Dwarkadhish Temple in Gujarat: A look at the history, legends and architecture of this Char Dham on India’s west coast

Temples of India: Seeming to rise from the Arabian Sea, Jagat Mandir is the main temple situated in the Dwarka city of Gujarat’s Devbhoomi Dwarka district.

Dwarkadhish Temple in Gujarat: A look at the history, legends and architecture of this Char Dham on India’s west coast
The temple’s prime deity is Lord Krishna, who is called Dwarkadhish or King of Dwarka.

Dwarkadhish Temple Gujarat: Situated at the cusp of Gomti River and the Arabian Sea in Gujarat is the majestic Dwarkadhish Temple. An important Hindu pilgrimage site for Vaishnavites, especially the devotees of Lord Krishna, Dwarkadhish Temple is one of the Char Dham. The temple is also a key religious tourism site in the country, and is of architectural as well as religious importance. Dwarkadhish Temple, also known as Jagat Mandir (universal shrine) or Trilok Sundar (the most beautiful in all three worlds), is a site protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. Seeming to rise from the Arabian Sea, it is the main temple situated in the Dwarka city of Gujarat’s Devbhoomi Dwarka district.

Dwarkadhish Temple: Where does it get its name from?

The temple’s prime deity is Lord Krishna, who is called Dwarkadhish or King of Dwarka. Travellers may be fascinated to know that it is also believed that in order to build the city of Dwarka, Lord Krishna had reclaimed a land of about 96 square kilometres from the sea. These are popular legends and beliefs related to the temple which travellers can confirm on interactions with the local community around the temple city. Lord Krishna is believed to have been the eighth avatar or reincarnation of Lord Vishnu as per religious beliefs. A sect also believes that Krishna is the supreme deity of the universe and hence this temple is also known as the Jagat Mandir.

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Temples of India: Dwarkadhish Temple history

According to local beliefs, the Dwarkadhish Temple had been originally built by Lord Krishna’s great grandson Vajranabha in honour of the Lord over 2,500 years ago. The original temple had an umbrella-like structure and an idol of Lord Krishna, according to the temple administration. Among the various folklores that surround the history of this temple, travellers will also find a version as per which, the temple was built overnight with the help of superpowers under the direction of Vajranabha. In 800 AD, the temple was renovated by philosopher and theologian Adi Shankaracharya, and a memorial of his visit is placed within the temple’s complex.

Thereafter, there are believed to have been several renovations to the temples by visitors and rulers, especially because Dwarkadhish or Ranchhod (another name for Lord Krishna) is a popular deity in the Gujarat region, and such renovations in ancient times were a symbol of devotion as well as affluence. Rulers also used such renovations as a way of gaining acceptance among the general population, as documented in the history of various regions.

However, the temple faced a major destruction in 1472. Thus, the present structure of the temple seen in Dwarka was rebuilt in the 16th century in the Chalukya style of architecture, and is quite different from the original temple.

Soon after the reconstruction of the temple came up another interesting legend that travellers might be interested to know. Popular 16th century poet Meera Bai, who was a devotee of Lord Krishna, is said to have merged with his idol at this temple, after which she was never seen again.

Home to Jagat Mandir: A look at Dwarka city

The city of Dwarka itself is surrounded by several folklore. Upon visiting the site of the temple, travellers can hear stories that suggest that the Dwarka city of today is the “seventh avatar” of the original city where Lord Krishna had built his kingdom, and it is said that before this, the city has been submerged under the sea six times.

As per the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna established his Yaduvanshi kingdom in Dwarka between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago, and subsequently the city was submerged into the sea. Several on-shore and off-shore excavations and expeditions have been carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India, and during these expeditions, several structures linked to the presence of temples and forts have been discovered.

An expedition was also carried out by the National Institute of Oceanography’s Marine Archaeology Unit from 1983, and in 1991, a paper by Indian archaeologist Dr SR Rao said that the structures discovered underwater in the submerged city largely met the description of the Dwarka city given in the holy scripture of Mahabharata, and since no other ancient texts mentioned the submergence of a city like this, it was reasonable to believe that these structures belonged to the Dwarka established by Lord Krishna.

It is said that corrosion was the cause for the submergence of Dwarka.

The architecture of Dwarkadhish Temple

The Jagat Mandir is the main temple in Dwarka, and a revered site for followers of Sanatan Dharma. A key aspect of the temple is that the structure seems to arise from the waters of the Arabian Sea, which is likely a representation of the legend of Lord Krishna reclaiming land for establishing Dwarka from the waters. Standing on a small hill, devotees have to climb about 50 steps to reach the temple. The main shrine of the temple which houses the idol of Lord Krishna is a five-storey building, with a 43-metre spire. The main shrine has 72 pillars to support it and the thick walls are heavily sculptured.

The walls of the temple contain carvings of mythical creatures as well as popular legends, and the Dwarkadhish Temple is made of limestone which still stands in pristine condition.

Atop the mighty spire is hoisted a flag, made of 52 yards of cloth, which depicts the Sun and the Moon, symbolising that as long as Sun and the Moon exist, so will Lord Krishna.

The temple has two gates – Swarg Dwar in the south and Moksha Dwar in the north. Moksha Dwar means the Door to Salvation. Salvation or Moksha is a key phenomenon linked to Lord Krishna because it is the central point of his message to Arjun in the Bhagavad Gita before the war of Mahabharata ensued. This entrance connects the temple with the main market. On the other hand, the Swarg Dwar or Gate to Heaven leads to the Gomti River via over 50 steps.

Timings to visit the Dwarkadhish Temple

While it is unclear whether devotees can visit the temple at the moment amid the coronavirus pandemic, in normal course, the temple is open to visitors between 6 am to 1 pm and then from 5 pm to 9:30 pm.

A key time to visit the temple is during the Krishna Janmashtami, which marks the birth of Lord Krishna, as the festival is celebrated with much fervour and enthusiasm at the Dwarkadhish Temple.

Other key sites in Dwarka

While the Jagat Mandir is the key site in the city, Dwarka also has other religious sites like the Rukmini Devi Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Krishna’s wife, Bet Dwarka and Gomti Ghat.

Another key structure is the Sudama Setu, which is a pedestrian bridge built over the Gomti River. Named after the childhood friend of Lord Krishna, the bridge connects the temple with Panchkui Tirth on a small island located to the southeast of Dwarka. Before the construction of the 166-metre-long and 4.2-metre-wide bridge, people had to row across the river to reach Dwarka. The bridge is open between 7 am and 1 pm in the morning, and between 4 pm and 7:30 pm in the evening.

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First published on: 09-06-2021 at 16:06 IST