Dwaraka:Skanda Purana in its Prabhasa Khanda describes in detail Dwaraka Dhaam’s Mahatmya. Api keetapatangaadyaah Pashavoya sarisrupaah, Vimuktaah Paapinah sarvey Dwarakaayaah prabhavatah/ Kim punarmanavaa nityam Dwarakaayaam vasantite, Yaa gatih sarva jantunaam Dwarakaa pura vaasinaam saa gatirdurlabha nyunam Muninaamuttheretasam/ Dwarakaa vaasinam drushtwaa sprushtaa chaiva viseshatah, Mahaa paapa viniirmuktaah swartga loke vasantite/ Paamsavo Dwarakaaya vai vaayunaa samudiritaah, Paapinaam muktidaah proktaah kim punardwaaraabhuvi/ (By the grace of Dwaraka, all kinds of sinners born as krimi keetakas or flies, pashu pakshis or serpents- all attain salvation; what else one has to say about those who visit or reside there and become surfeit with Bhagavan Shri Krishna’s darshan and worship! Those residents of Dwaraka should attain such kind of salvation as even illustrious Maha Munis with extraordinary control of physical organs and senses might possess!Dwaraka vasi’s darshana or sparshana or mere touch, would destroy human’s gravest sins and bestow long stay in Swarga. Even the sand flown by the wind of Dwaraka would destroy all the sins; why talk of residence in Dwaraka itself!) Such is the narration by Markandeya Maharshi in this Purana! He further describes that those persons who spend time at Lord Krishna’s idol at Dwaraka are blessed and fulfilled deserving to be saluted and prostrated to. Further those devotees of Shri Krishna have the opportunity of bathing his sacred head with milk should reap the fruits performing Ashwamedha Yagna.But those devotees who, with no return favour from the Lord, perform affectionate yet devotional bathing to him should be blessed with Moksha. After the snaana, those who dry and wipe his body with a clean cloth would have his or her past and present sins. Those after bathing and dressing up, decoration of him with a fresh fragrant flower garland while the sound of conch shell is rendered and recite his sahasra naama with faith and dedication, then each word of the ‘namaavali’ would fetch him the fruit of giving away the daana of a kapila cow per each stanza of it. Additionally the recital of Gita, Gajendra moksha, Bhishma stava,or any of the Stotras by Maharshis would have the same benefit: Yoga Shastraani Vedantaan yoginah Krishna sannidhou, Pathanti Ravi bimbam tu mithwaayaanti layam Hareyh/ Gitaa Naama shasram tu stavaraajastavanu smritih, Gajendra mokshanam chaapi Krishnasyaa staviya durlabham/ (Those Yogis reciteYoga shastra and Vedanta in the presence of Krishna shall break the barriers of Surya mandala and enter right into Vishnu Dhaam. The Five Maha Stotras viz. Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Vishnu Sahasra naama, Bhishma Stava Raja, Anusmriti and Gajendra Moksha are indeed the dearmost Stotras of Bhagavan Shri Krishna.As briefly narrated the Mahatmya of Dwaraka from Skanda Purana, the basic and immediate cause for Lord Krishna headed by Yadavas is explained in Maha Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana , Maha Bharata etc. Maha Bhagavata describes as folows: Pursuant to the termination of Kamsa, the tyrant King of Mathura -who had the discredit of imprisoning his own father Ugrasena out of ill justified ambition as well as his own sister Devaki and brother in law Vasudeva out of fear that their son Krishna,yet unborn might kill him- the two Queens of Kamsa, named Asti and Prapti, approached their father Jarasandha the evil Monarch of Magadha. Jarasandha attacked Mathurawith some twenty three ‘akshouhinies’of infantry, cavalry and elephantry and challenged Krishna and Balarama. But as Krishna was to fight with massive opponents even with a minor number of Army basically with Kamsa’s carry-forward loyalties, he called for his (Vishnu’s) Saaranaga Dhanush with limitless arrows or his mace/ gada named Koumidi while Balarama’s Hala or Plough and Musala. Thus Jarasandha despite his huge Army was no match and ran away from the battle. But he regrouped and strengthened his army again and again, each time getting routed. There were such attacks by some seventeen times. When Jarasandha was expected to attack for the eighteenth time, his allies viz, the alien mleccha forces called Yavanas headed by Kalayavana attacked Mathura with a massive thirty million barbarians of desperation and cruelty. Then Krishna and Balarama calculated that no doubt they could face the combined Army of Jarasandha and Kalayavana too but discretion being the better part of valour, especially since Yadava Army should not be hurt at all even in small number, they thought of a Master Stroke: one to eliminate Kalayavana by tricking him and another to shift their Capital of Yadavas from Mathura to Dwaraka. They planned to build a new Capital City named Dwaraka on the West Coast , a modern City with 12 gates and all amenities and asked Vishwakarma, the Architect-cum-Builder ; the latter created a beautiful and well structured fortress touching the western Sea. By means of His mystic Yoga Maya or the power of Illusion, the citizens of Mathura got transferred lock-stock and barrel, over night to Dwaraka and found themselves in their own luxurious Palaces. Even as Balarama was defending Mathura, Lord Krishna attracted the attention of Kalayavana, passing singly by foot, by the main gate of Mathra; Kalayavana followed Krishna closely but always unreachable with some distance apart and led the Mleccha into a Mountain Cave. Thinking that Krishna known for his tricks had himself assumed a new form as an old and haggardly man inside the dark cave kicked him forcefully as the old man was fast asleep. Indeed, the old man was none other than Muchukunda, the son of Mandhata of Ishvaaku dynasty. He was the defender of Demi- Gods from Daityas for long in TretaYuga and Lord Kartikeya the Commander-in-Chief appreciated Muchukunda’s efforts and granted him rest and sleep till Lord Vishnu Himself as his Avatara named Krishna would bless him at a later date in Dwapara Yuga. As Kalayavana forcibly kicked Muchukunda, the former burnt off Kalayavana by his angry looks and realised Krishna as his Saviour when Krishna instructed Muchukunda to perform Tapasya. Thus Krishna got rid of Kalayavana even all the Mathura resident Yadavas got nicely transported to their new Capital Dwaraka! Incidentally, Jarasandha finally got killed by Bhimasena, thanks to Krishna’s finger-sign advice to Bhima to tear Jarasandha’s body into two and throw the two parts apart topse-turvey; after Bhima killed Jarasandha some thousands of Kings defeated in wars besides countless youthful girls kidnapped were liberated. Skanda Purana prescribes the method of Yatra to Dwaraka Dhaam; after satisfying with wholesome meals to good Vaishnava Bhaktas, the yatris need to sleep on the ground peacefully observing Celibacy and while travelling keep reciting Vishnu Sahasra naama, Purusha Sukta, Shrimad Bhagavatam etc. Then having taken bath in Gomati Nadi, Chakra Tirtha etc. enter the Dham with extreme devotion and total faith.The then Dwaraka township got drowned in the Sea anyway as soon as Lord Krishna disappeared and assiduous researches over considerable time reveal- though contradictory- that the ancient Dwaraka is perhaps under Arabian Sea at Kathiawad. The newly constructed Dwaraka- some 450 km from Ahmedabad- is stated to be on the banks of Gomati River but one version is that this is not Gomati but an extended body of Sea water, and that is why some call Dwaraka as Gomati Mukha where nine ghats have been constructed viz. Sangama Ghat, Narayana Ghat, Vaasudeva Ghat, Go ghat, Parvati ghat, Pandava ghat,Brahma ghat, Suravana ghat and Sarkari ghat. The Main Mandir called Dwarakaadheesh ( also called Ranchodrai Mandir but one of the devotees was stated to have transferred the earlier Shama Sundara Chaturbhuja Murti took it away to Dhakor and another similar Murti appeared in a Well at a Ladwa village and thus got replaced here); this Mandir is said to have been built in 6th or 7th century. As it stands now has a shikhar height of 170 ft. its entry gate named Swarga Dwar and exit gate as Moksha Dwaar. Besides other Mandirs around Dwarakaadheesha Main Mandir, near Moksha dwaar there is Kusheswar Shiva Mandir which is significant as the legend prescribes that in case the Yatris not obtaining the Darshan of Kusheswara Linga, half of the Dwaraka Yatra Phala is taken away by Daityas.Sharada Mandir is another highlight of Dwaraka as Adi Shankaracharya established one of the Main Peethas as at Puri, Badari, Shringeri and Kanchi.
Bet (Island) Dwaraka/ Shankho dwar: is some 15 km from Dwaraka which in the past was a full-fledged Port before the development of Ohka Port. On way from Dwaraka to the Bet is the famed Rukmini Devi Mandir some 2 km near the Main Temple stated to have been built in the 12 th century. In the ‘Bet’ itself is the old Shamkho Narayan Mandir and the Idols of the Queens of the Lord viz. Lakshmi, Radha, Satyabhama and Jambavati. Shri Krishna Mahal also earlier called Pradyumna Mandir, besides Rancchod and Trivikrama Mandir are ther too on the Bet. In fact, there are Shivalayas, Vaishnava Temples, Hanuman and Devi Mandirs are scattered all over. The well known Gopi Talaab is nearby where Gopikas were stated to bathe often.
Nageshwara Jyotir Linga: Not distant from Bet Dwara is Nageshwar Jyotir Linga, while there have been claims on the location of this specific Jyotir Linga at Jageshwar Daruva vana near Nainital in Kumaon region as also on Naganatha in Maharashtra. In any case, the legendary background of Nageshwara Linga is as follows: A demon couple named Daruka and Daruki secured a boon from Devi Parvati that wherever they moved about they would carry forests with them; they then got into the habit of destroying Yagnas and all spiritual tasks and there were loud protests from Brahmanas who approached Sage Ourva. The Muni cursed the demons that they would not survive any where on earth. The demons then moved into the Sea and resorted to harass sailors in ships on high Seas by resorting to pirating activities. One of the prisoners on a ship named Supriya a Vaishya and an ardent devotee of Shiva was along with co-accused associates sentenced by a King and was sailing off to another destination of the ship. Supriya was indeed innocent and made sincere prayers to the Lord who not only killed the Demon-Pirates but got pardoned by the King for mistaken identity of the offenders.Even in the prisoner cell while during the ecsatatic worship and stotras, there was a Swayambhu Shiva Linga manifested. Commemorating this joyous moment the released Supriya and associates installed a swayambhu Nageshwara Linga on the Sea coast itself at Bet Dwaraka since got popular as a Maha Jyotir Nageshwara Linga. Shiva Purana states: Etad yayh shrunuyaannityam Nageshodbhavamaadaraat, Sarvan kaamaaniyaad dheeman maha pataka naasha- naan/ (Whoever listens this account of how this Swayambhu Nageshwara Linga got manifested on its own faithfully, they would most certainly attain fulfillment of their desires and have their gravest sins uprooted.). Stated to have been originally consecreted during the early Kayuga, the Jyotir Linga Mandir has been renovated anew recently and is well maintianed. It is inside a spacious hall supported by eight pillars and the Jyotir Linga is located underneath the ground level. The Sanctum or the ‘Garhha sthana’ is distinct although the Linga is visible from outside. Opposite the Linga is overseen by Nandi Deva outside the Sanctum, although there is a separate Mandir in the rear side of the Garbha for Nandikeshwara. The Linga is small in stature of some 40cm height and 30cm dia.Devotees are allowed to touch and perform Abisheka by Rudra Mantras by themselves. The Jyorir Linga looks South from its original direction since there was the background story of once Maha Bhakta of Vitthal at Pandaripura of Maharashtra visited the Linga and started bhajan along with his disciples rather loudly in ecstacy and this caused disturbance to the ‘Namaka-Chamaka Mantra paaraayana’ by the Temple priests who objected as he was facing right before the Linga and forced hin to carry on the bhajan behind the Linga. But as though in response to the heartfelt bhajan singing of Namdeva, the Linga faced him and turned into the opposite direction eversince. It is stated that live serpents surround the Maha Linga and play around in the nights when the Mandir is closed; as a standing proof milk in cups is stated to remain empty over the night inside the locked out gates. Nagas or serpents symbolise the nerve system of human body and Naganatha indicates the Sushumna Nadi which constitutes the energy channel of human spine. The vital power of Kundalini which is latent and dormant in the Muladhara Chakra at the bottom of the vertebral cloumn named Naganatha and snake like Kundalini Shakti resembles the splendour of the Soul which is Bhagavan Shiva himself this the Jyotir Linga symbolises spiritual splendour. The same explanation is applicable to the other Nageshwara/Naga naatha Jyotir Linga claims elsewhere too! There is a huge Shiva Idol in the outside area of the Sanctum as though beckoning the Yatris to enter the Mandir for Salvation!
Porbandar/ Sudama Puri: Besides being the Janmabhumi or birth place of Mahatma Gandhi the Father of the Nation affectionately known as ‘Bapu’ in the memory of whom Porbandar is rightly proud of, the latter has the legendary fame for being the Sudama puri and a Mandir in the precincts of Porbandar in the Gardens of Rana Sahib is present with the Pratimas of Sudama and his wife were installed. Maha Bhagavata Purana describes the genuine marvel as to why, when and how the Supreme Power of Universe would reach out everywhere and anywhere to motivate actions of each particle to act or not to act. Suka Muni narrated a Story to King Parikshit when the latter got a curse from Muni’s son that a flying snake would kill the King within a week’s time, since the King felt humiliated as the Muni did not welcome him when he entered the Muni’s Ashram; the King picked up a dead snake and ‘garlanded’ around the Muni’s neck in deep Tapasya and as the Muni’s son on return found this ugly sight, he gave the ‘shaap’. King Parikshith had a genuine marvel as to why, when and how the Supreme Power of Universe reaches out everywhere and anywhere to motivate the actions of each particle of Creation critically and objectively. Hereagain, the motive force of the ‘particle’ to act or not to act is provided by the Supreme Force Itself! In reply, Suka Muni narrated a story to exemplify as to how, each action of an entity is conditioned by the Supreme Force and why the entity concerned recieves its reward or punishment as the case might be. A boyhood friend of Krishna , named Sudama was a poverty stricken Brahmana with genuine vedic knoweldge and piety and his faithful wife had for years dinned into his ears that he should call on the famed Ruler of Bhojas, Vrishnis and Andhakas at Dwaraka, viz. Krishna who was also popular for His actions of charity. When extreme poverty hurt him so much that it ignored false notions of shyness or shame, one day Sudama decided to visit Krishna finally.His wife borrowed a fistful of flat rice from neighbours that was hidden in a dirty cloth. In the City of Dwaraka, Sudama felt it was impossible to reach Krishna, but the latter found Sudama easily and took him home.Krishna and Rukmini- God and Goddess Lakshmi-provided a dreamlike treat of services to him, which by itself was tantamount to abundant Spiritual Bliss. Krishna took away forcefully the dirty cloth hidden with the handful of flat rice as a gift to the Lord who ate half but Rukmini prevented eating the second half, presumably concerned of exceeding the benediction contemplated. Barring the display of friendship and exchange of nostalgic memories, Sudama returned back with empty hands and on way back felt satisfied fully with the experience, although was apprehensive of his wife’s possible reaction that he missed a golden opportunity! On reaching his home, Sudama was taken aback at the miracle that his wretched hut was transformed into a fulfledged Palace with heavenly luxuries! Muni Suka’s explanation that the story of Sudama amply clarified the motivation of Super Force for every action. His extreme poverty would have been a result of his previous karma or action, his piety and high dedication to Almighty was his action, and the end result was a fruit of his action too; in all these cases the subtle motivation was received by Almighty and none else.In the vast expanse of the Sudama Mandir are the smaller Mandirs of Jagannatha, Bilweswar Mandir, Gayatri Mandir, Hingalaj Bhavani Mandir and Girdhari nath Mandir too. There is also Kedarnath Kund where yatris perform snaanas. Among the other Tirhas some distances away from Porbandar are Mula Dwaraka, Harshad Devi or Hara siddhi Mandir, Madhava Tirtha and Kamitela.
Somanath-Prabhasa Kshetra: Maha Shiva Purana in Koti Rudra chapter extols the Mahatmya of Somanatha Jyotirlinga: Somalingam Naro drushtaa sarva paapat pramuchyate, Labdghwaa phalam manobheeshtam mritah Swargam samihate/ Yadyad phalam sanmuddhishya kurute Teerthamuttamam tathat phalamavapnoti sarvathaa naatra samshayah/Prabhaasamcha pariikrutya Prithvi krama sambhavam, Phalam prapnoti shuddhatmaa mritah swarge mahiyate/ (By merely visioning the Somnatha Maha Jyotirlinga, Bhaktas are able to destroy their sins instantly and having attained their deaths do qualify for Swarga Papti. Those yatris who have a definite objective to fulfill as a fall out of their yatras would indeed fructify their wishes without any doubt. On concluding a Parikrama of the Prabhasa yatra, especially of Somnatha Jyotirlinga darshana and worship reap the fruits of Prithvi Parikrama and on the termination of their lives shall undoubtedly reach heavens.) This Jyotirlinga in Prabhasa Kshetra at Somnath is the Center of the Lakulisha Pashpata Shaivaites. It at this Place only that Jara named hunter hit his arrow at Lord Krishna’s foot and hence this Sacred Kshetra is therefore considered as a Maha Tirtha. This Place is called Veravala, Somnath paatan and Prabhasa. Unfortunately, this Somnath Mandir being a very prosperous and rich Place and very popular over ages became the target of plundering by the alien Rulers several times right from Muhammad Ghazani times and witnessed series of destructions and reconstructions; the latest reconstruction on the ruins of the earlier ones was at the instance of Sardar Vallabhai Patel who was the Deputy Prime Minister of Free India. The specific part of the Mandir on Ocean banks touching the Mandir is called Agni Kunda but of late bathing is disallowed in view of several yatris doing so are reported missing. Linga Abhishekas are performed by Yatris in organised groups. In the morrning, afternoon and evening timings, the Temple rings with the chantings of Namaka-Chamaka Parayana choruses of pandits and the atmosphere is charged in surfiet with the thoughts and expressions of Maha Deva among the crowds. On one side of the new constructin of Somnatha Linga are the depictions of all the Dwadasha Jyotirlingas are installed with descriptions all over Bharat in picturesque greenery. In none distant area the original Somnath Maha Shiva Linga is literally under ground called Ahalyabai’s Mandir which is a few meters away from the new Mandir and is partly dark and the Linga is surrounded by Murtis of Devi Parawati, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganga and Nandi. Nearby the Ahalya Mandir are the Temples of Maha Kaali, Ganesha and Daitya Sudan Vishnu. At the Nagar Dwaar, Gauri Kund is a Sarovara. Praachi Triveni is the merger point of three rivers named Hiranya, Saraswati and Kapila merging further with the Sea. A little distance away from the Prachi Triveni are a Surya Mandir, and within a cave are Hingalaja Bhavani and Siddha naath Mandirs. Another Bala Rama Mandir and a Peepul Tree and the legend states that Bala Rama Deva assumed Sesha Swarupa and left for Patala ahter the decimation of Yadava Kula. Bhalak Tirtha is popular for the Moksha Peepul Tree under which is stated that Jara the Hunter shot an arrow on Lord Krishna’s foot and caused Krishna Niryana. Somnath Mandir is noted for its legendary backgound: Prajapati Daksha and his wife Prasuti had sixty daughters ten of whom were given in charity to Dhama, seventeen to Kashyapa Muni, twenty seven to Chandra Deva and two each to Rishis Angira, Krasaswa and Bhuta. Chandra Deva had extreme infatuation for Rohini Devi and neglected others. Daksha warned Chandra several times and finally gave a shaap / curse that the latter would cease to be bright and become dark for ever. Chandra appealed to Brahma but to no avail. Then finally Chandra Deva performed extreme Tapasya to Maha Deva who called the aggrieved parties viz. Daksha and Brahma in the presence of Chandra and sorted out the problem with a compromise that Chandra would henceforth become brighter day by day during one fortnight of each month ie. during Shukla Paksha and like wise get darker by the day in another fortnight of each month called Krishna Paksha. He also blessed Chandra to be near to him and Devi Parvati, at least in a semi-form. He further blessed Chandra Deva to let the Universe be aware that Maha Deva be designated as Somashekhara and even a mere touch of any Shiva Linga would demolish all physical ailments prone to humanity like tuberculosis and leprosy that Chadra causes. Maha Deva was so further pleased with Chandra’s tapasya that a waterbody near the Swayambhu Jyortir Linga to be named Chandra Kund would for sure provide total immunity from all kinds of sins to all who bathe in it.