A spiritual tour of the famous Krishna temples of Gujarat is not only interesting because of the various legends associated with them but also for the opportunity they present to see the unfolding of traditional rituals being performed for centuries.
One of Gujarat’s most popular tourist destinations, Dwarka is located on the tip of the Saurashtra peninsula, on the shores of the Arabian Sea. Round the year, pilgrims flock to the 16th century Dwarkadhish Temple (also known as Jagat Mandir) located in the heart of the town. There are many legends surrounding why Krishna settled in Dwarka. It is also popular as one of the Char Dham (four holy spots) associated with the worship of Vishnu; according to popular belief, Vishnu takes his bath at Rameswaram, meditates at Badrinath, dines at Puri and retires at Dwarka.
Interestingly, one of the events described in the mythologies — that the old city was submerged in the sea — has been vindicated by excavations made by the Archaeological Survey of India that found remains of an old fort and other artefacts pointing to the existence of an old city. Other attractions in Dwarka include the Gomti Ghat and Temple, Samudranarayan Temple, Rukmini Temple (Rukmini was the chief consort of Krishna), the Lighthouse, etc. The Dwarka beach attracts a lot of visitors during sunset. Dwarka is on the Ahmedabad-Okha rail route while Jamnagar, about 140 km away, is the nearest airport.
According to legends, Beyt Dwarka, an island on the Arabian Sea, was the original abode of Krishna and his wife Rukmini. To reach Beyt Dwarka, you have to travel by rail or road (about 30km) to Okha, from where you have to take a local ferry to the island. The regular ferry is cheap but the overcrowding may seem daunting. You may hire a boat to yourself or share it with a few people but it can be a costly ride. From the jetty at Beyt Dwarka, the temple is about 15 minutes’ walk away, and the way littered with cow dung. Hand-carts (chargeable) are sometime available to carry elderly passengers to the temple.
Dakor, around 40km by road from Anand, is famous for its mid-18th century Krishna temple dedicated to Ranchhodrai. The main temple is situated on a platform in the middle of a sprawling complex. The main cupola reflects the Maharashtrian style of temple architecture. Paintings depicting the various events in Lord Krishna’s life can be seen on the inner walls of the main hall. On festive days, the hands of the four-armed idol are covered with golden gloves studded with gems. The temple remains open from 6am-12 noon and 4pm-7pm daily (but timings may vary on festive days).The temple dedicated to the god’s consort, Lakshmi, is situated some distance away. Every Friday, the god goes out in a procession to visit her. Dakor can be easily reached by road from the nearest rail stations of Nadiad and Anand as well as from the nearest airport in Vadodara (80km by road) and Ahmedabad (90km).
There are several legends associated with this Krishna temple located on the bank of the Meshwo River, around 130km from Ahmedabad. The presiding deity is known as Sakshi Gopal (not to be confused with Sakshi Gopal of Odisha) or Gadadhar. The walls of the two-storied temple is engraved with tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Travellers often combine a visit to the Gir National Park of Gujarat with a trip to Tulsi-Shyam, located inside the forest. The black stone idol is said to be very old. There is a sulphur spring near the temple and local people trust its curative powers.
Located between Veraval and Somnath, Bhalka Tirtha marks the spot where Lord Krishna was mortally wounded. According to legends, the god was sitting on the branch of a tree and a passing hunter mistook his foot for a bird and shot an arrow at it. The temple is known as Mahaprabhuji’s bethak. The place where he died is known as Dehotsarg.