Atlantis Who? The Glorious Past Of The Lost City Of Dwarka

History Indian History

The underwater city of Dwarka, in the westernmost tip of Gujarat, is one of India’s most ancient urban settlements. Replete with temples and archaeological sites, it is just a small glimpse of what was once one of the richest places in the world. Since the Indus Valley age, it has been a centre for pilgrimage and global trade; it was famous even to the ancient Greeks! According to mythology, the city has been submerged and rebuilt seven times, and this antiquity can be sensed just by walking around its streets.

India’s Submerged Ancient City: Dwarka- The City Of Gods

Dwarka is most famous to Indians today for being the capital of Lord Krishna. From here, he ruled over his kingdom before the sea eventually swallowed it up. However, a deep dive into literature and history reveals that this city might have been even more wondrous than the legends say.

The accounts of Dwarka from the Mahabharata and the Harivansh Purana paint a picture of an enormous city, which would surely have been a wonder for the ages. According to this description, the city had more than 900,000 buildings to house its population, interspersed with parks and pleasure gardens. Laid along a well-planned system of roads and boulevards, along each intersection, there were marketplaces and temples aplenty. To shield the people from the day’s heat, the streets were covered with silk banners, and at night millions of lamps lit the streets. The people wore luxurious silks and jewels and were famous for being unbelievably prosperous. Swans and peacocks flocked to the city, and the incense rose like clouds above it.

The centrepiece was undoubtedly Lord Krishna’s palace, which was considered a marvel even by the standards of the wondrous city. Built out of coral and sandstone, it had more than 16,000 rooms for his queens and attendants. The sight of this enormous coral palace in the middle of the city of Dwarka inspired many writers to describe it in poetic terms as the land of incense and jewels and as Mokshapuri, the city of salvation.

However, all this glory was not to last much longer. Eventually, the sea came rushing in, submerging this magnificent city under its waves. This loss of one of the great cities of ancient India became a source of enduring legend. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna himself witnesses the submergence of the city and describes the waves hammering on the shore, and the sudden inundation of the city in very evocative terms.

The disappearance of Dwarka in the Sea- in Arjuna’s words

Rediscovering the Secrets of the Lost City

For a long time, the lost city of Dwarka was considered a mere myth with no basis in historical fact. The British considered it analogous to the tale of Atlantis in the West. However, in the 1980s, archaeological explorations off the coast of Gujarat found remains of this city underwater. During strenuous dives, massive stone structures dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization were found, showing the truth behind the legends of Dwarka. Most of the structures were from 1500 BC, but some objects were dated all the way back to 7000 BC!

The huge area of the sunken city, the size of the buildings, and the grid layout of the streets all point to the veracity of the description in sacred texts. A large number of anchors found indicate that this city was a major port of the day, and trade objects such as sculptures, beads, and metal tools have also been recovered. The smoking gun is a sculpture of Lord Krishna himself, which was excavated, proving beyond doubt that this was the Dwarka of legend! These discoveries ignited a scholarly debate about the age and continuity of Indian civilization, which now seems at least a thousand years older than previously thought.

Exploring the City of the Gods Today

The modern city remains a centre of pilgrimage and tourism. The main draw is definitely the massive Dwarkadhish Jagat Mandir, which seems to rise directly from the sea. It is famous as one of the Char Dham pilgrimage spots. The Char Dham is a set of four monasteries founded by Adi Shankara himself during his travels, and each is located in a different corner of the country. Not just architecturally impressive, the Dwarkadhish Jagat Mandir is also a major centre of philosophy and scholarship and attracts students from across the world to learn about the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.

Apart from the Dwarkadhish Jagat Mandir, the city of Dwarka today is replete with many other temples and monasteries, each highly revered in its own right. Some of the important temples include the Rukmini Devi Temple, to honour Krishna’s wife; Samudra Narayan Temple, honouring the sea; Chakra Narayana Temple and Gomati Temple. Apart from these, one can also see the digs of a Harappan city on the island of Bet Dwarka and even scuba dive to see the ancient ruins of Krishna’s Dwarka! A towering lighthouse offers a panoramic view of the city. The nearby Shivrajpur beach is one of the rare few in India to have a Blue Flag Certification, marking it a premier world-class beach.

Despite mostly being associated with Vaishnavism, this city is also very important to the devotees of Lord Shiva as it also houses the Nageshvara Jyotirlinga Mandir, one of the twelve Maha Jyotirlingas where Lord Shiva appeared as an infinite and fiery pillar of light. Therefore, as you can see, one can easily spend a lifetime exploring all the temples and sacred spots in this ancient city. The Golden City of Dwarka, as mentioned in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, still continues to amaze its visitors with its religious mysticism.

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