After purifying ourselves in the sacred waters of the River Yamuna, we head towards the most important temple of Mathura, the Dwarkadheesh Temple dedicated to the king of Dwarka, Lord Krishna.
Situated in the midst of a bustling bazaar, buzzing with tunes of Radhe Radhe Radhe.. Barsane wali Radhe and filled with shops selling a variety of vibrant shringaar (decorative) items and other religious stuff, this temple is a very ancient one. It dates back to the year 1814 and is exceedingly striking in every aspect. The temple was built by the treasurer of the Gwalior Estate and a devotee of Lord Krishna – Seth Gokul Das Parikh and is today looked after by the followers of the Vallabhacharya sect. Designed as a haveli, a grand house fit for a king, one can’t help but admire its opulence with the intricate architectural carvings and minute detailing in its structural pattern.
As mobile phones, cameras and other electronic items are not allowed in the premises; you can either leave them in the hotel room itself or deposit them in the lockers of one of the shops outside. After depositing our belongings in one of the shops, we take a bunch of flowers and some Tulsi leaves for the Lord and enter through one of the two haveli gates. The haveli is a two storey house and there is a wide and a spacious courtyard loaded with pilgrims assembled from various parts of the country on the ground level.
Entry to the second level is restricted for the devotees and one can just have a glimpse of it from the ground level. The railings on the second level are adorned with beautiful graphical pictures depicting some of the lovely pastimes from Lord Krishna’s birth, gopika leelas and life. On the ground level, stands the main temple on a slightly raised platform with a few fleet of stairs leading to it. The curtains of the sanctum are drawn. The Lord is dressing up and there’s still some time to go before we can meet up with Him, says one of the pilgrims on inquiry.
One can hear and see all the usual hubbub of a temple gathering; pilgrims sitting idle, chatting, singing hymns, praying to the potted Tulsi plant present in the courtyard; all of them waiting for the curtains to open up.
In one corner of the temple room is an elaborately decorated swing with the Divine couple, Lord Krishna and His beloved Radhe. This being the month of August, marks the occasion of Jhulan Yatra or the swing festival, one of the bigger festivals of Mathura besides Janmashtmi, Holi and Diwali that lasts for 13 days. The whole setting exudes splendor and grandeur as the gold polished swings are beautifully adorned with jewels, jasmine flowers, long tickers of colorful garlands and sprayed with rose water.
After filling myself with this divine sight, I climb the stairs of the main temple room and take a seat next to a bhajan mandali – a group of people singing glory to the Lord. I can grasp the words of the bhajan (devotional hymn) but their meaning fails me, the bhajan being in the local language – Braj bhasha. Nevertheless, there is a unique rhythm and a strong verve in their singing, and I can feel the harmony in their voices. The earnestness in their tones goes beyond my soul.
Soon, there is a loud ringing of bell and the curtain is opened. Dressed in a bright yellow kurti (frock) and decorated with a variety of scented flowers and other ornaments, The King of Dwarka, Lord Krishna is now visible. In contrast to His ornately decked up house, the immediate sitting area – the sanctum sanctorum – resonates in modesty making Him very much endearing to the common man like me. He is flanked by His queens Rukmini and Satyabhama on both sides.
The priests of the temple show Him His reflection in the mirror as a part of the prayer ritual so as to give Him a glimpse of His looks (the shringar aarti). On the other end, in the temple room, loud chants of ‘Jai Shri Krishna’ echo in the chambers, hands come together in prayers, eyes close in reverence and heads bend down in veneration, the prayers commence.
After the prayers, people disperse and move for the circumambulation. Along the circumambulation path, a cluster of devotees is busy threading flower garlands for the main deity of the temple. There is also a green Tulsi plant in the temple, the eternal consort of Krishna and the most pure devotee and therefore it is also worshiped by the pilgrims.