All roads in Dwarka lead to Dwarkadhish temple. The towering temple stands almost on the western tip of India where the River Gomti meets the Arabian sea. Given the vast barren plains that surround the town of Dwarka, you can see the temples from miles away. My hotel was good 6 km from the temple but I could see the temple standing tall surrounded by the town and overlooking the sea.
I have been to thousands of temples across the country from small tree shrines to the largest temples. Of the ancient temples, Dwarkadhish temple is the liveliest temple I have seen. It is one of the rare ancient structure that stands as it must have been a few centuries ago. It follows a daily rhythm with clockwork precision. From the morning when deity wakes up to the time he is put to sleep, the temple is buzzing with activity and devotion.
There is a vibe of celebration all around. The temple and Dwarka is full of Shringar Ras.
Who Built Dwarkadhish Temple and When?
If you ask the Pandas here, they will tell you that it is 5244 years old. It was built by Vajranabh, the great-grandson of Sri Krishna. This is where the Hari Griha or the home of the Hari or Krishna once stood, making this land holy.
Now, the temple and the current temple structure as we see are two different things. Like Dwivedi Ji explained to me – temple structure is the body and Murti or idol is the soul of a temple. The body keeps changing, the soul stays there.
The current structure is an amalgamation of parts that spread over a few centuries from 8th to 18th CE. The conservation work is still on. When I visited the temple of Amba Ji was being renovated by ASI.
The architecture of Sri Dwarkadhish Temple at Dwarka
The giant or the Bhavya temple stands an elevation of about 80 meters or 250 feet making it as tall as a 25-story modern day building. On top of it is 25 ft long flagstaff.
The towering Shikhara over the Garbha Griha is built in a Nagara Style replicating a mountain peak. There are 7 stories clearly visible and the Panda guiding me attributes it to Dwarka being one of the 7 ancient cities or Sapta-Puris of India. The seven cities being Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya, Kashi, Avantika, Kanchipuram and Dwarka. Each Story represents a Puri with the bottom one representing the Dwarka. Looking at all the stories in one frame is like watching the whole of India represented in the temple.
The Mandapa has a tiered Shikhara – something that we see in many temples of Gujarat, including Jain temples. It stands on 72 pillars all of which are carved of a single stone. This has four stories and interpreted as a representation of Char Dhams or the 4 most important Vaishnava temples in four corners of India. Dwarka is one of the 4 Dhams located in the western corner of India. The other 3 are Rameswaram in the South, Jagannath Puri in East and Badrinath in North.
4th Storey has a temple dedicated to Chalati Mata and 5th one has Ladwa temple. The general public is not allowed to go up and their movements are restricted to the ground floor only.
The architecture is in general Solanki style that was prevalent in Gujarat for a long time. As per the archaeologists, the main temple can be attributed to 12-13th CE while the Sabha Mandap, also called Ladwa Mandap can be attributed to 15-16th CE. The excavations around the temple complex have revealed that this is the 4th temple, in the same place. The earliest temple would go back to at least 2000 years ago.
The temple walls are carved but there are not many carvings on them like you see them at Brihdeeshwara temple in Thanjavur or Sun temple at Modhera. Some locals say that as ASI is carrying out its conservation work, the carved stones are being replaced by the plain stones.
Smaller temples are all built in stone and the Rani Mahal is built like a living Haveli with a central courtyard.
Dwarkadhish Temple is also home to one of the 4 Shankaracharya Peethas – Sharda Peetha. The other three are Jyotish Math at Badrinath, Sringeri Math in Karnataka and Govardhan Math in Puri in Odisha. Sharda Peeth part of the temple is a new construction dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya. In the mornings and evenings, you can see the hear the students chanting Vedic chants in Sanskrit. Of the 4 Vedas, Dwarka’s Sharda Peeth has Saam Veda, and you can hear its chanting.
Dwarkadhish Group of Temples, Dwarka
Just like the Dwarkadish Temple at Beyt Dwarka, the Dwarkadish temple at Gomti Dwarka is also full of big and small temples. In the Sanctum sanctorum or the Garbha Griha sits the image or murti of Krishna as four armed Vishnu. Experts call it the form of Trivikram.
Sri Dwarkadhish temple is also known as the Jagat Mandir.
Legend of Dwarkadish Murti at Dwarka
2.25 feet in high carved black stone Murti that we see in the Dwarkadish Temple today is the 3rd Murti in this temple.
The first Murti that is believed to be worshipped even by Rukmini, the first queen of Krishna is now in Beyt Dwarka temple. It was taken there to protect it from the foreign invaders.
The second Murti is at a temple in Dakor. The story goes that there used to be a girl named Badana who used to come to Dwarka from Dakor. Pleased with her devotion one day Sri Krishna decided to go with her. The priests however suspected that the girl has stolen the idol. They chased her. The girl paid them with the gold she had and took the idol with her. This is how the original idol reached the temple at Dakor.
Priests at Dwarka had the epiphany that there is another Murti of Sri Krishna at Savitri Talaav. They dug the place in a hurry and out came the incomplete idol. The eyes were not yet formed. This is the current image of the Lord of Dwarka that is worshipped.
Another view says that the Murti was hidden in the Savitri Talaav to keep it safe from the repeated attacks by the invaders.
You can not make out the missing eyes as the Shringar or Make-up takes care of that very well.
Krishna faces the western direction, an unusual direction but maybe was looking at the sea which has his submerged city under its waves.
Other Temples in the complex
As you enter from the Moksha Dwar, on your right you see:
Kusheshwar Mahadev – A small Shiva temple with a Lingam a story down from the temple ground is the first temple that you meet if you enter the temple from the Moksha Dwar or Northern Gate. Dwarka was known as Kushasthali and I assume Kusheshwar Mahadev must have been its presiding deity. He continues to be worshipped even today.
On the other side of the entrance is Kashi Vishvanath Shivalinga, Gayatri Devi Temple along with the temple dedicated to Kolva Bhagat.
Around the main temple are temples dedicated to:
Aniruddha and Pradyumna Temple
Rishi Durvasa Temple – Kul Guru of Krishna
Amba Ji Temple – Kul Devi of Krishna
Devaki Temple – Krishna’s mother. Her temple is bang opposite the Garbh Griha as if she is overlooking her son all the time.
Radha Krishna Temple
Beni Madhav, Purushottam Rai & Balram Temples.
Pattarani Mahal – this is a separate structure with a courtyard in the middle. There are small temples in all the walls dedicated to Jambavati, Radhika, Saraswati, Laxmi, Satyabhama, Mahalaxmi Narayan & Bal Gopal.
Shakti temple or Chalati Mata temple on the 4th floor that is inaccessible to the public.
Shankaracharya Samadhi in the form of Paduka.
Two gates of Dwarkadish Temple
The temple has two entrances – north and south called Moksha Dwar and Swarg Dwar. If you understand the words Moksha and Swarg you will enjoy the names of the two doors. Basically, when you die you either want to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death or get Moksha or you want to be in Swarg or heaven where you get to live the best possible life and the Indian word for that would be Bhog.
There are 56 steps on the Swarg Dwar side that lead to the temple from the Gomti Ghats. Some oral stories say that those 56 steps represent 56 Koti or 56 Crore Yadavas, but I wonder if the population that was so much.
Ceremonies at Dwarkadhish Temple in Dwarka
Dwarkadish Temple follows a strict daily routine with many rituals throughout the day. There are aartis, there are darshans and there are bhogs. The activities mean worshipping the deities, opening up the doors to let the devotees converse with the deity and offering the food to the deity.
All through the day, the Shringar of the deity is changed. The dress changes, the backdrop changes, the jewelry changes and the deity has a new look every time the devotees pay him a visit. On special days, the Shringar is even more elaborate.
Pandas here wear colorful half jackets and dhotis. The jackets are tied at one end instead of stitched. Dhotis are tied in a slanting manner making them look like little Govindas moving around.
Dwarkadhish Temple Timings
Temple is open in the morning from 6:30 AM to 01:00 PM and then again in the evening from 5:00 PM to 9:30 PM
6.30 Mangla Arti – Do not forget to take the Makhan Mishri Prasad
7.00 to 8.00 Mangla Darshan
8.00 to 9.00 Abhishek Pooja : Darshan Closed
9.00 to 9.30 Shringar Darshan
9.30 to 9.45 Snanbhog: Darshan Closed
9.45 to 10.15 Shringar Darshan
10.15 to 10.30 Shringarbhog: Darshan Closed
10.30 to 10.45 Shringar Arti
11.05 to 11.20 Gwal Bhog: Darshan Closed
11.20 to 12.00 Darshan
12.00 to 12.20 Rajbhog: Darshan Closed
12.20 to 12.30 Darshan
13.00 Anosar, Darshan Closed
5.00 Uthappan First Darshan
5.30 to 5.45 Uthappan Bhog: Darshan Closed
5.45 to 7.15 Darshan
7.15 to 7.30 Sandhya Bhog: Darshan Closed
7.30 to 7.45 Sandhya Arti
8.00 to 8.10 Shayanbhog: Darshan Closed
8.10 to 8.30 Darshan
8.30 to 8.35 Shayan Arti
8.35 to 9.00 Darshan
9.00 to 9.20 Bantabhog and Shayan: Darshan Closed
9.20 to 9.30 Darshan
9.30 Darshan Mandir Closed
Source – Temple Website
Dhwaja Arohan or Flag Changing Ceremony
Wherever you look at the Dwarkadish temple, you can not miss the huge fluttering flag on top of its Shikhara. You would also notice that there is a different flag every time you look at the temple. Well, the flag is changed 5 times a day – thrice in the morning hours and twice in the evening.
It is not just a change of flag, it is a huge ceremony. The family sponsoring the flag feeds all the Brahmins of Dwarka followed by elaborate Puja. They bring the flag to temple singing and dancing, carrying it on their heads. The flag is offered to the deity after which a member of the Brahmin community goes up and changes the flag.
There is a waiting period of 2 years if you want to sponsor a flag change.
Such an important flag must come with lots of rules. The flag measures 52 yards or 40 meters – yes, it is a huge flag. 52 smaller flags are attached to the large flag representing the 52 officers of Dwarka or 52 sub-castes of Yadavas. Another theory says 52 represents the 12 zodiac signs, 27 Nakshatras, 10 directions, Sun, Moon & Sri Dwarkadish. Yet another theory says that it represents the 52 doors that Dwarka had once upon a time. Remember, it was also called Dvaravati or the city of beautiful doors.
The flag can be any color or a combination of colors except the black color. The flag has an emblem of sun and moon on it. There are special tailors to stitch the flags of the temple.
When the flag is being changed, everyone stops to look at the new flag flutter.
Festivals at Dwarkadhish Temple, Dwarka
Janmashtami – the day Krishna was born on the 8th day of the 8th month of Indian calendar as 8th Avatar is the biggest festival celebrated here.
Holi is also celebrated with joy as a reminder of the Holi that is played at Braj Bhumi.
An interesting festival celebrated here is the Rukmini Vivah or the wedding of Krishna and Rukmini on Ekadashi of Chaitra month that typically falls in March. I missed it by a day but I could see the big banners all over the city announcing the wedding.
Other festivals celebrated include – Basant Panchami, Ram Navami, Akshay Tritiya, Deepawali, Sharad Purnima, Dhanteras and the new year.
Guggali Brahmins of Dwarka
All the rituals and ceremonies of Dwarkadhish Temple are done by Guggali Brahmins. It is believed that Sri Krishna himself brought these Brahmin families to Dwarka.
On an average day, the temple is full of devotees. There were not too many that you would feel lost or pushed around. There were not too less that the temple would feel empty. They were just enough in number to make the temple come alive with their chants, their singing, and their devotion.
I met many groups of women from around the country who were on a pilgrimage. I had never thought of women, especially elderly women traveling on pilgrimages. Even when I know my grandmother did a similar tour of all pilgrim places in the country, but I was too young to register that she was traveling with a group like this.
Finally, it is always the devotion of the devotees that keeps the spiritual places holy and alive. Temples will live their shelf life but it is the devotion of a common devotee that marks the holy place, that makes the Ishwar bow down to their devotion.
The temple of Kolva Bhagat in the temple is a testimony to this. It says that he came from the Charan caste and was not allowed to touch the feet of the idol. He cut his feet and stayed in the temple. Next day onwards temple doors refused to open until Kolva Bhagat was allowed to touch the feet of Dwarkadhish Murti. So, this is how his temple was built on the temple premises.
Like Kabir asks – Is the God bigger or the devotee who believes in the God bigger? (Ram bada ki Ram ka Bhakt)
- No photography is allowed inside the temple. In fact, no electronic gadgets of any kind are allowed inside the temple premises. There are counters – old style coupon ones and digital lockers where you can store your electronic gadgets like mobile phones and cameras.
- Temple timings are strict as mentioned above.
- You need 30-45 minutes to see the temple in detail. Actual time spent depends on the crowd on the day of your visit and your interest.
- Tulsi and Marigold garlands are offered to the deity. You only show them to the deity and bring them back with you as Prasad.
- Packed Prasad can be bought behind the Radha Krishna temple inside the complex.
- Like most pilgrimage places in India, Dwarka has age-old Dharamshalas around the temple. New age hotels are coming up at a slight distance from the town. I stayed at Mercure Dwarka. A detailed review will follow but notice that they are a fully vegetarian hotel – a delight for people like me.