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Monday, October 25, 2021

Bet Dwarka- An Island Worth Exploring

Also known as Shankhodhar, Bet Dwarka is believed to be the place of Lord Krishna during his ruling years at Dwarka

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Suman Bajpai
Freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator and travel writer, Worked with different magazines as an editor. Writing for past 33 years

INDIA. Gujarat: After reaching Dwarka in the evening, the guide over there told me that in the morning we will visit Bet or Beyt Dwarka. The morning is considered the best time to visit the island on the coast of Dwarka. I was told that this small island derived its name from the word ‘bet’ which means ‘gift’ and that is what Lord Krishna received from his friend Sudama. Bet (pronounced ‘Bait’) Dwarka is also known as Shankhodara. It is an island located near the shores of Okha which is situated around 30 km from Dwarka, in the Gulf of Kutch.

As per the legends, it is believed that Lord Krishna once resided here when Dwarka was his constitutional seat. The name Bet Dwarka came from the famous legend revolving around Krishna’s childhood friend, Sudama who came to his house and offered him tandool poha as bait (gift). Another version is that Beyt or Bet in Gujarati means a space surrounded by water or an island. So, the island that got cut off from Dwarka by water is called Bet Dwarka.

Photo Credit: Suman Bajpai

The fascinating life on the island

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In Mahabharata, Bet Dwarka is known by the name of ‘Antardvipa’. According to the mythological tale, the Yadava clan had to use a boat to visit Antardvipa. Explorations and excavations carried out under the sea have revealed the presence of settlements whose age can be traced back to the era of the Harappan civilization and that of the Mauryan rule.

Photo Credit: Suman Bajpai

After reaching there, I walked through the lines of shops that were selling corals, items made from sea shells, sea plants, wooden toys, Puja material, and of course the small packets of dry fruits, which you can find everywhere in Gujrat.

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While I was on the boat, I couldn’t take my eyes off the vast island with clear blue water and seagulls flying over it. Tourists can purchase food packets to feed seagulls while enjoying the boat ride. However, one should avoid the evening boat rides, as the boat connectivity can be sporadic and delayed.

An enthralling experience

At the jetty, there are many huge boats lined up. However, just one boat is allowed to take the passengers. At this Covid time, I was a little apprehensive about riding a jam-packed boat, but there was no choice. This was the public boat that costs you just Rs. 20 to cross over. You can hire a private boat also but for that, you have to shell out Rs 4000. I found that maximum visitors were from the Rabari community, ladies wearing bright and colorful chunri’s.

Photo Credit: Suman Bajpai
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The boat ride is about 10-15 minutes. The seagulls that live between the two shores are always amazing to see. If you buy the bird and fish feed that is sold on the shore, you can invite the birds closer to the boat. It is a delight to be surrounded by so many of these white seagulls.

Read Also: Dwarka: A City That Echoes The Tales of Past

Temples are main attraction

Once you get off the boat, you need to walk to reach the temple. The gold-plated temple of Krishna was made by his wife Rukmini. Aside from the flourishing tourism industry, the island also holds a significant mythological and religious significance. It was here where Lord Krishna exchanged the bags of rice with his friend Sudama. Therefore, this place is also visited by several devotees and is considered a pilgrimage.

The other important landmarks here include the place where Sudama met Krishna, Rukmini’s Temple, Shri Keshavji’s Temple, and Mahaprabhuji ni Baithak. Additionally, one can also visit Hanuman Dandi where Hanuman met his son Makardwaja. This is five km away from the main temple and can be reached via scooter rickshaws.

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