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Monday, March 21, 2016

Dwaraka Dham Yatra ( Day 3, Part-3)
28 February,  2016 - Sunday

Rukmini Ke’li Samyuktam, Pitambara Su Sobitam  !
Aaptha Thulasi Gandharam Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum  !!

The sky was clear on Day 3 and it was a pleasant morning. The participants of the Dwaraka yatra met at the dining hall and greeted each other saying ‘Hare Krishna’! We recited a short prayer together.The aroma of  kesaribath, vegetable uppuma, dokla and poha kindled our appetite and we finished the breakfast complementing  its taste and the preparation.

The first program was to visit the Rukmini temple .We reached there by 8.30 a.m. This small temple,1.5 k.m. north of the town, is an architectural masterpiece. From a distance the temple
looks like a chariot.

                    Front View of Rukmini Mandir

The old temple was built 2500 years back. The dome shaped mandap with a stepped sanctuary dates back to the 12th century. Srimati Rukmini is chief among Sri Krishna’s 16,108 wives. The temple walls are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting her pastimes with Krishna. The story behind the temple centers around the curse of Rukmini by sage Durvasa.
( written in Part 2). Durvasa Rishi cursed her to live apart from Krishna. This is the reason why Krishna’s temple is situated in the town and Rukmini’s outside.  Rukmini lived away from Dwaraka.

                                                Rukmini Mata

The surroundings look dry without any vegetation. People have to trek  about 10  miles for fetching potable water. Devotees to the Rukmini temple pay Rs.110/- as donation towards water and receive kumkum prasad. ‘Jaldan ‘ elevates the spirit of our forefathers too.
The temple was fairly crowded. We had darshan of  the most ‘adorable’  Rukmini Devi and did parikrama. Sweet drinking water is offered at the temple as prasadam to the tourists.  We sat at a comfortable place behind the temple to listen to our guide Sri M. Dasa who narrated the story of the famous Rukmini Vivah,:

               Mr.Madhavananda Dasa

Rukmini is the first and prominent queen of Krishna. She is considered as an avatar of Lakshmi and ‘anapayini’ i.d. inseparable from Sriman Narayana. Rukmini is the mother of the divine world - ‘Jagadhatri’. She was born at Haridwar to a powerful king Bhishmaka,
of Vidarbha.

Rukmini longed to marry Shri Krishna, whose virtue, character, charm and greatness, she had heard much from Sage Narada. But Rukmi, her elder brother strongly opposed to this marriage. Rukmi, being a vassal prince of Jarasandha, did not want to earn the wrath of him. So he proposed the alliance with Sishupala, the crown prince of Chedi.  
Rukmini’s parents, in spite of their wish to marry Rukmini to Krishna, gave in to Rukmi. Rukmini was horrified to overhear the conversation and immediately sent an urgent message to Sri Krishna through a Brahmin.
Rukmini's message to Krishna by means of seven slokas is claimed to be the world’s first love letter, revealing her affection to Krishna :starting---
 “ श्रुत्वा गुणान् भुवनसुन्दर शृण्वतां ते “ - (Srimad Bhagavatam , Sk.X, Ch.52, 37 to 44 )

Krishna ordered Daruka, his charioteer to bring his chariot and covered the distance in the chariot along with the brahmin, from Anarta country to Vidarbha overnight.
The bride Rukmini went to the Devi temple for worship before the wedding .When she came out of the temple Krishna timed the abduction and carried Rukmini in the chariot speedily.
Sri Balarama who was behind fought  with the other kings chasing Krishna and Rukmini. Krishna showed mercy to Rukmi when Rukmini prayed not to kill him, but humiliated him by tonsuring his head and cutting half of his moustache.

According to folklore, Lord Krishna came to the village of Madhavpur Ghed (we were to visit this place on 29th Feb), after kidnapping Rukmini and got married to her at this very place. In the memory of that event, there is a temple built for Lord Madhavrai. A celebration of this event is held at Madhavpur in memory of this marriage every year in a cultural fair. At Dwaraka, Krishna was married to Rukmini with great pomp and grandeur !

Tulabharam :- Narada on one occasion hinted to Satyabhama that Krishna’s love towards her was not real and Rukmini only ruled his heart. Narada tricked her to give Krishna away in charity to him and asked her to reclaim Krishna by offering the weight of Krishna in wealth. After undertaking this vrata, Satyabhama arranged for a big weighing scale and placed her treasure by way of gold and jewels ( also borrowed from the other queens ). The scale didn't budge. Narada suggested to seek Rukmini's help and Satyabhama became frantic not to lose her husband to be auctioned as per the condition of sage Narada. Rukmini came to the spot and with a sincere prayer placed a tulsi leaf on the scale which became heavier immediately. Rukmini’s devotion and love to Krishna had that effect. Even after removing all the jewels, the scale tilted  towards the pan where tulsi leaf was kept by Rukmini. This episode in Rukmini’s life reveals the extent to which humble devotion is more than material wealth. It also shows the significance of Tulsi leaf.

Krishna Parijatham story:-

Parijatha flowers also called Coral jasmine is known as ‘Queen of Night’. Samudra Manthan brought  Nectar to the Devas and in the process gifted the Parijata tree also. It is a celestial plant available in Indralok and Narada brought some flowers from there and gave it to Krishna. Krishna inturn gave them to his first wife Rukmini. Narada created jealousy in Satyabhama by reporting this incident. Satyabhama, demanded that Krishna should bring the tree from Indralok and plant it in her house. Krishna conceded to her demand. He planted the tree in Satyabhama’s house but took care to position it in such a way that the flowers would fall in Rukmini’s garden.This is  ‘Krishna Leela’, the wonder of wonders !

Krishna’s Teasing  of Rukmini :-

Krishna was resting in the ‘Ksheerabdhi’ while Rukmini was fanning him with the chamara lovingly. She had a feeling that Krishna loved her more than he loved the other queens.  Krishna desired to tease her playfully and started a dialogue:- “ Why did you choose me when many kings who were powerful, influential and wealthy were willing to take your hand,
Whereas I have taken shelter hiding in the milky ocean  afraid of the powerful kings.  I follow a path not consistent with norms of the society.  I am not rich either. Marriage is prope  between two people, only when they are equal in terms of wealth, status of birth, and in appearance. Now you should accept a more suitable husband. I carried you only out of  hatred for rivals like Jarasandha and to curb the strength of the wicked. I care only for self realization and not for my wives.”

Poor Rukmini could not bear to hear what Krishna had said and fainted. The chamara in her hand fell down. Krishna’s heart softened, he lifted her, wiped her tears and said that what he uttered was just in jest. Rukmini got pacified but replied Krishna consciously and  in equal terms:-  ‘ I am indeed an unsuitable match for the Supreme Lord. You are without any material possession because there is nothing outside of yourself, there is nothing for you to possess. Your devotees give up material wealth in order to attain you. It is not correct to say that you had taken shelter in the ocean, in fact, you made the kings to run in sheer alarm with the twang of your ‘Sharnga’ bow. Women who fail to understand the glories of your lotus feet might accept men of physical body and skin adorned by hair and moustache, as their husbands. It is a fact you are self satisfied and I pray to you to bless me with unwavering devotion to serve your lotus feet “.
Krishna replied “ I can find no other wife as loving as you are. I only teased you to hear from you and I admire what a fitting reply you rendered”!  The episode reveals the divine love between the celestial couple which is believed to be supreme, complete and perfect.
     Parikrama with the Dwaja                                                                  

As we were listening to these narrations our attention was diverted in between by a procession in which a group of people were going on a parikrama around the temple carrying a new flag in a basket for hoisting.’            
When we came out of the temple we saw a huge gathering of sadhus sitting in rows waiting for ‘anna dana’. We donated cash to the leader of the group. On the other side there were cows which are native to this place . We fed the cows with green leaves as it is customary in this place.
      Waiting Sadhus                                Feeding the Cows

Thus in this visit we had darshan at the Rukmini Temple, listened to the legends depicting Rukmini Mata’s devotion to Sri Krishna and also performed ’ jaldan’ and  gave donation to sadhus for anna dan and fed the cows.

9:00 am - Having spent a satisfying time in Rukmini Mandir we started towards our next destination Bet Dwaraka 35 Kms. from that place. On our way we crossed the Tata salt factory. Gujarat has the longest sea coast and is known for salt manufacturing.

       On the way to Bet Dwaraka                                        Tata Salt  Factory                               

Dwarka, Bet Dwarka, Dakor (Gujarat), Nathdwara and Kankroli (Rajasthan) are the Pancha Dwaraka Kshetras. Bhet Dwaraka or Shankhoddhar island (derived its name  as the island
has rich source of Conch shells or shank) is surrounded by the Arabian Sea.  This place was used as residence of family members including 16,108 wives of Sri Krishna whereas Dwaraka was used for official purpose. From OKha port jetty, we took a ferry to go to the island (Rs 100 per person, both ways). The ride took about 30 minutes to cross the 5Km distance. We had a
fun filled boat ride as we started throwing tiny bits of biscuits to the large avian flock ( migratory birds --sea gulls  from Australia?? ) and the birds swept swiftly to catch them in
   Sea Gulls in Air                                       Boat Ride

  Razia Sultana on the move                   Distant view of Bet Dwarka

mid air. Many fishing boats and small ships with Indian flags hoisted above were seen in the sea. We enjoyed the cool breeze from the green blue waters.

We reached the ‘Chakda Auto “stand (chakada vehicles are large vehicles used for
carrying more people). In 5 ‘chakda autos” we proceeded towards the Shanka Narayana Temple through narrow lanes. The place is lonely indicating this temple has very few visitors. After passing through two huge gates we reached the temple. An old priest and his wife were the only people living inside. This is the only temple dedicated to Shankanarayana and the deity Sriman Narayana is seated on the Garuda Vahana.The priest, on our request, was kind enough to show us the tiny idol of Garuda below Sriman Narayana. We repeated a few hymns after Shri Dasa and left the sanctum sanctorum with the words ‘Shankar Narayan Ki Jai’ echoing in the air and sat in the open courtyard outside in the midst of Krishna tulsi  plants and a Parijata tree. A creeper was seen climbing on the tall wall. A flag hoisted long time back on top of the spire was fluttering in the wind.
             Shanka Narayana Temple                           Shankoddhara TIrtha          


Two interesting legends are connected with this place. Lord Krishna himself told the Yadavas to go to this temple in the island named Shankhoddhar where one of the ancient tirthas existed.

Legend :-1

In the beginning of creation Lord Brahma received the complete knowledge of Vedas from Sriman Narayana. Once when Brahma yawned a demon named Hayagriva  grabbed all the Vedas and hid them under the lake. The Lord incarnated as Matsya Avatara entered the lake, killed the demon and retrieved the Vedas.

Legend :-2 (from Garuda Samhitha)

During Tretha yuga, there was a sage by name Tritha. He had a special Shanka.He worshipped Sri Krishna. He came with his disciples to Shankhoddhar. One of his disciples Rishi Katchewan was greedy and stole the Shanka. The Guru was furious that his own pupil had stolen the conch. He pronounced a curse that whoever had taken the conch would turn into a shanka. Katchewan realising his sin asked for pardon and deliverance. The sage decided to pardon him and told him to chant Sri Krishna nama mantra. Katchewan was transformed into a  massive Shanka and stayed underwater for 100 years chanting Krishna nama mantra. Sri Krishna came from Dwaraka to relieve him off the curse and sent him to Vaikuntha. Katchewan chanted many prayers in praise of the Lord one among them is the popular and familiar hymn-


We chanted loudly :- “ Sri Matsya Bhagavan ki Jai !  Sri Shanka narayan ki Jai !”

We thanked the priest and walked towards the Shankhoddhar Tirtha, the tirtha which delivers one from the cycle of birth. (Picture above). We all need deliverance. Only thing is we are not ready for that.!!
we climbed down a few steps and sprinkled the sacred water on our heads. Our next place of visit was to Shri Dwarkadheesh Mandir.

                                             Bet Dwarka Temple

During 14th century the city of Dwaraka along with the temple was destroyed  in a military attack. The Jagat Mandir was rebuilt later. The great saint Sri Vallabha Acharya retrieved an idol of Dwarkadheesh which was revered by Rukmini Rani. He hid it in a stepwell ,in Savitri Vav before moving it to Ladva village and later the idol was shifted to Bet Dwarka.
It was  closer to 12 noon. The temple closes by 12;30 pm in the afternoon. We deposited our cell phones  with the security and rushed to have darshan of Lord Trivikrama, Shri Dwarkadheesh, the idol (plated in gold)  believed to have been made by his chief Queen Rukmini and in which Meera bai merged and disappeared from this material world. Deities Pradyumna , Kalyan Raiji (Aniruddha) and Sri Lakshmi are seen in a row. The temple is undergoing renovation. We then went slightly interior to have darshan of Sri Govardhana, Sri Balarama,Sri Satyanarayana, Rukmini mata etc;. In the next part of the temple we saw the shrine of Radhika Ji, the temple keys are kept in this place and with the permission of the deity only the keys can be taken.  

Finally we reached the peetha, where Sudama (  who lived in total penury), Krishna’s childhood friend met him with a handful of beaten rice (poha).  He was sent by his wife to ask for favour from Sri Krishna.That was the ‘punar milan’ place for both the friends..Krishna was pleased to see his old friend. He treated him royally and with much love. Overwhelmed by Krishna’s attention Sudama forgot to ask what  he really came for. But the Lord realised his friend’s need and Rukmini Mata  who is the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi granted him his wishes. When Sudama finally returned home, he found a palatial  mansion in the place of his old hut and all his family members dressed up in rich garments.Thanking his friend and the Lord for all the wealth Sudama led an austere life after that. We contributed cash for rice towards annadana and received  some raw rice as prasad.

Significance of Sudama story
This story is told to illustrate that the Lord does not differentiate between people based on their financial status and that he will reward devotion always. Another moral taught by this story is to never expect anything free in life; God will provide for your good deeds and also not to trade bhakti for anything in return. Sudama did not ask Krishna for anything. Despite being poor Sudama had given Krishna everything he had (poha); in return the Lord gave Sudama everything he needed.

It was shortly after 12:30 pm we came out of the temple, collected our cell phones and walked through narrow lanes flooded by a number of shops selling idols of Lord Krishna, local crafts, fancy articles etc;

                                                     Shopping Area

. We had sugarcane juice to boost our energy levels and walked a short distance towards the boat jetty to get into the boat ‘Razia Sultana’  waiting for us to cross the sea.

2:00--3;30 pm- We next proceeded to Nageswaram, one of the Dwadasa (12) Jyotir Linga sthalams. We ate our lunch packed from Bangar Bhavan kitchen in the morning itself- Parathas, aloo mixed sabzi and pulav were consumed  in a relaxed mood in a  hotel, yet to be opened for the public. They served hot and very sweet chai in steel katoris. We walked the 50m. distance to the temple and before entering the main shrine sat around Shri Dasa to hear about the legend connected with the temple.
Legends ;

Pandavas came to Dwaraka during their incognito Vanvas to build a hermitage for themselves. Their cows went to the same river bank to drink water. After drinking water, the milk used to flow automatically into the river as if the cows were offering it to the river. One day Bhima saw this miraculous event and told Dharmaraja about it. Dharmaraja told that  some great deity must be living in that river. Then the Pandavas started removing the water from the river. The middle part of the river was so hot that the water there was boiling. Bheema lifted his mace and attacked the river thrice. The spot filled with water gave way instantly. Lord Shankara’s Linga could be seen as the Jyotirlinga.

From Shiva Purana-

Legend has it that a devotee of Lord Shiva by name Supriya, was attacked by a demon Daruka, while in a boat and that the demon imprisoned him along with several others at his capital Darukavana, where he resided with his wife Daruki. Shiva appeared in the form of a Jyotirlinga in response to Supriya's prayers, and vanquished the demon with the Pasupata Astra.

Later Daruki, the demoness gathered the other demons and did severe penance to propitiate Goddess parvati and received the boon to shift her abode wherever she wanted. She imprisoned sage Supriya along with other sages and troubled them. Supriya  taught the other inmates the “Panchakshara Mantra  ( ॐ नम:शिवाय ). Enraged by this Daruki wanted to kill Supriya. Lord Shiva appeared before Supriya and gave him powerful weapons to kill Daruki. This place was established as Daruka Vana with the Jyotirlinga. Salutations to  ‘ नागेशं दारुकावने’

From Skanda Purana-- Darukavana was  once occupied by many sages. Lord Shiva wanted to play with them .He associated himself with the rishi patnis. The furious rishis cursed that Shiva’s linga would fall in that place.

The Shivalinga and Gomukha are seen facing in a particular direction in this place. There is a story for this. Namdev, the great devotee of Shiva, was singing bhajans in front of the Lord. Other devotees asked him to stand aside and not to hide the Lord. To this Namdev asked them to suggest one direction in which the Lord did not exist. So saying Namdev continued to stay put in the same position. The enraged devotees carried him and left him on the south side. To their astonishment, they found that the direction of Linga got changed and that Linga was now facing South with the Gomukha facing East.

Another specialty of this Shivalinga is that unlike the other Shiva Lingas, which are made of black stone and look like a neat pillar rounded off at the top, this one is made of a stone known popularly as Dwaraka Shila, which has small chakras on it. The shape of the linga is more or less like a oval three mukhi Rudraksha.

Aurangzeb, the notorious Mughal emperor, wanted to destroy this Hindu temple. When he tried, thousands of bees came out of the temple and attacked  Aurangzeb and his army. He left the demolition work midway and went away. The devotees rebuilt the broken temple later.

The temple was developed by  late Gulshan Kumar  (T.V. singer). The temple premises look very tidy.  First we came across a huge statue of  Lord Shiva in an open space outside the temple. It is known to be one of the tallest statues of the deity, sitting tall in the yogic posture at 82 feet height, attracting the tourists.  We stood in groups to take  pictures in front of the mighty statue.

           The  Mighty Shiva                                  View of the Nageshwar Temple

The main temple painted in brick red shade looks grand from a distance. We entered through the main entrance, walked into a large hall in a line and stood in front of the deity

                                                      Jyotir Linga   

We had a good view as we were on the upper level and the Shiva Linga with the silver serpent above is located in a lower level about 12 steps below. We performed abhishekam to the Shiva idol

( Rs 210 /- per person) and offered our prayers  to the Lord. There is also a temple dedicated to Saneeswara outside the main shrine.

It was 4:00 pm when we got into the bus and were on our way to the Gopi Talab. (5 Km)
After parking the bus we walked 250 m to reach the Talab. On the way we passed many tiny shrines. Once we reached the lake we got down the steps carefully and sprinkled the holy water on our heads. There was plenty of water in the Talab which was clean too. We sat on the steps enjoying the cool breeze and peaceful atmosphere watching the ripples in the water .It was totally a serene location ideal for meditation. We were eager to listen to Shri Dasa regarding the significance of that place.

       Serene Sarovar -Gopi Talab                             Gopi Chandan

From Garga Samhitha-   Radha was the chief among the Ashta Sakhis among the Gopis.  When Akrura came to take Krishna to Mathura, the Gopis of Vraja clan tried to stop him. But Krishna assured them that he would return after completing his task and left with Akrura. The Gopis unable to bear his separation for a very long time, once came to Dwaraka to meet him. Lord Krishna hearing about their arrival called Maya, the architect to establish a place for their living and a sarovar (Talab) for their use.This was the place of ‘punar milan’ for the Gopis and Lord Krishna. The cosmetics of the Gopis and the dust from their feet together formed the famous Gopi Chandan. This is the only place in the whole world where the yellowish Gopi Chandan is found. The sanctity of the dust from the feet of Gopis is mentioned in the 10th Skanda of Srimad Bhagavatam, as quoted below:-

Brahma Says--

तद् भूरि भाग्यमिह जन्म किमप्यटव्याम् यद् गोकुले अपि कतमाङ्घ्रि रजो अभिषेकं !
यज्जीवितं तु निखिलं भगवान मुकुन्दस्त्वद्यापि यत्पदरज : श्रुतिमृग्यमेव !!. (S.B.10:14 :34)

( Meaning ) :-” It will indeed the acme of our good fortune if we are born as any object, be it even a blade of grass, in this Vrindavana, especially in this cowherd settlement where we could get the chance of being bathed in the foot-dust of any of its inhabitants. For the bond of life has made them one in life with Him whose foot-dust is  even today the earnest quest of the Srutis.”

Uddhava says : -

वन्दे नन्दव्रजस्त्रीणां पादरेणुमभीक्ष्णशः !  यासां हरिकथोद्गीतं पुनाति भुवनत्रयम् !!  (S.B. 10:47:63)

“ I salute again and again even the dust of the feet of the women of Nanda’s cowherd settlement, whose loud praise of Hari’s glories in songs purifying all the three worlds. “
                                                         Gopichandan with the Chakra mark

We entered the Gopinath Mandir closeby and had darshan of  the exquisite and beautifully decked  Gopinath Ji. The temple priest talked about the  mahima of Gopi Chandan.;-
Gopichandan has circular markings denoting the impression of Sudarshana Chakra. A sinful person becomes pure by  mere touch. Seeing Gopichandan on a devotee’s forehead frees one from all sins. A person wearing it as a tilaka at the time of death, will go to vaikuntha. Krishna resides and is pleased with the wearer of Gopichand tilaka.
During Dhanteras, before Deepavali it is believed that all the 16,108 wives of Dwarkadheesh come to this temple to worship the Lord. On that occasion 16,108 rupee coins are used in the puja ritual. We bought those coins wrapped in tiny pieces of paper. We also purchased the Gopi chandan slabs having the chakra mark from the temple.

5:30 pm we started returning to Bangar Bhavan, Dwarka (20 km). By 7:30 we  went to Hotel Govinda located close to the temple for dinner.  We had typical Gujarati meals with Vadilal ice cream for dessert. By 9 ;00 pm a few of us went to the main temple again to have Shayan Arati darshan. We noticed the red and yellow flag hoisted on top. The colour code for all the deities that day was red.  We had a quick darshan of Lord Balarama, Sri Dwarkadheesh and Devaki mata .The curtains were drawn for bhog. When they were opened Lord  Balarama was dressed in white and his bedding was already spread. Lord Dwarkadheesh was  in green skirt and blouse, getting ready for sleep. The devotees, fairly large in number, were singing and chanting the names of the Lord melodiously. The atmosphere was charged with total devotion and love for the Supreme One. We watched in wonder the ceremony feeling how fortunate are the local people who witness this sight very often.  

As we left  the sannidhi choked with emotions, we started singing  the following bhajan **song in Malayalam--

**‘Oru neram thozhuthu madangumbol thonnum
   Oruvattam koodi thozhenamennu
   Oruvattam koodi thozhumbozhum thonnum
   Ithuvare thozhuthathu porennu
   Akatharil nirayumee anupama nirvrithi
   Guruvayoor ambalathinkal maathram

We  were  happy to receive Badam Kheer, tulsi and tirtham as prasad .

                                              Dwarkadheesh Ki Jai

We returned to Bangar Bhavan at 10:30 pm , packed our bags before retiring to bed, as we were to be ready early next morning,  for moving to the next spot.

Day 3 of our Dwaraka Dham Yatra was eventful and a sense of complete satisfaction prevailed in us as we were fortunate to have visited six temples on the same day. We also had darshan of Lord Dwarkadheesh at three different times, thus fulfilling the main purpose of this  Dwaraka tour.

( Day 4 - Part 4 ) -  to be continued



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