The Bet Dwarka Story – a mystical mix of fact & fiction

"It is not just a myth that the Bet Dwarka temple was actually Krishna's home. There is evidence pointing to it - like the recent discovery of the Bet Dwarka underwater city and the various historical digs on the island itself. The is definitely plenty more to the Bet Dwarka story" 

I have been digging into the mysterious finds around this tiny island off the coast of modern-day Dwarka city. In fact, the Bet Dwarka underwater city is one of the top dives that I have added to my scuba diving bucket list. Sadly, I have not been able to fulfill that one over my last visit but I did manage to see the famous Bet Dwarka temple and listen to the real tales of this inhabited isle of Gujarat.

Getting to Bet Dwarka by a ferry from Okha
Getting to Bet Dwarka by a ferry from Okha

About Bet Dwarka island

Bet Dwarka (Beyt Dwarka) is also, called Shankhodhar and is an important pilgrimage destination near Okha in Gujarat. It is an island around 30 km from the present-day city of Dwarka and is technically in the Gulf of Kutch. It isn’t just renowned for the Bet Dwarka temple. The isle also, has two important Dargahs, one Gurudwara and a Hanuman temple.

The Bet Dwarka story – its history & legends

What is the difference between Dwarka and Bet Dwarka?

Geographically, one would say that Dwarka city is on the mainland while Bet Dwarka is on an island. Mythologically, Dwarka was where the ruling palace of Lord Krishna was while Bet Dwarka was the location of his residential palace. The island is considered to be the place where Krishna got a gift (Bet) from his childhood friend Sudama. As per the legend, Sudama and Sri Krishna studied in the same gurukul as children. While Krishna became the royal leader of Yadavas, Sudama remained a poor Brahmin. His poverty had reached a low and that is when decided to visit his friend Krishna – hoping that he will help him.

The Bet Dwarka story of Krishna and Sudama
The Bet Dwarka story of Krishna and Sudama Image Credits: Hira Lal – Nathdwara, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As a gift, all he could afford were the last few grains of rice. He scraped those and gave them to Krishna – who welcomed him with warmth and honor. Sudama felt so blessed with the reception that he refrained from asking for any help. However, when returned back home, he discovered that Krishna had already sent help. His humble hut was now a mansion.

Bet Dwarka is said to have been mentioned as the Antardvip in Mahabharata. It is believed that after Krishna died, a part of the island as well as the town sunk into the ocean. There are also, tales of the Yadava clan crossing between the Dwarka city and the island on boats. In the later centuries, Beyt Dwarka was a part of the Gaekwad kingdom, who only lost it once in the 1857 revolt to the Vaghers but then, got it back from them. Post-independence, Bet Dwarka became a part of Saurashtra and even today, remains so.

Archaeological finds and the famous Bet Dwarka underwater city

The Bet Dwarka story might seem like fiction – especially the mythological part of it being Krishna’s abode. That is until you visit or read about the archaeological finds on the island. Several artifacts including pottery and coins have been unearthed here and quite a few of them date back to the Harappan age. There are a few that even belong to the Mauryan empire.

If that is not enough for you to start believing in the fiction, then here is more. Sometime in the 1980s, remains of a lost city were found underwater near Bet Dwarka. These not just include artifacts but also a wall that has been dated back to 1500 BC. While it is not clear that these might have been a part of Krishna’s era, they sure do add back to the legend of Bet Dwarka.

Besides the Bet Dwarka underwater city, there are numerous shipwrecks around the island that seem to point to trade relations with the Romans. Clearly, Bet Dwarka was much more back then than it is now.

So, now you know what I meant by saying that the Beyt Dwarka story is a mystical mix of fact and fiction! The best part of it all – you can see this story when you head to the island.

What can you do in Bet Dwarka?

Besides attempting to discern the difference between history and reality, there is plenty of other things to do in Bet Dwarka. The tiny island has a delightful local culture that spans the indigenous Rabaris to the Muslim fishermen who have long made this island their home. The pretty Bet Dwarka beaches make a relaxing outing and for the adventure enthusiast, you have a wet, wild activity waiting for you. Here is a complete list –

Visit the Bet Dwarka temple

The Bet Dwarka Temple - an important pilgrimage place for the Hindus
The Bet Dwarka Temple – an important pilgrimage place for the Hindus

The Bet Dwarka temple is the reason why this island is so revered. The Krishna temple is considered to be the original residence of the Lord. Here too, is called the Dwarkadhish temple but unlike the mainland namesake, this one is fairly simple and devoid of the usual ornamentation. There is no elaborate shikhara (roof) nor carved walls. In fact, some parts of it are in ruins.

In my earlier post on the main Jagat temple in Dwarka, I had explained how the temple complex had multiple shrines attributed to the various members of Lord Krishna’s family. The complex was designed to resemble his palace. Quite similarly, this Bet Dwarka temple has multiple shrines for the important members of the royal family of Dwarka.

Sri Krishna temple on Beyt Dwarka Island

The Krishna temple at Beyt Dwarka
The Krishna temple at Beyt Dwarka

The idol that resides in this main shrine is said to have been made by Rukmini – Sri Krishna’s main queen and wife. She is said to have made this over 5000 years ago, after his death. 500 years ago, this idol was established in its present spot by a renowned philosopher – Vallabhacharya. It is believed that this spot is where the original residence of Sri Krishna was on Bet Dwarka.

Quite like the rituals in the Jagat temple, there are numerous poojas and aartis performed throughout the day in this temple. The idol of Sri Krishna is dressed for various occasions – like his bedtime, playtime, time that he leaves for Dwarka etc. His life is re-created through elaborate scenes in the shrine.

An interesting ritual surrounding this Krishna shrine is that one can offer rice to the Lord. This goes back to the original Bet Dwarka story where his friend Sudama offered rice to him as his gift. It is believed that by doing so, one gets rewarded in the same manner as Krishna rewarded his friend. 

Shrines of Krishna’s Queens

Krishna had over 1000 wives. The current temple complex has shrines for three of his most important queens – Rukmini, Jambavati and Satyabhama. Besides these queens, there is one separate structure and temple dedicated to Radha.

Radha-Krishna - an everlasting love story
Radha-Krishna – an everlasting love story Image Credits: Pixabay

The Radha temple is called Golak Mata temple and though she was never really, a queen – she is always worshipped like one. The temple itself is outside the circle of shrines in the main Krishna temple. This is to depict how she remained important to Lord Krishna though she never did reside with him.

Devaki Temple

An important shrine in the Krishna temple of Bet Dwarka is the one dedicated to his birth mother. It is right opposite to the main Krishna temple as it is believed Lord Krishna liked to open his eyes and see his mother in the morning.

Amba Mata Temple

Amba Mata was the kuldevi or the family deity of the royal Yadavas. She was worshipped by Sri Krishna and his family. Her shrine is a small courtyard in the complex and this is where you can sign up for the rice donation. This is also, where a Pandit in the Bet Dwarka Krishna temple will share the story of Sudama and Krishna. It was he who told us that this part of the temple was the oldest original part of the Bet Dwarka temple.

There are various other shrines that are dedicated to Krishna’s family like that of Balrama – his eldest brother and his son -Pradyuman. There is one even meant for his celestial vehicle -Garuda. The story of Bet Dwarka includes him in a significant way – apparently, Krishna used Garuda to travel between his ruling capital Dwarka and Bet Dwarka.

Re-live the Bet Dwarka history at the Sona ni Dwarka

The latest attraction on Beyt Dwarka - Sona ni Dwarka
The latest attraction on Beyt Dwarka – Sona ni Dwarka

Recently constructed, Sona ni Dwarka (Golden Dwarka) showcases what might have been the glorious past of Bet Dwarka. The legendary city is said to have beautiful palaces separated by stunning gardens and wide-open streets connected them. The museum attepts to depict life as was back then. There are scenes reconstructed from the Mahabharat and Lord Krishna’s life.

Head to Bet Dwarka Hanuman Dandi Mandir

Another interesting story in Bet Dwarka is that of Lord Hanuman. It is said that this was the place where he met his son Makardhwaja for the first time. Those familiar with Hanuman would know that he never really married. I was a little puzzled myself until I heard of how Makardhwaja was born. It is said that a drop of Hanuman’s sweat was swallowed by a fish here and thus, his son was born. 😊

Hanuman Temple on Bet Dwarka island
Hanuman Temple on Bet Dwarka island Image Credits: Sunilk via Wikimedia Commons

A small temple signifying the meeting of father and son exists on Bet Dwarka island. The temple is surrounded by numerous yagna kunds and within the shrine, you will find idols of both father and son.

Close to the temple is a lovely beach called the Hanuman Dandi beach. You can visit the same when you head to the temple.

Discover the medley of cultures on Bet Dwarka

Besides the two significant Hindu temples, the tiny island is home to a Gurudwara and two Dargahs. These three religious places are open to all. The Bet Dwarka Gurudwara was set up by Bhai Mohkam Singh, who was born here. The saint was one of the Panj Pyare of Guru Gobind Singh and thus, this Gurudwara is considered to be very auspicious by the Sikhs.

The two dargahs that exist on the island are the Sidi Bawa peer dargah and the Haji Kirmai Dargah – which are widely used by the Muslim population on the island

Mirabai - an ardent devotee of Sri Krishna
Mirabai – an ardent devotee of Sri Krishna Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Besides the Krishna temple, the Keshavrai ji Mandir and the Hanuman temple, you can also visit two others – one is dedicated to Mirabai and the other is Abhaya Mata temple. The Abhaya Mata temple is close to the beaches while the Mirabai one is along the lanes of Bet Dwarka. Mirabai samadhi is a dedication to the Jodhpur princess who is believed to have merged with Lord Krishna. The only remains that were left of her was a part of her sari.

Stop by at the Shankh Sarovar

Shankhs - the reason I thought Bet Dwarka was called Shankhodhar
Shankhs – the reason I thought Bet Dwarka was called Shankhodhar

Another interesting story of Bet Dwarka was told to me by the Pandit in the Krishna temple. I knew that the island was called Shankhodhar but I assumed that was largely owing to the conch shells (Shankh) that are found around the isle. (Oops, did I give away another tale about why Bet Dwarka was called Shankhodhar?)

The pandit actually told me that the name comes from the incident where Lord Krishna slew an evil demon by the name Shankasur. This apparently, took place around a small pond called Shankh Sarovar. The pond still exists but I could not head out to see it . Possibly with luck, you might be able to stop over and check it out for yourselves.

Near the Shankh Sarovar is another Krishna temple called the Keshavraiji Temple – another place that you can quickly hop over to.

Find Dunny Point

You went all the way to Beyt Dwarka and you did not go to Dunny Point?” – exclaimed a cousin when I told him that I was short of time and had to miss this place. As if I weren’t already feeling bad, this statement made me miserable. I suggest you include this Bet Dwarka beach in your itinerary for this island – lest you end up feeling like me.

Caught this from a distance but goes to show how clear the Bet Dwarka water is
Caught this from a distance but goes to show how clear the Bet Dwarka water is

Dunny point is a narrow strip of land that is surrounded by sea on its three sides. Apparently, the beach is pristine and a perfect place to watch marine life, right from its surface. If you are lucky, you will even see dolphins. You can enjoy some beach volleyball or go snorkeling. There are several campsites available here for a stay – which also, makes it a perfect sunrise point.

Go scuba diving at Bet Dwarka

That is me - scuba diving in Netrani. Wish I could have done this in Dwarka
That is me – scuba diving in Netrani. Wish I could have done this in Dwarka

Boo hoo! Again something I hoped to do but since I was suppose to fly back the next day, I had to give it a miss. I would have loved to get a glimpse of the underwater city of Dwarka and if not that, at least some of those shipwrecks that everyone talks of. Scuba diving in Bet Dwarka allows you to not just see the historical part of the island but also, its diverse marine life. Whale sharks, turtles and dolphins are pretty common sightings. The coral reefs here are apparently, pretty colorful too.

Shop for conch shells

Shop selling pooja items and shells on Bet Dwarka
Shop selling pooja items and shells on Bet Dwarka

From the moment you land on Bet Dwarka, you will find numerous shops along the roads selling you a variety of shells – including the famous conch shells. Shopkeepers draw your attention by blowing through them and some of the enthusiastic ones even teach you had to do it yourself. There are several shell memorabilia that you can pick up for your homes or even for gifting to your near and dear ones.

Beyt Dwarka turned out to be more than just a fact-finding expedition for me. I did not expect this tiny island to have so much to see and do. I know I shall be returning to do a dive here and when I do that, I will be making time to see what I left unseen. I hope that with this post, you plan your journey better than I did and see all that Bet Dwarka has to offer.

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How to get to Bet Dwarka?

There are two options for an airport to reach Bet Dwarka. From either of these two airports, you will have to either hire a car or get into a bus or train to get you to Okha or Dwarka city. Here are the two options –
Option OneFrom Jamnagar Airport
Jamnagar Airport – Danta – Khambhalia – Gurgadh – Charakhla – Tupani – NageshwarMithapur – Okha
This route takes you directly to Okha jetty from where you can get a ferry to Beyt Dwarka. The journey by road is around 3 hours long.

In case you need to first head to Dwarka from Jamnagar, then you can follow the following route –
Jamnagar Airport – Danta – Khambhalia – Gurgadh – Dwarka.
The Jamnagar-Dwarka route takes only 2 hours 30 minutes. From Dwarka, you will still need to go to Okha which is 30 minutes away.

Option OneFrom Porbandar Airport
Porbandar Airport -Kuchhadi – Bhogat (via NH 51) – Baradia – Dwarka
The total journey time is 1 hour 30 minutes if you opt for Porbandar.

At Okha jetty, you will find numerous ferries. They generally depart within 10 minutes of each other. You can hop into one to get to Beyt Dwarka.

What is the distance between Okha jetty and Bet Dwarka?

Okha jetty and the Bet Dwarka Ferries

A boat ride of just 15 minutes or so – that is it. You can in fact see the island from the jetty. The ride is quite a pleasant one with tons of seagulls keeping you company all the way from your start to the final destination.

There is a bridge being built between Okha and Bet Dwarka. This should be completed shortly, making the access to the island better

What are the ferry charges to get to Bet Dwarka?

It is a minimal charge of INR 20 per head to get to Bet Dwarka. There is a ticket counter at Okha jetty that issues tickets.

What are the Bet Dwarka ferry timings?

The Bet Dwarka ferries are available from 6 am to 7 pm. These depart every 10 minutes from either of the two places – the island to Okha jetty and back. You might have to wait for the boats to fill up – which generally is not a big issue.

What are the Bet Dwarka temple timings?

The Bet Dwarka temple darshan can be done from 9 am to 12 pm and then again from 3 pm to 6 pm every day.

What is the best time to visit Bet Dwarka?

Summers are quite harsh in this region while monsoons do make the sea stormy. It is best to visit Bet Dwarka between October to March. This is recommended for those wanting to do scuba diving as the visibility underwater is really good.

Where to stay in Bet Dwarka?

There are no good hotels in Bet Dwarka. There are organized camps that you can opt for but that requires you to go through agents or tour organizers.

It is best to opt for hotels in Dwarka. There are plenty of them around the Dwarkadhish temple. Check the booking resources below to pick yours.

Travel Tips

  • Photography is prohibited inside the Bet Dwarka temple
  • Follow the usual rules of a Hindu temple when visiting the Bet Dwarka Mandir
  • The island is a small one and you can walk around everywhere. However, if you are short of time, hire an auto rickshaw to get around to the various places on Bet Dwarka.
  • There are no major restaurants on Bet Dwarka. Small local eateries are the only option. You can choose to carry your own food when heading here.
  • The Bet Dwarka ferries do get crowded. However, it is a short distance and hence, manageable.

Booking Resources

  • Booking.com has good listings for hotels in Dwarka. You can use this link to book one for yourself. 
  • For any of your travel needs or general shopping, consider using Amazon through this link.

P.S: My recent visit here was by invite by Gujarat Tourism

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15 thoughts on “The Bet Dwarka Story – a mystical mix of fact & fiction”

  1. A lovely peek into the farthest isle on the west coast! Much has changed apparently since I visited the place when posted in Jamnagar almost four decades back!

    Reply
      • Bet Dwarka is a magnificent place and one of the desired pilgrimage site for Hindus.I loved the way you related to the mythological significance of the place and it was amazing to see how so many conch shells emerged from the water.

        Reply
  2. Indeed a great writeup. I have been to Bet Dwarka (and Dwarka, porbander, somnath, diu and junagarh) at least sux or seven times. Yet your article had places about which I didn’t know much.

    Thanks

    Reply
  3. Beautiful writeup Ami. My parent want to visit this part of India since long. Hope a trip materialises soon. Will use this as our guide to explore the Island!

    Reply
  4. As I have never travelled extensively in India, I did not know much about Bet Dwarka Island before reading your blog post. However the temples look very beautiful and lively. I would love to learn more about the history of this place and stroll through the markets on the island.

    Reply
  5. You’ve given a fantastic insight into the history of Bet Dwarka. Culturally, it sounds quite unique. I’m sure it must be amazing to scuba dive there, too.

    Reply
  6. I am not able to scuba dive but the thought of visiting an underwater city makes it very appealing! Dunny Point sounds like a place I would LOVE to visit to see marine life on the surface of the water, bonus if dolphins are in the area at the time.

    Reply
  7. I can see why you would put the Bet Dwarka underwater city on your scuba diving list. I hope you do get to do that one day! I can see why this adds to the legend that surrounds Bet Dwarka. It is good that you got to visit the temple and learn more about this mysterious place. And found so much to see and do.

    Reply
  8. That is one huge temple city! I would go for the sea shells and the views here. The place looks so blue and beautiful. It was interesting to know about the dargahs and gurudwara. I had not heard about that before.

    Reply
  9. I did visit Bet Dwarka a few years ago. I really had a great time. But I did not know about scuba diving, I wish I had known. I would have done it for sure. Maybe for my next visit. Also, it is fascinating to know that seeing whale sharks is a common sight.

    Reply
  10. Wow! I would love to know more about Bet Dwarka. Indeed, it’s a mystical mix of fact and fiction. We hope to have the opportunity to visit the future and see the temples. Scuba diving sounds like a great idea too!

    Reply
  11. What an interesting and informative post. I had heard about Bet Dwarka from a friend who wanted me to visit and write about it. Love the complete feel of the island right from the journey from Okha jetty, history, temples and the shopping options for conch shells. Raises my desire to be there sometime.

    Reply

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