Dwarka, a city in Gujarat’s Dwarka district is situated on Okhamandal peninsula’s western shore and along the banks of River Gomti. Dwarka is one of the most significant Hindu pilgrimage destinations and is said to be the ancient and legendary capital of Lord Krishna’s kingdom. Dwarka is one of the Chardham of the greater Chardham circuit and is one of the revered ‘Sapt Puris’; i.e. 7 holy pilgrimage spots for Hindus. To know more about the city’s historical, religious and legendary backgrounds, read on-
Dwarka: Myths & Legends
There are many mythical tales woven around the city of Dwarka. The most prominent myth is associated with the ‘hero of the Dwapara’; Lord Krishna who is believed to have held his kingdom here. Dwarka in the ancient times was known as Anarta which had been Lord Krishna’s terrestrial empire. Dwarka consisted in islands like Antar dwipa, Dwarka Island and the mainland of Dwarka. The city had been the capital city of the Yadava clan which ruled over the place since many years. In the great epic Mahabharata Dwarka is mentioned as Yadavas’ capital city consisting in many other neighboring states such as Vrishnis, Andhakas, Bhojas within its jurisdiction. The most important chiefs of Yadava clan inhabiting Dwarka included Lord Krishna, who was the king of Dwarka, then Balarama, Kritavarma, Satyaki, Akrura, Kritavarma, Uddhava and Ugrasena. According to the most popular legendary tale, Lord Krishna migrated to Kusasthali; the name by which Dwarka was known in the ancient times in order to evade the continual harassing raids done on Mahura by Jarasandha; Kansa’s father in law. Jarasandha wanted to avenge the death of Kansa, the wicked cruel uncle of Krishna whom the lord had killed and thus was attacking Mathura time and again.
According to legendary, Kusasthali had been Lord Krishna’s ancestral native on his maternal side. The city is said to have been set up a Yadava ancestor of Lord Krishna; Raivata after he got defeated battle with Punyajanas and lost his kingdom to the latter. After the defeat, Raivata fled to Mathura in order to keep himself and his clan members safe. Later on he returned to establish the city of Kusasthali or Dwarka. This tale indicates that lord Krishna’s shifting to Dwarka from Mathura took place in reverse order.
When he came back to Dwarka along with his clan of Yadavas, he ordered Lord Vishwakarma to build a city for his kingdom. Answering his order, Lord Vishwakarma told that the city can be built only if Lord Samudradevi offered them some land. Lord Krishna then prayed to Samudradeva who responding to the prayer providing them with land up to 12 Yojna and soon after the celestial constructor Vishwakarma built the city of Dwarka in a short span of only 2 days. The city was called ‘Suvarna Dwarka’ because it was all clad in gold, emeralds and jewels which were used to construct the houses in lord Krishna’s ‘Suvarna Dwarka’. It is believed that Lord Krishna’s original residence was at Bet Dwarka from he administered the entire Dwarka kingdom. Legend further adds that after Lord Krishna departed from his mortal body, the city went under the sea with Samudradeva taking back what he had given once upon a time.
The Temple of Dwarkadhish is believed to have been set by Vajranabha; grandson of Lord Krishna, in order to pay tribute to the great lord. The religious significance of Dwarka is associated with other myths too. One such myth points out the Dwarka is the spot where Lord Vishnu had demolished the demon Shankhasura.
Dwarka: Archaeological Interpretations
Dwarka had always been the fond hub for archaeologists due to its close association with the great epic Mahabharata and the mythical claims about the sunken city. Numerous explorations and excavations have been carried out off shore as well as onshore in the mighty Arabian Sea. The first excavations were undertaken around the year 1963 and it brought to the fore, many ancient artifacts. Archaeological excavations that were conducted on Dwarka’s seaward side at two places un-earthed many interesting things such stone jetty, few submerged settlements, triangular three-holed stone anchors etc. The settlements that were discovered consisted in shapes similar to fort bastions, outer and inner walls etc. Typographical analyses of the anchors of the unearthed anchors tell that Dwarka had been a flourishing port city during India’s middle kingdom era. Archaeologists opine that coastal erosion could have resulted in the destruction of this busy, rich port.
Varahdas’s son Simhaditya makes a mention of Dwarka in his copper inscriptions which date back to 574 AD. Varahdas had been the ruler of Dwarka once upon a time. The nearby island of Bet Dwarka makes a vital archaeological excavation area of the famous Harappan period and consists in one thermoluminescence dating back to 1570 BC. In other words, the various excavations and explorations made in the region from time to time impart credence to the stories regarding Lord Krishna’s legend and the battle of Mahabharata. The actualities discovered during archaeological excavations at Dwarka point out that Krishna is more than a fictitious figure and his legends are more than a myth.
Dwarka: Early History
Around 200 AD king Vasudeva II who was Dwarka king at the time lost his kingdom to Mahakshatriya Rudradama. After the demise of Rudradama, Queen Dheeradevi invited to Pulumavi, wishing to have his guidance regarding the ruling of the kingdom. Rudradama was a follower of Vaishnav religion and was a worshipper of Lord Krishna. Later on his successor Vajranabha constructed a Chhattri and enshrined Lord Krishna’s idol in it.
Adi Guru Shankaracharya founded the Chardham in order to revive Hinduism. A Hindu monastic centre was set up at the place where today stands the Dwarka temple. Around 885 AD head of Shrimad Jagadguru Shankaracharya Pith’, Shree Nrushinhaashrma renovated the temple of Dwarka.
Dwarka: Middle Ages to the Present Times
In the year 1241 Mohammad Shah attacked the land of Dwarka and caused enough damage to the temple. During this warfare 5 Brahmins tried to stop him, died in the process and turned martyrs. Near the temple a shrine commemorating the heroism of these Brahmins was set up and was named as the ‘Panch Peer’. In the year 1473, Sultan of Gujarat, Mahmud Begada ransacked Dwarka and damaged the temple which was again rebuilt. In the year 1551 when Dwarka was invaded by Turk Aziz, the idol of Lord Krishna was moved to Bet Dwarka Island in an attempt to protect it. The Okhamandal area plus Dwarka used to be ruled by Gaekwad of Baroda at the time of the time of the revolt of 1857. In the year 1858 a warfare took place between British forces and the Vaghers natives. The Vaghers emerged victorious and ruled the region until the year 1859. In 1859, Vaghers were overthrown by the joint forces of Gaekwads, British and many other troops of adjoining princely states. During that time too the temple of Dwarka, as well as Bet Dwarka, underwent damage. Later on the locals of the region reported about the atrocities hurled by the Britishers and that eventually led to the temples’ restoration. Later, Baroda’s king Maharaja Gaekwad offered the temple Shikhara with a charming golden pinnacle around 1958. Since the year 1960, the responsibility of the temple’s maintenance is being shouldered by the Indian government.