Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dwaraka Dham Yatra ( Day 1 - Part 1 ) 26 Feb. 2016 , Friday , Chaturthi

Dwaraka Dham Yatra ( Day 1 - Part 1 )

26 Feb. 2016 , Friday , Chaturthi

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Krishnaya Vasudevaya Devaki Nandanaya Cha  !
Nandagopa Kumaraya Govindaya Namo Namah: !!

Visit to places of pilgrimage like Dwarka is spiritual as well as inspirational and we had the good fortune to make it. Bhaktivedanta Academy for Spiritual Education situated in Nandini Layout, Bangalore arranged this tour. We had already experienced visiting Sri Lanka , a conducted tour arranged by this Academy. The tour was under the theme ‘ Sri Lanka Ramayana Trail ‘, which included ancient heritage places of Ramayana and tourist spots in Sri Lanka during Sep 2015. The trip proved to be a great success. We therefore were looking forward in joining the Dwaraka Yatra especially when we came to know that the leader of this conducted tour would be Sri Madhavananda Dasa who is highly knowledgeable in Vedic Scriptures, Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita and for quoting appropriate mythological references, besides being a versatile narrator, a good bhajan singer and an able administrator. Programming yatras to pilgrim sites comprehensively and executing the same as scheduled and monitoring the time factor to the advantage are his forte .

A group of seven from our apartment complex made the Sri Lanka tour- this time the number doubled to 14 and two more from our neighbourhood joined the team, all in the spiritual quest ! At this point we wish to thank our Guru Smt. Shanta Viswanathan and Sri Viswanathan who took the initiative and lead to arrange this Dwaraka Yatra, as they did for the Sri Lanka Tour in 2015.

The tour commenced on an auspicious day - It was on Sankatahara Chaturthi and a  Friday.  We had mangala arati darshan of Lord Ganesha in our temple complex in the previous evening itself and prayed for the safe and successful tour of the Dwaraka  Dham Yatra. We left for the airport at 3:30 am by a chartered bus.(Thanks to one of our friends for the initiative taken ). We noticed a number of vehicles speeding  in the wee hours towards Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru.

Mr.M.Dasa, our guide and  tour coordinator received us at the airport where we met the other participants, making the total including Mr.Madhavananda Dasa to 31. We were handed over the breakfast packets first. We finished the usual formalities of checking in the baggage, collecting the boarding passes and  went through the security ( the line was longer even at that hour), rushed to the gate, got into the waiting bus and boarded the flight by 6 am. As per their motto ‘Our punctuality Your destination’ the aircraft Indigo Air 6E 532 took off at 6:20 am.
By 7 am we  examined our breakfast packets. We started munching the delicious sandwiches, jalebi and finished the masala pori and saved the ‘ready to eat american corn’ for the next session. We dozed off for an hour as we had a sleepless night  and were exhausted with excitement. The landing was smooth. We arrived at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel International Airport,  Ahmedabad by 8:15 am  and collected our baggage intact.

We next boarded the Chartered Deluxe A.C.Bus No. CJ18 U 9995 of Parshwanath Travels
which was waiting at the Ahmedabad airport for our arrival. Mr. Dasa had a quick roll call check, supervised the baggage being loaded and gave the green signal to start the journey from Ahmedabad to Dwarka (450 k.m ). The time was 9.30 a.m. then.

We recited the Sri Narasimha Stotra and stuti after our guide Shri M.Dasa. We took the NH 8 A. towards Dwarka. The  landmarks were totally new for us. We came across many biochemical industries. The name Agora Mall attracted our attention. The weather was fairly warm.  Our first halt was at Honest Hotel ( a chain of hotels like Bengaluru Adigas / MTR) at Limdi, Surendranagar at 1 pm. We had a choice of Gujarati / Punjabi thali meals. It was our first Gujarati meals in Gujarat and enjoyed the lunch which had an extra sweet taste.

Mr.M.Dasa directed the bus to go to Jamnagar airport as two more members were waiting there to join the Dwarka Yatra. We welcomed the couple when they boarded the bus - the time was 4;30 pm. On the way we crossed one of the biggest private sector oil industry namely, the Reliance Petro Chemical Industry.  We had a short tea break and continued our journey towards Dwarka. Since it was twilight we chanted  Vishnu Sahasranamam. Singing of  bhajans in chorus followed suit.

Finally by 7:15 pm we reached  Bangur Bhavan, “Shree Kunj” , Gomati Road, Dwaraka. It is a choultry situated in the busy vegetable market area. As we entered we could see a large open courtyard enclosed by verandahs on all four sides. On the opposite side of the entrance is the kitchen with a dining area. We were allotted rooms in the ground and first  floors. After freshening up, we the 34 yatris in all (34th member was our friend, who had also participated in the Sri Lanka tour - she had  reached Dwaraka direct from Mumbai) met  at the dining room and had hot, hot rotis, dal, subzi, salad, rice, kala jamun, papad and chaas (butter milk). Shri M. Dasa briefed us about the next day’s program. We wished everyone good night and  ‘Hare Krishna’ before retiring to our rooms for a restful sleep. The room was tidy with  an attached bath, good water supply, and was airconditioned. We felt the rooms would appear bright and better with a coat of fresh painting for the walls.
27 February, 2016 Saturday ( Day --2)

“Hare Krishna” -  the inspiring greetings from everyone cheered us all, as we assembled in the courtyard after having a cup of hot coffee/tea. Ready with notebooks, pens and cameras we looked forward with great enthusiasm to listen to our guide Shri Dasa as he started his first class session of this spiritual yatra. We repeated Sri Guru Pranama Stotra after Shri M. Dasa ‘ in  respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who is very dear to Krishna on this earth, having taken shelter at His lotus feet’.

The First Session – The Teacher & the Taught   (Gurukula !!! )      

Mr. M.Dasa began by saying that the name ‘Dwarka’  literally means the ‘gateway to heaven’. ‘Dwar’ in Sanskrit means ‘ door’ or ‘gate’ and ‘ka’ refers to ‘Brahman’ and signifies ‘ the gateway to moksha or Vaikuntha’.  Dwarka is one of the Sapta Puri kshetra, holy pilgrimage place in India ,the other six being  Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanchipuram and Ujjain (Avantika) and is also referred as ‘Mukshpuri’. (In ancient times its flourishing port was considered to be the ‘gateway’ to the mainland).’ Dhama’ means supreme abode of Lord Krishna.. Hence this place is also known as Dwarka Dhama. Dwaraka (in the West) is also one among the Char Dhams  including Badrinath ( in the North),  Puri (East), and Rameshwaram (South).

Three interesting episodes were narrated for the creation of Dwarka  Dhama.:-
Legend 1:

At Mathura Lord Krishna killed Kamsa. Asti and Prapti the sorrow stricken wives of Kamsa went to their father Jarasandha. Seeing the plight of his daughters, Jarasandha wanted to take revenge on Krishna  and wipe off the entire Yadava race from the face of the earth. He gathered an army of 23 Akshauhinis ( An  Akshauhini consists of 21,870 chariots, an equal number of elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 foot soldiers. In the Kurukshetra war Kauravas had 11 Akshauhinis and Pandavas 7 Akshauhinis, a total number of 18 ). Looking at the huge army and instantly recollecting the purpose of his avatar, Krishna decided to fight against Jarasandha. Both Krishna and Balarama were equipped with their chariots and celestial weapons brought by the charioteer Daruka from Vaikuntha.  After a brief war and vanquishing the the entire army of Jarasandha, Balarama held him captive and was about to kill him. But Krishna stopped Balarama saying that Jarasandha would bring more asuras next time thereby help them in reducing the evil kings on earth. Though Jarasandha was dejected by the defeat, the other ruling kings persuaded him not to give up. So Jarasandha fought against Krishna 17 times bringing 23 Akshauhinis every time and was defeated all the 17 times. Just before the 18th war was about to begin, sage Narada prompted Kalayavana, a foreigner to also join the fight against Krishna.  Anticipating a greater destruction Lord Krishna summoned Vishwakarma to build a new city in the middle of the sea well protected  by forts on all sides. The task was completed overnight and all the residents of Mathura were shifted  to the beautiful Dwaraka city by Krishna’s Yogamaya.

Legend 2:-

Mr.M.Dasa brought to our attention that the legend 2 belonged to Tretha Yuga. Millions of years ago Ikshvaku, son of Vaivasvata Manu and fore father of Sri Rama had a son by name Shariati. The latter had three sons and  Anarta was one among them. Shariati was the emperor of the entire earth. Once he called his sons and told that he had wielded mighty power and conquered the whole world. He offered  his elder sons land on different directions,. He then showed the west direction to Anarta. Anarta said that the entire world belonged to Sri Krishna and other kings were only temporary rulers. Shariati became angry and told Anarta to get his share of earth from Sri Krishna himself. Anarta went towards west and went deep into the Ratnakara Samudra (old name for the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal was called Mahodadhi). He started meditating upon Sri Krishna for 10,000 years. The Lord, pleased with his devotion, appeared before him and asked what he wished for. Anarta told that his father had challenged Sri Krishna’s authority of owning the entire earth and hence he didn’t accept his father’s offer. Krishna made him to understand that one earth was already existing. Anarta requested the Lord to create a world just like the Dhruva Loka  which He built for the great devotee Dhruva. Krishna took his Sudarshana Chakra to break 100 Yojanas (1000 miles / 1600Km) from Vaikuntha to create an entirely new world for  Anarta. That place was the direct manifestation of Sri Vaikunta on earth .Sri Krishna also honoured Anarta by calling his country as Anarta Desa.  The country was ruled by Anarta with Kushasthali as the capital.

आनर्तान् स उपव्रज्य स्वृद्धाञ्जनपदान्  स्वकान् I
दध्मौ दरवरं तेषां विषादं शमयन्निव I १.११ II      (Srimad Bhagavatam 1:11:1)
(Suta Gosvami said: The Lord, upon reaching the border of His most prosperous metropolis, known as the country of the Anarthas [ Dvaraka], sounded His auspicious conchshell, heralding His arrival and apparently pacifying the dejection of the inhabitants.)

Legend: 3
From Skanda Purana, Dvaraka Mahatmya ( Described in 6 chapters)
Once Durvasa Maharshi  had a desire to attain moksha easily. He approached Sriman Narayana who was acting as the Dwarapalaka for Bali Chakravarthi at Sutala Loka.The Lord gave the him reply that by taking bath in Gomti river once, he could attain Moksha. Sage Durvasa dashed immediately to Gomati river at Dwaraka but he was stopped by a demon by name Kusha who beat him and sent him back. Durvasa was upset and he once again sought the help of Vamana ( Trivikrama) saying that only he could defeat the demon as even Indra would  be helpless. An argument ensued between King Bali and the sage as the former did not want Trivikrama to leave him and staunchly refused to send him. Finally Lord Krishna promising that he would return after a short time went away to Dwaraka with Durvasa Rishi. Trivikrama  killed thousands of demons  but could not vanquish Kusha. Every time he tried to kill the demon with his Sudarshana Chakra  the latter came to life with more vigour. Krishna realised that it was due to the ‘ mahima ‘ of Gomati river. Finally he pushed the Asura in to the earth with his foot and kept a  Shiva Linga on top of his head. Kusha was an ardent devotee of Shiva. He didn’t  come up as he wished not to break the idol of Shiva. Kusha also told that he wanted to have the darshan of Shri Krishna,hence he opposed Durvasa. Trivikrama told that henceforth Dwaraka would also be known as Kushasthali and the Shiva Linga would be known as Kusheshwar Mahadev. As we enter into Dwarkadheesh Temple the first idol we see on our right side is of Kusheshwar Mahadev. (this narration was very informative to us otherwise we would not have given much importance to the tiny Shiva Linga idol  seen below the  ground level.)

Shri M.Dasa narrated these three legends in a lucid manner, interacting with us to make it more interesting. He has a unique style in switching over from Bhagavatha to Bhagavad Gita, Skanda Purana to Garga Samhita and so on, and we were praying to Ganesha to act as our scribe in writing down the details.

Hare Krishna !!

8:30 am

Our next program was - breakfast. As Tiruvalluvar in Tirukkural says when there is no food for the ear we should feed the stomach. We entered the dining hall and had tasty idli, sambar, chutney, dhokla,and poha with masala chai and got ready for our first darshan of Dwarkadheesh.

We were told to leave our phones, cameras etc; in the room and carry only the cash purses as there is strict security check in the temple. We followed the instruction and reached the temple on foot the small distance from Bangur Bhavan by 9:30 am. (to be continued in the next part).




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