Dwarka, also known as Dvaraka, is an ancient city steeped in mythology and historical significance. It is widely believed to be the legendary city of Lord Krishna, a prominent figure in Hindu mythology. According to ancient texts such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas, Dwarka was the capital of Krishna’s kingdom and an important centre of trade and culture.
Often referred to as the “Golden City” or “City of Lord Krishna,” Dwarka stands as a testament to the confluence of human ingenuity, spirituality and the inexorable forces of time and nature.
The story of Dwarka can be traced back to the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. In the epic, Krishna is described as a divine prince and a central character who played a crucial role in the great Kurukshetra War. After the war, Krishna ruled over the prosperous kingdom of Dwarka, which was said to be a magnificent city built on the western coast of India.
As per the ancient tales, Dwarka became the abode of Lord Krishna following his triumphant defeat and demise of his uncle, Kamsa, in Mathura. It is believed that Krishna governed his kingdom from Dwarka while also residing with his family in Bet Dwarka, also known as Shankhodhar. This inhabited island is positioned at the entrance of the Gulf of Kutch, located 25 kilometres to the north of the city of Dwarka.
According to the scriptures, Dwarka was a marvel of architecture and engineering. It was described as a city adorned with palaces made of gold, silver and precious stones. The streets of Dwarka were lined with magnificent gardens, exquisite temples and opulent mansions. The city was said to be surrounded by high walls and protected by mighty warriors, making it virtually impenetrable.
However, the grandeur of Dwarka was not destined to last forever. According to ancient texts, after the departure of Lord Krishna from Earth, the city faced its inevitable downfall. It is believed that Bet Dwarka was submerged in the Arabian Sea due to catastrophic floods and natural calamities, eventually becoming a lost city.
The legend of Dwarka remained confined to ancient scriptures and mythological tales until recent times when archaeological evidence was discovered. The Archaeological Survey of India has conducted comprehensive archaeological investigations at Dwarka. The investigation of its submerged portion was initiated during the 1930s, with the first archaeological excavation occurring in 1963.
Between 1983 and 1990, the Marine Archaeology Unit affiliated with India’s National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) conducted a series of underwater excavations in Dwarka and Bet Dwarka. Dr S. R. Rao, a renowned Indian archaeologist, led an offshore survey in search of indications of the sunken city, followed by a comprehensive excavation in 2007. He found it plausible to deduce that this sunken city corresponds to the legendary Dvaraka as recounted in the Mahabharata.
The archaeological findings provided valuable insights into the existence of Dwarka and its possible connection to Lord Krishna. The discoveries included stone blocks, pillars, irrigation systems, ancient artefacts, pottery, sculptures and remnants of an ancient city wall, however, the exact age of these findings is still being debated. These findings suggested that Dwarka was indeed a prosperous and advanced city that existed during the ancient period.
Simultaneously, a multitude of triangular stone anchors were retrieved from the same depth. This abundance of anchors, coupled with the extensive submerged area of the city, strongly suggests that Dwarka may have played a pivotal role in trade relations between India and the Arabian regions during the 15th to 18th centuries. This ancient port city likely served as a gateway or entrance point for foreign sailors arriving in India, as indicated by the Sanskrit term ‘Dwarka,’ meaning ‘door’ or ‘gate.’
The Modern Dwarka
Today, Dwarka remains a place of pilgrimage and a revered site for devotees of Lord Krishna. The present-day city of Dwarka in Gujarat, India, strategically positioned at the confluence of the Gomti River and the Arabian Sea, is considered to be the modern-day representation of the legendary lost city Bet Dwarka. It attracts thousands of visitors who come to explore the ancient ruins and seek spiritual solace.
Dwarka is widely recognized as a sacred city, largely owing to the presence of the Dwarkadheesh Temple. This temple occupies a position of immense reverence in Hinduism, and it holds the distinction of being one of the four holiest Char Dham sites. These Char Dham sites, which also include Rameswaram, Badrinath and Puri, were founded by the revered philosopher and theologian Adi Shankaracharya (686–717 CE) at the four corners of the Indian subcontinent. These sites have since been central pilgrimage destinations for Hindus, drawing devotees from far and wide.
Dwarka remains a conundrum that straddles the boundaries of history and mythology. Its submerged remains and the tales of its glorious past continue to beckon researchers, archaeologists and spiritual seekers alike. As explorations unveil its hidden treasures and scholars decipher its historical context, Dwarka stands as a timeless enigma—a city that thrives in the collective imagination of humanity, inviting us to unravel the mysteries it holds beneath the waves.
Certainly, with increased financial resources and the utilization of advanced, cutting-edge technology, the ongoing excavation of Dwarka holds the promise of uncovering a plethora of previously unknown historical insights. These discoveries have the potential to significantly enrich our understanding of India’s history, fostering a more comprehensive and nuanced perspective on the nation’s past.
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