The City of Dvaraka


Lord Krishna in the Golden City of Dvaraka
Illustration from Harivamsha, c. 1600

Aug 14, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A three-part summary of famous Dvaraka pastimes and glorifications.

Dvaraka (meaning "the many-gated city") is the capital of the Yadavas who ruled the Anarta Kingdom. The city was situated on the western point of Gujarat, and became submerged in the sea, as described in Volume 16 of the epic Mahabharata. Dwaraka was founded by a clan of Yadava chiefs who fled from the Surasena Kingdom out of fear of King Jarasandha of Magadha. The territory of Dwaraka included the Dwaraka Island, many neighbouring islands like the Antar Dwipa, and the mainland area neighbouring the Anarta Kingdom.

Dwaraka was a federation of many republics rather than a kingdom under a single king, the title of king of the Dwaraka-confederation being only titular. Within the Federation of Dwaraka were included the states of Andhakas, Vrishnis and Bhojas. The Yadavas ruling Dwaraka were also known as Dasarhas and Madhus.

Prominent Yadava chiefs residing in Dwaraka included Vasudeva Krishna, Bala Rama, Satyaki, Kritavarma, Uddhava, Akrura and Ugrasena.

Dwaraka and Kusasthali

Kusasthali was the older city, upon which the city of Dwaraka was built during the time of Vasudeva Krishna. From fear of Jarasandha, Yadavas had to leave Mathura and flee west to the city of Dwaravati. (2,14). There was a delightful town towards the west called Kusasthali, adorned by the mountains of Raivata. In that city, they took up their abode. They rebuilt its fort and made it so strong that it became impregnable, and from within it, even the women might fight the foe.

At Kusasthali, there was held a conclave of the Devas. Kuvera went to that place surrounded by grim visaged Yakshas, numbering three hundred maha-padmas, and carrying various weapons. (3,160)

Arjuna's Visit

Pandava Arjuna made a visit to Dwaraka at the end of his 12 year pilgrimage of holy places of ancient India (Bharata Varsha). From Indraprastha (Delhi), the Pandava capital, he went to the Himalayas, then to east and reached the eastern sea. Then he travelled along the coast to the south and then reached southern ocean. From there he went north along the western shore of India, to reach the area known as Prabhasa (the southern shore of Gujarat). From there Vasudeva Krishna, his friend, accompanied him and took him to the Raivataka mountains and to Dwaraka, which was not far away.

The Raivataka Mountain

Raivataka is apparently a hill resort in the mainland, close to the city of Dwaraka. Krishna and Arjuna having sported as they liked, for some time at Prabhasa, went to the Raivataka Mountain to pass some days there. Before they arrived at Raivataka, that mountain had, at the command of Krishna been well-adorned by many artificers. At Krishna's command, much food had also been collected there. Enjoying everything that had been gathered there for him, Arjuna sat with Vasudeva to see the performances of the actors and the dancers. Then the high-souled Pandava, dismissing them all with proper respect, laid himself down on a well-adorned and excellent bed. He rose in the morning, awakened, by sweet songs and melodious notes of the Vina (guitar) and the panegyrics and benedictions of the bards. (1,220)

The Reception at Dwaraka

Riding upon a golden chariot, Arjuna then set out for Dwaraka, the capital of the Yadavas. For honouring him, the city of Dwaraka was well-adorned, including all the gardens and houses within it. The citizens of Dwaraka, desirous of beholding the son of Kunti, began to pour eagerly into the public thoroughfares by the hundreds of thousands. In the public squares and thoroughfares, throngs of women, mixing with the men, swelled the great crowd of the Bhojas, the Vrishnis, and the Andhakas, that had collected there.

Arjuna was welcomed with respect by all the sons of Bhojas, the Vrishnis, and the Andhakas. And he, in his turn, worshipped those that deserved his worship, receiving their blessings. The hero was welcomed with affectionate reception by all the young men of the Yadava tribe. He repeatedly embraced all that were equal to him in age. Wending then to the delightful mansion of Krishna that was filled with gems and every article of enjoyment, he took up his abode there with Krishna for many days. (1,220)

The Mountain-festival at Raivataka

Mountain worship was a common feature of the religion of Yadavas. When they were at Surasena Kingdom, they worshipped the Govardhana Mountain, which is detailed in the Bhagavata Purana

There commenced on the Raivataka Mountain a grand festival of the Vrishnis, the Bhojas, and the Andhakas. The region around that hill was adorned with many a mansion decked with gems and many an artificial tree of gaudy hue. The musicians struck up in concert and the dancers began to dance and the vocalists to sing. And the youth of the Vrishni race, endued with great energy, adorned with every ornament, and riding in their gold-decked chariots, looked extremely handsome. The citizens, some on foot and some in excellent chariots, with their wives and followers were there by hundreds and thousands. (1,221)

Another Occasion of Raivataka Festival

Adorned with many beautiful things and covered with diverse Koshas made of jewels and gems, the Raivataka hill shone with great splendour. With many golden poles on which were lighted lamps, shone in beauty through day and night. By the caves and fountains the light was so great that it seemed to be broad day. On all sides beautiful flags waved on the air with little bells that jingled continuously. The entire hill resounded with the melodious songs of men and women. It was adorned with many shops and stalls filled with diverse viands and enjoyable articles. There were heaps of cloths and garlands, and the music of Vinas and flutes and Mridangas was heard everywhere. Food mixed with wines of diverse kinds was stored here and there. Gifts were being ceaselessly made to those that were distressed, or blind, or helpless. There were many sacred abodes built on the breast of that mountain. (14,59)

Abduction of Subhadra by Arjuna

During Raivataka festival, Arjuna fell in love with Vasudeva Krishna's sister, Subhadra. He took the maiden away with the secret consent of Krishna, but provoked the anger of other Yadava heroes. This passage described the preparedness of the citizens of Dwaraka for an emergency

The armed attendants of Subhadra, beholding her thus seized and taken away, all ran, crying towards the city of Dwaraka. Reaching all together the Yadava court called by the name of Sudharma, they represented everything about the prowess of Arjuna unto the chief officer of the court. The chief officer of the court blew his gold-decked trumpet calling all to arms. Stirred up by that sound, the Bhojas, the Vrishnis, and the Andhakas began to pour in from all sides. Those that were eating left their food, and those that were drinking left their drink. Those tigers among men, those great warriors of the Vrishni and the Andhaka tribes, took their seats upon their thousand thrones. The chief officer of the court, assisted by those that stood at his back, spoke of the conduct of Arjuna. The proud Vrishni heroes, of eyes red with wine rose up from their seats, unable to brook what Arjuna had done. Some amongst them said, 'Yoke our chariots', and some, 'Bring our weapons' and some said, 'Bring our costly bows and strong coats of mail; and some loudly called upon their charioteers to harness their chariots, and some, from impatience, themselves yoked their horses decked with gold unto their chariots. (1,222)

Arjuna was later called back to Dwaraka, and Subhadra was married to him. He stayed there for one year. He spent the last year of his 12-year pilgrimage at Pushkara (Pushkar in Rajasthan) and then went back to Indraprastha.


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