appreciate it a lot.


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