Temples (and people) of Gujarat

Photo of Temples (and people) of Gujarat by Rinki Popli

What do you generally expect from a trip? Never seen landscapes/views/etc., good people to talk with albeit strangers, good food, and safe bus/train journeys. They are a few things that I look for in a trip. And my trip to Dwarka and Somnath checks all these boxes.

Day 1

I returned from Rann Utsav and boarded an overnight bus from Bhuj to Dwarka. I was initially allotted a seat which was amongst men but a lady asked me to come ahead and sit with her. Not only that, but she also hit a boy who was trying to do something stupid. I was telling him to stay away, she woke up mid-sleep and started hitting him on his leg to move him away from our seats. It was funny to watch. And she is just one such example of people ready to help guests in their cities.

The bus dropped us off at the main bus station at around 6:30 am (around 10 hrs journey from Bhuj) and I walked down to the hotel which was 5 mins away. On reaching the hotel, the staff suggested I go to the Dwarkadhish temple quickly and stand in the queue right after freshening up as the morning aarti (prayer) was about to start at 7:30 am. I did what he suggested and went to the temple. After depositing the phone for 20 INR outside the temple and getting frisked early morning, I went inside and stood in the queue. I did get a chance to see the full morning prayer without getting pushed by the crowd or priest(s). What I also wanted was some prasad (grace) but there was none. One should buy that on his/her own. Sad!

I came out of the main premise and was trying to come out of the temple and a priest stopped me who gave some blessings and I understood that I had to give some donation in turn.

What happened next was new to me. After taking a few more steps, another priest stopped me and said "Daan do" (donate something) and it was neither polite nor quiet. It was more like an open extortion. He shouted twice or thrice in the same manner but I didn't knuckle under. I just left. Had he been a little quieter or kinder, I would have donated something. Nevertheless, the whole experience was different enough to remember.

After breakfast, I went out to see the city of Dwarka. After not finding any shared auto rickshaw for several minutes, I decided to walk down to the first destination. In the meanwhile, a security guard came outside from his store and said that his shift is over, and he had been watching me waiting for the auto rickshaw and could walk me down safely to wherever I was going. He seemed avuncular and kept on talking about Dwarkadhish temple and Dwarka in general throughout the walk.

I went to Rukmani Devi temple, sunset point (sun was not about to set so I had to imagine it), Dwarka beach, Sudama setu, Gomti ghat, and other small temples whose names I can't remember. It was kind of a circular route that I followed from the hotel to these places to back to Dwarkadhish temple.

Photo of Temples (and people) of Gujarat by Rinki Popli

Gomti Ghat, Dwarka, Gujarat

Photo of Temples (and people) of Gujarat by Rinki Popli

Dwarkadhish Temple, Dwarka, Gujarat

Photo of Temples (and people) of Gujarat by Rinki Popli
Photo of Temples (and people) of Gujarat by Rinki Popli

There is a market near the temple. One can try food in restaurants or try something from local hawkers. I tried both. After the dinner, I went to the temple again for the night aarti (prayer). Again, there was no pushing through the crowd. After coming back to the hotel, I slept as I had to catch another bus next morning.

Day 2

From Dwarka bus station, I boarded the bus for Somnath which is approx. 5.5 hrs away. The journey was peaceful with no issues at all. We reached Somnath bus stop between 11:30 am and 12 pm.

The first thing on the agenda was to drink something. It was scorching hot. After drinking refreshing liquids and eating some food, I started to find the right bus for visiting places in and around Somnath. There is a special government bus/traveller service that takes you to all major locations and charges 20 INR / person only. This service runs on fixed intervals and takes 2 hrs to finish the round trip.

The bus dropped us off in the city centre at 4 pm and I had to pass the remaining time so I just roamed around the market. After sunset, I visited Somnath temple for the aarti.

We have to keep our bags/wallets/phones/shoes outside in lockers. There were 3 different kinds of deposit system - one each for bags, shoes and phones/devices. I was standing in a queue and a little girl came to me and started telling me all about these queue systems for depositing things, started asking me about my family/friends, college or office, etc. She mentioned that she had to attend school the next morning, so she was just leaving for her room after taking me to the temple. She waited with me till the end and didn't even touch my stuff or asked for any money. She was leaving when I offered her something and then she took it very shyly. She wished me good luck for remaining journey and left for her room.

To see the deity, you will have to wait in a long queue, but be ready to get struck by the majestic grandeur of the temple.

Somnath Temple, Somnath, Gujarat

Photo of Temples (and people) of Gujarat by Rinki Popli
Photo of Temples (and people) of Gujarat by Rinki Popli

After seeing the deity once, you can join the queue again or sit outside in the garden. There is a light and sound show that happens there.

After coming outside, I collected my stuff and ran to catch the bus for Ahmedabad.

A few points:

1. It is very difficult to find non-vegetarian food in Ahmedabad (the largest city in Gujarat), let alone in Dwarka and Somnath which are considered holy places, so expect pure vegetarian food only.

2. Public washrooms are not free, so kindly carry some change with you.

3. Buses are better than trains in this region for long distance travel. I felt that the night journey by bus here was safer than the ones I took in Himachal Pradesh/Uttarakhand regions

4. People in general are helpful, so dont worry about getting harassed/robbed/etc.

5. This trip is old, so do check all latest timings for everything