26th Jan 2011
We boarded the train, Saurashtra Mail, from Dadar station at 8:30 pm. It was my son Shreeram’s first longest train journey. He was pretty much excited about it and expressed his excitement as soon as we got into the train. Our trip (Dwarka-Somnath-Gir-Junagadh-Ahmedabad) was planned for 9 days and we had enough luggage. I had booked our tickets in 3-tier AC. We put our bags under the seat and took out our packets of home cooked food. Somehow we managed to eat (and make this guy eat) the food. He was being naughty in every way. I love him when he’s naughty, but didn’t enjoy much since we were traveling. As we finished dinner, his demanded to open the window. He wasn’t ready to accept that the window can’t be opened because he had seen windows of all trains opened. To divert his attention, I asked him if he wants to get on to the Side Upper Berth. He smiled and happily nodded his head. I thought making him sit on the top will keep him sit quietly. But he had decided to prove me wrong on every assumption. As soon as I put him on top, he started jumping and shouting loudly in all joy. He couldn’t even balance himself as the train was moving but he seemed to have got a feeling of getting into a roller coaster ride. He got the fellow passengers’ attention by imitating whatever they said. Finally, I & Shreeram slept on the upper berth and my wife, Rushali, took the lower berth as we went to sleep.
27th Jan 2011
Managing Shreeram right from morning was another task. With all God gifted patience, me & Rushali made him sit inside a compartment throughout our journey. We shifted to a Sleeper compartment from Rajkot. It is then we got a glimpse of Gujarat through the windows. As we neared Dwarka, I could see plain land on one side with shrub here and there, and Arabian Sea on the one side. The sea water came into the land during high tide which was collected and used by Salt Manufacturing companies to make salt. One could see a lot of migratory birds (some species of Cranes, I think) flocking together and gliding over the water bodies. We could also see a lot of Wind Mills lined up besides the sea shore. Sometimes, there was just land…miles and miles of it…which ended in mountains. It is then I felt earth might be flat or else there was no way I could see so much flat land.
Dwarka and nearby places were typical villages. There seemed to be an unusual sense of quietude in those places. Everything was still…the trees, water and even people. Finally we reached Krishna’s abode by 3:45 pm. Rickshaw drivers flocked towards us as we got out of the Railway Station. I was seeing the Bike-Rickshaw for the first time. I’ll mention about bike-rickshaws at a later stage.
We got into an auto and went to Gayatri Shakti Peeth, the ashram (now providing hotel accommodation) accommodation that was arranged by our Travel Consultant based out of Somnath – Raju Kakkad. On our way to the ashram, we got a good judgment of the village. Dwarka was not at all like any other pilgrimage center. There were hardly any people to be seen on the roads. Most of the shops were closed and we didn’t see any hotels or restaurants on our way. The people could be seen wearing their traditional dresses – men in their kurta, pyjama, big turbans and ear rings. Women in their Saris with typical Gujarati work of sequences and mirror chips. To me, their dressings looked similar to Rajasthani traditional wear. We could see only old structures throughout the village.
Our place of stay was around 4 kms from the Railway Station and 0.5 kms from the temple. As Rajubhai had described, the place was indeed awesome. It was just next to Arabian Sea. The beach started from the compound wall of Gayatri Shakti Peeth. In Dwarka, there are many ashrams that offer rooms to stay at very cheap rates. Our Ashram offered us rooms at just Rs.250 per night! The rooms were okay. It was neat but not luxurious. But we were quiet happy with it. The view that we got from our room was fabulous. The only problem was that hot water was available only from 6 – 8 am when they started their water boiler.
We freshened up ourselves and had shrikhand puri, courtesy – my dear wife who had carried food for two day. While we were packing our stuff at home, I wasn’t quite happy when my wife was preparing a lot of food to be taken. But when I landed in Dwarka and came to know that there are only 3 good restaurants in the place – Hotel Dwarkesh, Hotel Purushottam and some other hotel. I appreciated Rushali for her wise decision. There are food stalls offering snacks and fried items in the nearby places of the Dwarka temple. But most of them are not neat & hygienic.
After our snacks, we left for the great place – Dwarkadheesh temple. I really don’t know how to express the feeling I had when I saw the temple. I just stood there looking at it for few minutes before we got in. Any words used to describe the beauty of the place would not do complete justice in portraying the actual magnificence of the temple. The temple was filled with serenity that couldn’t be felt in most of the temples. Even though it was crowded, one can experience aloneness inside the temple. This was something totally unique about this place. Usually, I don’t enjoy going to crowded temples since I find it hard to close my eyes and pray amidst all the sound around. However, call it the magic of Krishna, this place was one of its kinds. The temple looked around 90 – 100 feet tall. There were many temples of different Gods and Goddesses inside the premises apart from the main temple of Krishna. After doing a pradakshina, we sat down outside the main temple. There were so many beautiful carvings both outside and inside the temple that one would go lost in his own world when he is admiring the beauty of it. Time flew as we sat there.
After some time, we went to the Shankaracharya Math inside the temple premises. Actually, we were planning to stay there but when we came to know that hot water was not available there, we changed our plan. We didn’t want to take many challenges in the terrible cold in Gujarat. We also got the privilege of having a satsang with one of the Swamis, who was a disciple of the main Shankaracharya Swamiji of Dwarka. We left the temple by 7:30pm in search of some place to eat. That day we didn’t know about the shortage of good restaurants and so we searched a bit and settled for Dosas by a street vendor before we went back to our hotel. We didn’t skip star gazing by sitting outside our hotel facing the vast Arabian Sea and the black sky. Shreeram also enjoyed playing in beach sand.
We woke up early morning after a good sleep only to find out that there is no hot water in the tap. It was very cold and the room was freezing with the cold winds from the sea during early morning hours. Our window was stuck for some reason and hence there was a gap of 1 cm from where the winds gushed in. I managed to take bath in the cold water. Rushali and Shreeram did some dry cleaning to their bodies. We ate bread and butter as fast as possible and got ready for the day tour in Dwarka. The car (Indica) that was arranged by our Travel Consultant (Raju Kakkad) arrived at 8 am but we managed to leave the hotel only by 8:30 am, thanks to the tantrums of Shreeram. There are buses in Dwarka that leave by 8am to show 3-4 nearby places which charge around Rs.80-100 per person. But we knew our Shreeram very well and chose to go by car so that we can stop whenever and wherever we wish. The half day tour was done in Rs.1000/-.
We went to Nageshwar temple first which is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. There was a big Statue of Shiva outside the temple. Inside the temple, I don’t know if they were priests or shopkeepers selling coconuts, flowers, lockets, idols, etc because everyone looked like a priest. As we got out, I was not happy with the Darshan and the ambience for the reason that devotion was nowhere to be seen inside the temple, it was just business. Gopi Talav was the second place of visit. Again, one of the significant places but not maintained properly.
Bet Dwarka was the final place of visit for the day tour. Bet Dwarka is on an island 5 kms off-coast Okha. It can be reached by boat. There are many boats who ferry passengers to & fro. People going in groups of around 80 people usually hire a boat and go, where they charge around Rs.15/- per person. Otherwise, they pack in around 100 passengers in a small boat and charge Rs.10/- and every passenger gets place only to stand or sit on a wooden seat that goes along the inside edge of the boat. When I saw the boat flooded with passengers, I felt like Shah Rukh sitting in a boat in the movie ‘Swades’.
Shreeram was very scared to get in a boat (like is father). But I managed to pump in some confidence in him (and in me) and we got into a boat. Our boat sailed off slowly and sailed at a slow pace. While I was wondering to whom I show pay for the tickets, I saw a man walking on the edge of the boat that was hardly one foot wide, with no support to hold on. He encircled the boat in the same fashion and sold tickets to all the passengers on-board. I was zapped as I saw this live circus.
Another beautiful sight was the Sea Gulls flying over the boats. As the passengers threw corn into the air, these birds opened their beaks and caught every single corn. After eating a few corns they flew back and started swimming on the water by paddling their small legs in the water. The water was so clean that we could see their legs paddling under the water. I caught a few snaps of the birds on my mobile.
We reached the other side, at Bet Dwarka, in 15 minutes. The voyage wasn’t as scary as I thought. The temple in Bet Dwarka was good. There was construction work going on inside the temple. Carvings were being done on pillars and walls. One could see different carvings (in a series) from the story of Bhagawatam, on the walls inside the temple. We had Darshan and returned back to our car via the same ferry. Shreeram got many Tamilian aunties as friends on the boat. He was once again successful in grabbing attention by giving his innocent looks. We bid them good-bye and got into our car to leave Okha. Beyond Okha, it’s Arabian Sea. It is almost the western-most tip of India and I was happy to have touched this place. We had been to Gulmarg, the northern-most district of India and now we were at the western-most point. How I wish if I could visit our motherland’s easternmost point too!
Our driver took us to a good restaurant (Hotel Dwarkesh) near our hotel in Dwarka where they served only Gujarati Thali & Marwadi Thali. After a lip-smacking meal, we got a good sleep. In the evening, we went to the sunset point which is around 1.5 kms away from the Dwarkadheesh temple. We also had Darshan in the main temple once again. We sat for some time in the temple compound enjoying the beauty and serenity of the place. As we came back to our hotel after having dinner at Dwarkesh Hotel and a little bit of shopping, I told our hotel manager about the hot water issue we faced in the morning. He assured me that he would ensure that his staff would start the boiler on time and we would get hot water for next day morning.
The manager kept his word and we got a nice hot water bath. Once again, bread & butter was what we could have for breakfast before we checked out of the hotel. Raju Kakkad had arranged for a car (Indica) for our road trip to Somnath (231 kms). We left in the car at 8:40 am to Somnath.
Dwarkadheesh Darshan was one of my experiences that I can never forget. While leaving Dwarka, I felt we should have stayed for a day more at least. But we had to head towards the call from Shiva and say good bye to Krishna. But I didn’t know that Natwar was waiting for me at Somnath along with Natraj!