Dwarka, on the west coast of Gujarat on the shore of the Arabian Sea, features in most of the legends surrounding Lord Krishna. It is from here that the grown Lord Krishna is supposed to have ruled his kingdom. Dwarka is a significant pilgrimage site for the Hindus.
Dwarka is sanctified as the place where Lord Vishnu slew the demon Shankhasura. The Puranas mention the 12 Jyotirlingas or columns of light representing Lord Shiva which manifested in different parts of the country. One of these is located in Dwarka and is known as the Nageshwar Mahadev. The Jagat Mandir or Nij Mandir forms the sanctum of the Dwarkadish temple and dates back to 2500 years. Jagat Mandir has its own hall of audience and a conical spire. The roof of the hall is supported by 60 columns and the main temple rises five storeys high. The spire rises to a height of 157 feet and is richly carved. One of the most popular temples in Dwarka is that of Rukmini, Krishna's wife, considered an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and beauty. The Sharad Peetha, one of the four Maths established by Jagatguru Shankaracharya, is also situated here.
Dwarka is situated in the extreme west of the Indian state of Gujarat in the Saurashtra peninsula on the Arabian Sea. It lies on 20°22' north latitude and 69°05' east longitude. The city is built on the right bank of Gamut creek.
Dwarka is an important pilgrimage center. It is steeped in legends, being associated with the life of Lord Krishna. In Puranic times, present-day Dwarka was known as Kushasthali or Dwaravati and enjoyed pride of place as the most important spot on the Saurashtra coast. It is said that Lord Krishna, after slaying Kansa, left his abode at Mathura and traveled with the entire Yadava community to the coast of Saurashtra where he founded a town and named it Swarnadwarika.
Vajranabh, Lord Krishna's successor and great grandson, is believed to have built the present temple Dwarkanath, also called Trilok Sundar. Many Hindus fervently believe that the temple was erected in one night by a supernatural agency, under Vajranabh's direction. Legend has it that when dying, Lord Krishna asked his devotees to leave Swarnadwarika so that the sea could engulf it. Until this day, Lord Krishna's city lies buried under the sea. Excavations have revealed that the sea swallowed five settlements, the present-day Dwarka being the sixth in line.
The temple of Dwarkadheesh, also known as Jagat Mandir, is built on the north bank of the Gomti Creek. The temple dates back to 2,500 years. Architecturally the temple is constructed on the same plan and system as most of the Hindu sacred edifices of antiquity. Sixty columns support the roof of the audience hall of the Jagat Mandir. The main temple is five-story high with the lavishly carved conical spire rising to a height of 157 feet. There is the one-meter tall, four handed black idol of Ranchhodrai, the ruler of Dwarika. Amongst the large number of temples belonging to different periods in the history of Dwarka, the most popular with pilgrims is the temple of Rukmini, Lord Krishna's wife, who is considered an incarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and beauty.
In addition to its temples and legends, Dwarka is also sanctified as the seat of Adi Shankaracharya, who established four seats (maths) in four different directions in the country. Research work in Sanskrit is carried on at the Shankaracharya's seat known as Sharad Peetha.
Rukmini Devi Temple
This small temple, 1.5km north of town, is an architectural masterpiece. Rukmini is the most important of Krishna's 16,108 wives. The temple walls are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting her pastimes with Krishna. This temple is said to date back to the 12th century.
The story behind this temple is that one day, Durvasa Muni, who is easily angered, was invited by Lord Krishna and his wife, Rukmini, to dinner. When a person is invited to dinner, etiquette dictates that the host should not eat until the guest has been satisfied. On the way to dinner, Rukmini became thirsty and asked Krishna for help. Krishna then put his foot in the ground and the Ganges waters flowed forth from the earth while Durvasa was not looking. As Rukmini was drinking the water, however, Durvasa turned and saw her drinking without his permission. He became angry and cursed her to live apart from Lord Krishna. That is why Krishna's temple is in the town and hers is located outside the town.
Gomati Ghat Temples
Gomati, the descended Ganges, meets the sea at Chakra-tirtha Ghat. To take bath where the Gomati meets the ocean is said to offer liberation. If you go out the back entrance of the Dwarkadish Temple, you can see the Gomati River. The temple is located almost at the spot where the Gomati meets the ocean.
The Samudra Narayana Temple (Sangam Narayana) is an imposing temple at the confluence of the Gomati and the sea. Panchanada Tirtha consists of five sweet-water wells surrounded by seawater. At Chakra Narayana, Lord Vishnu was manifested as a stone marked with a chakra on the seashore. The Gomatiji Temple has an image of the Gomati River in it, said to have been brought down from heaven by Vasistha Muni.
Other Pilgriamge Attractions
Nageswara Mahadeva Temple contains one of the twelve Siva Jyotirlingas in an underground sanctum. It is located 10km from Dwarka.
Gopi-tallava is the kund (pond) where Lord Krishna met the gopis when they came to see him at Dwarka. The sacred clay from Gopi-tallava is known as gopi-candana and is used by devotees of Krishna to make the tilak marks on their bodies. It is 20km north of Dwarka on the way to Bet Dwarka.
The spot where Lord Krishna was mistaken for a deer and struck by a arrow hile sleeping in a deerskin. It is said Lord Krishna was cremated at Dehotsarga at Triveni Ghat.
Closeby lies Somnath with its shrine built by Soma, the Moon God. The Majestic monument as it stands today is a recent replication of the earlier construction. It is said that the original temple built by the Moon God was of gold. After it was razed to the ground it was rebuilt by Ravana in silver. When the silver temple was knocked down it was reconstructed in wood by Krishna and when this was pulled down an edifice of stone was erected by Bhimdev. Relics of the old Somnath shrine have been preserved in a museum housed in a temple. An interesting Sun Temple is also located in Somnath. Somnath is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas or Shiva shrines in India.
Janmashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna), celebrated in the month of August/September, is a major festival of Dwarka.