Rukmini Devi Temple – abode of the Queen of Dwarka

Parched and tired, she turned and looked at her Lord. Krishna smiled and paused. He dug his toe into the earth and out sprang Ganga. Rukmini gratefully nodded and scooped some of the spring to quench her thirst. She had hardly taken a sip when a loud voice caused her to drop the water. What followed led to her bittersweet separation from her Lord. He resided in Dwarka while she built a new abode for herself - the Rukmini Devi Temple.

So far, you have taken a virtual tour of some of the key Krishna temples of India like Dwarkadhish temple and Sri Krishna temple in Udupi. It is time I take you to a different temple but related to Lord Krishna – the Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka. This is one of the two temples dedicated to the Queen of Dwarka & the wife of Lord Krishna – Rukmini. Situated a few kilometers from the Dwarkadheesh temple, the Rukmini Temple Dwarka stunned me with its gorgeous architecture. I am sure it will enrapture you too – with not just the architecture but the various legends around it.

The gorgeous Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka
The gorgeous Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka

Truth be told, the Dwarka Rukmini mandir would occupy the top spot in my list of places to see in Dwarka. Sure it is not as huge as the Dwarkadhish temple nor are its rituals as elaborate as the main temple. However, the intricacy of its designs and the stories of the elusive Rukmini Devi made me fall in love with this heritage site. It is this that I will be showcasing through this tour of Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka. Hope you are ready to embark on this journey of stories and legends.

History of Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka

The Lord of Dwarka – Sri Krishna is quite well-known across the world. His quirky antics as a kid, his justice and feats as an adult and his teachings as a guru are stories that are told across the world. As popular as he is, little is known about his main queen – Rukmini. Her story is actually equally interesting and the Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka is one place that echoes many chapters from her life. It is one such chapter that led to the construction of this unique Dwarka Rukmini Mandir.

Krishna-Rukmini statue
Krishna-Rukmini statue PC: Kridha20 via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0

Legend has it that Rukmini is actually an avatar of Goddess Laxmi – the consort of Lord Vishnu. As you know, Krishna was actually one of the 10 avatars of Vishnu and to be by his side, Laxmi was born as the princess of Vidarbha. After their marriage, for some time, she stayed with Lord Krishna in Dwarka. Sage Durvasa was the kulguru (clan guru) of the Yadava Kingdom and as a mark of respect, after their marriage, Lord Krishna and his wife Rukmini invited him to the palace to bless them. Sage Durvasa agreed but with one condition – his chariot had to be pulled by the couple.

Lord Krishna and Rukmini began pulling the chariot towards Dwarka. A few kilometers before Dwarka, Rukmini felt really thirsty. There was no well in sight nor any river. Krishna pushed his right toe into the earth and out emerged Ganga. Grateful, Rukmini drank a little before Sage Durvasa got angry that he was not offered the water before she had it. He cursed her that she would not be able to stay with her husband and thus, at that very spot came her new residence in the form of Rukmini Temple Dwarka.

The temple is deemed to be over 2500 years old though the present construction can be dated back to the 12th century. It is located around 2 km from the main Dwarkadhish temple in a slightly arid area. There is still no fresh water around it.

The architecture of the Rukmini Temple Dwarka

Quite like the main Dwarka temple, the Rukmini Devi Temple is designed in the Nagara style. The Nagara style as I mentioned earlier, this style is generally adopted by the North Indian temples. These temples have a long intricate spire. In the case of the Rukmini Temple Dwarka, the spire is the highlight.

The carved facade of the Rukmini Temple Dwarka
The carved facade of the Rukmini Temple Dwarka

Though the Dwarka Rukmini Devi Temple much smaller than the Dwarkadhish temple, it is a lot more artistic. Every inch of its spire is carved as are its walls. The garbha griha or the inner sanctum is right under the main spire. The circumambulation path (pradakshina) is around the exterior walls – quite unlike the other temples which have the pradakshina path inside the temple.

The entire temple has been built with porous sea stone that has survived the salty weather of Dwarka. There has been some defacing but overall, the beauty of its carvings still remain.

Carvings of the Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka

Carvings on the Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka
Carvings on the Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka

The walls of the Dwarka Rukmini temple took me back to my trip to Belur and Halebid temples. The Hoysala temples at these places had so many stories carved onto the walls including that of the Dashavataras. The Belur Chennakesava temple even had exquisite carvings of the Madanikas (beautiful women). Similar to that, the Rukmini Devi temple has its share of stories.

Check out the stunning architecture of this offbeat Hoysala Temple - Chennakesava temple in Belur. Every inch of the temple has a story to tell. 
Gajadhara, narathara and other stories carved in stone on the Rukmini Temple Dwarka
Gajadhara, narathara and other stories carved in stone on the Rukmini Temple Dwarka

Starting with the Gajadharas or the elephants circling the temple to the various Naratharas or young men in different poses, the walls have their share of tales. There are large niches with various Madanikas. On one side, there is a central figure of Rukmini, depicted with four arms. One arm holds a conch and the others – a mace, a lotus and a chakra. There is another one of her seated on a lotus, towards the back on the spire.

Close up of the Naratharas at the Rukmini Temple Dwarka
Close up of the Naratharas at the Rukmini Temple Dwarka
Carving of Rukmini Devi on the facade of the Dwarka Rukmini Mandir
Carving of Rukmini Devi on the facade of the Dwarka Rukmini Mandir
Scripts on the walls of the Rukmini Temple Dwarka
Scripts on the walls of the Rukmini Temple Dwarka

If you look carefully, you will also find scripted text on the walls. The swamiji of the Rukmini temple Dwarka also, mentioned that there are more texts on the spire. However, he was unable to tell us what they say. You can only see these texts if you climb up the spire – which the temple pundits do to change the flag. I could not see them from where I was standing but I did spot a face with eyes. Wonder if you can spot it too, in the picture below?

Close of the Nagara styled spire with the mysterious face and the carving of Rukmini Devi herself.
Close of the Nagara styled spire with the mysterious face and the carving of Rukmini Devi herself.

Inner Sanctum of the Dwarka Rukmini mandir

The exterior of the inner sanctum with the lattice windows
The exterior of the inner sanctum with the lattice windows

Circular lattice windows let in natural light into the inner sanctum. There is a central space where Krishna-Rukmini statues are kept. Compared to the exterior, the interiors are quite simple. The walls have paintings of various episodes from the Queen’s life. The pundits there recite these stories and offer you water as prasad.

Water is considered sacred here and that comes in from the story of how the temple came into existence. To date, people donate freshwater to Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka.

Legends of Rukmini Devi & rituals around it

If you have the time, you should engage the pundits of the temple and ask them to tell you the various stories from the life of Queen Rukmini. There is plenty unknown about her. Primary among these are these three tales – each of which have led to a tradition that is maintained even today.

Rukmini Patra – a ritual at Dwarkadhish temple

The princess of Vidarbha fell in love with the heroic deeds of Krishna – so much that she pledged herself to him without having met him even once. Her father and brother – Rukmi however, arranged for her marriage to the King of Chedi –Shishupala. Rukmini wrote a love letter to Lord Krishna declaring her love. She asked him to come for her and take her away.

Rukmini eloping with Krishna Image Credits and Source: Jaganathpuri Hare Krishna Movement

Krishna accepts her love and elopes with her. After a brief battle with her brother, he manages to win her and they go to Madhavpur to get married.

The letter that she wrote is called Rukmini Patra and is considered sacred. There are copies of it available for purchase at the Dwarkadhish temple. There is a ritual of reading it to the Lord before he is put to sleep – every single day at the Dwarkadhish temple. And even today, there is a festival called Rukmini Vivah when a procession from the Dwarkadhish temple comes to the Rukmini Devi Temple and the two get married all over again.

Tulabhara – the ritual of weighing in Dwarka

This legend of Rukmini involves the third wife of Lord Krishna – Satyabhama. As the story goes, Satyabhama committed to Narada that she would give him wealth equal to the weight of her Lord. She made Krishna sit on one side of a scale and piled on all her wealth, jewelry and valuables on the other side. However, that did not tilt the balance. Panicked, she requested the other wives to help her out. Even their combined wealth did not shift the scale.

Image credits: Pinterest

Finally, she approached Rukmini for help. All Rukmini did was pluck one leaf of Tulsi plant and put it on the scale. Miraculously, the balance shifted to the side of the wealth. Krishna then asked Satyabhama to remove all the valuables and only keep the leaf. Once done, when the leaf was place on the empty scale, it weighed down pulling Krishna up on the other side.

The lesson that Lord intended to teach was that devotion and belief was far more valuable than material wealth. This story lives on in the ritual of Tulabhara that is practiced in Dwarka temple. Devotees weigh themselves against food grains and donate the same weight as theirs to various causes including some for the temple.

Rukmini Temple at Pandharpur – the 2nd of the two temples dedicated to Rukmini

Besides the Dwarka Rukmini mandir, there is one more temple dedicated to Krishna and Rukmini. This one is called the Vithoba temple in Pandharpur, Maharashtra. It seems that Rukmini got jealous of the time that Krishna was spending with Radha and his other wives. Upset, she left Dwarka and landed in Dindivan. Krishna followed her to this place in order to pacify her. After they had made up, they landed at a home that belonged to an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna – Pundalik.

Pundalik was serving his aged parents and so the couple sat on a brick outside the hut. When Pundalik finished and found them outside, he served them and then requested the Lord and his wife – Rakhumai (Rukmini) to remain there forever so that they can bless their devotees. That is how this renowned temple of Vithoba (Krishna) and Rakhumai (Rukmini) came about.

Rukmini Temple Dwarka - a treasure trove of stories from the life of the Queen of Dwarka
Rukmini Temple Dwarka – a treasure trove of stories from the life of the Queen of Dwarka

If you are at the Rukmini Devi temple Dwarka, you are bound to hear all these stories from the pundits. I personally, found these tales and rituals very endearing and they honestly, brought the abode of the Queen of Dwarka – Rukmini temple – to life!

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How to reach Rukmini Devi Temple in Dwarka?

Dwarka has its own railway station and is well connected by road to all the major cities of Gujarat. There are two airports that can be used to get to Dwarka. The first is at Porbandar which is around 105 km from Dwarka. You can get to Dwarka by rail or use the following route by road from the airport.
Porbandar Airport -Kuchhadi – Bhogat (via NH 51) – Baradia – Dwarka
The journey takes around 1 hour 50 minutes.

The 2nd airport is in Jamnagar which is 131 km from Dwarka. From the airport, you can opt for a train from Jamnagar or hit the following route –
Jamanagar Airport – Danta – Khambhalia – Gurgadh – Dwarka
This route will take you around 2 hours 30 minutes.

Both these airports have limited flights. A third airport option that offers better connectivity is at Rajkot. You can add 2 hours to the 2nd route by road. However, note that the road between Jamnagar and Rajkot is really good and that makes the journey very comfortable. Alternately, you can get into a train from Rajkot to Dwarka.

Once in Dwarka, you can hire the local auto-rickshaw to get to the Rukmini Devi Temple. The Rukmini Temple Dwarka is located 2 km from the main Dwarkadhish temple.

What is the best time to visit the Dwarka Rukmini Mandir?

Dwarka is best visited between the months of September to February when it is not very hot. If you are keen on witnessing the Krishna-Rukmini vivah, it is usually celebrated on Ekadashi. This happens in the month of March. This is when you can see the grand procession from the Jagat temple in Dwarka to the Rukmini Devi Temple.

Rukmini Temple Dwarka timings are 7 am to 8 pm.

Where to stay in Dwarka?

There are a lot of mid priced and budget hotels located near the Dwarkadhish temple in Dwarka. These can be booked online using the Booking resources below.

Among the few luxury hotels, you could consider the one that I stayed in. Hawthorn Resorts. However, the same is located 7 km from the city. The resort has ample parking space and lots of green area for the kids to play. It even has a beautiful pool for you to relax in.

Travel Tips

  • Photography of the main sanctum is not permitted at the Rukmini Devi Temple Dwarka.
  • There are a few shops around the temple – in case you need to grab water or snacks.
  • Please follow the usual norms of visiting a Hindu temple when here. You can check the same through this post.

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.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.

P.S: I was invited to visit Gujarat by the Gujarat Tourism Board

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