The discovery of the legendary city of Dwaraka which is said to have been founded by Sri Krishna, is an important landmark in the validation of historical relevance of Mahabharata. It has set at rest the doubts expressed by historians about the historicity of Mahabharata and the very existence of Dwaraka city. It has greatly narrowed the gap of Indian history by establishing the continuity of the Indian civilization from the Vedic age to the present day. The discovery has also shed welcome light on second urbanization in the so-called ‘Dark age’, on the reestablishment of dharma, on the resumption of maritime trade, and use of Sanskrit language and modified Indus script.
Dwaraka is a coastal town in Jamnagar district of Gujarat. Traditionally, modern Dwaraka is identified with Dvaraka, mentioned in the Mahabharata as Krishna’s city. Dwaraka was a port, and some scholars have identified it with the island of Barka mentioned in the Periplus of Erythrean Sea. Ancient Dwaraka sank in sea and hence is an important archaeological site. The first clear historical record of the lost city is dated 574 A.D. and occurs in the Palitana Plates of Samanta Simhaditya. This inscription refers to Dwaraka as the capital of the western coast of Saurashtra and still more important, states that Sri Krishna lived here.
There are many mythical tales woven around the city of Dwarka. The most prominent myth is associated with the ‘hero of the Dwapara’; Lord Krishna who is believed to have held his kingdom here. Dwarka in the ancient times was known as Anarta which had been Lord Krishna’s terrestrial empire. Dwarka consisted in islands like Antar dwipa, Dwarka Island and the mainland of Dwarka. The city had been the capital city of the Yadava clan which ruled over the place since many years. In the great epic Mahabharata Dwarka is mentioned as Yadavas’ capital city consisting in many other neighboring states such as Vrishnis, Andhakas, Bhojas within its jurisdiction. The most important chiefs of Yadava clan inhabiting Dwarka included Lord Krishna, who was the king of Dwarka, then Balarama, Kritavarma, Satyaki, Akrura, Kritavarma, Uddhava and Ugrasena.
According to the most popular legendary tale, Lord Krishna migrated to Kusasthali; the name by which Dwarka was known in the ancient times in order to evade the continual harassing raids done on Mahura by Jarasandha; Kansa’s father in law. Jarasandha wanted to avenge the death of Kansa, the wicked cruel uncle of Krishna whom the lord had killed and thus was attacking Mathura time and again.
When he came back to Dwarka along with his clan of Yadavas, he ordered Lord Vishwakarma to build a city for his kingdom. Answering his order, Lord Vishwakarma told that the city can be built only if Lord Samudradevi offered them some land. Lord Krishna then prayed to Samudradeva who responding to the prayer providing them with land up to 12 Yojna and soon after the celestial constructor Vishwakarma built the city of Dwarka in a short span of only 2 days. The city was called ‘Suvarna Dwarka’ because it was all clad in gold, emeralds and jewels which were used to construct the houses in lord Krishna’s ‘Suvarna Dwarka’. It is believed that Lord Krishna’s original residence was at Bet Dwarka from he administered the entire Dwarka kingdom. Legend further adds that after Lord Krishna departed from his mortal body, the city went under the sea with Samudradeva taking back what he had given once upon a time.
The Temple of Dwarkadhish is believed to have been set by Vajranabha; grandson of Lord Krishna, in order to pay tribute to the great lord. The religious significance of Dwarka is associated with other myths too. One such myth points out the Dwarka is the spot where Lord Vishnu had demolished the demon Shankhasura.
The first archaeological excavations at Dwaraka were done by the Deccan College, Pune and the Department of Archaeology, Government of Gujarat, in 1963 under the direction of H.D. Sankalia. It revealed artefacts many centuries old.
The objective of the excavation was to know the antiquity of the site, based on material evidence. In the offshore excavation, the ASI’s trained underwater archaeologists and the divers of the Navy searched the sunken structural remains. The finds were studied, dated and documented. On land, the excavation was done in the forecourt of the Dwarakadhish temple. Students from Gwalior, Lucknow, Pune, Vadodara,Varanasi and Bikaner joined in to help the ASI archaeologists.
Findings at Dwarka excavation site:
The underwater excavations revealed structures and ridge-like features. Other antiquities were also found. All the objects were photographed and documented with drawings – both underwater. While underwater cameras are used for photography, drawings are done on boards – a transparent polyester film of 75 micron fixed with a graph sheet below. The graph sheet acts as a scale. One or two divers take the dimensions and the third draws the pictures. The Public Works Department routinely conducts dredging in these waters to keep the Gomati channel open. This throws up a lot of sediments, which settle on underwater structures. Brushes are used to clear these sediments to expose the structures.
* Explorations yielded structures such as bastions, walls, pillars and triangular and rectangular stone anchors.
* A semi-spherical single-hole stone which might be the base for flagpost.
* L-shaped edges of stones for proper grip and arresting wave action on bastions.
* Seals, inscriptions, which have been dated to 1500 BC.
* Pottery, which have been dated to 3528 BC.
* Stone sculptures, terracotta beads, bronze, copper and iron objects.
Marine archaeological explorations have thrown light on a number of structures of different shapes, stone anchors and other artefacts. The exploration has found sandstone walls, a grid of streets and remains of a sea port, some 70 feet beneath the sea. The evidence points to the fact of the existence of a city some 9,000 years ago.
Also according to them this was one of the most important and busy ports during historical and medieval periods.
Dwarka was supposed to have been built on six blocks, two on the right bank and four on the left. All the six sectors have protective walls built of dressed stones of sandstones. Whatever has been traced so far conforms to the description of Dwarka in the Mahabharat to a large extent. For example, the enclosures may correspond to the Antahpurs (harems) of the texts.
Similarly, the large number of stone anchors is indicative of overseas trade. The large ships were anchored to the sea, whereas the small ones were near to the warehouses on the Gomati, part of which has been submerged.
The layout of the excavated city, the spread and the location of fort walls and bastions match the descriptions mentioned in Harivamsha, a prologue to Mahabharata. Harivamsha described the city of Dwarka in minute details. According to it, the area of Dwarka was 12 yojanas. It was connected to the mainland by a strip, which is visible even now, in low tide. The city excavated is of the same size.
What really happened to Dwarka?
The rise in the sea-level in Dwarka is a scientific truth. Studies have proved that the sea considerably and suddenly rose to submerge the city. Harivamsha describes the submerging of Dwarka saying Krishna instructed Arjuna, who was then visiting Dwarka, to evacuate the residents of the city as the sea was going to engulf the city. “On the seventh day (of Krishna saying this), as the last of the citizens were leaving the city, the sea entered the streets of Dwarka.”
According to experts, there could have been three reasons why the sea entered the land. One, a change in the level of seabed, two, a massive earthquake and three, sudden increase in the level of sea water. Of the three, the last is the most plausible. If it was a change in the level of seabed, some remains of the “tearing off action” on the shore would be visible, which is absent. Earthquake can be ruled out as the structures have not collapsed because of the shake. The third reason is most acceptable as a similar phenomenon had occurred in the shores of Bahrain, around the same time, as some recent findings indicate. It is to be noted here that considerable work has been done on shore and offshore underwater excavations in Bahrain, which has indicated a deep and regular trade and other relations between the western coast and the coasts of the present-day Bahrain region.
Dwarka, as of today is still one of the best-studied underwater sites in India.
It is indeed surprising that the history associations, archaeologists and historians have taken little notice of the findings at Dwarka. In its early days, the project received UNESCO support and several foreign marine archaeologists also offered help. However, the government’s indifference to the project has kept them away. Unlike several other land excavations, the underwater excavations can be done only with total government help. Several levels of permissions are needed. While land excavations are demanding in labor, the underwater explorations need machinery and equipment. Skillful divers, who are trained to look for meaningful objects are required too.
an Indian, Dwarka is not a mere archaeological site, nor is it a proof. Indians have all along believed Mahabharata to be a historical narration. But the excavations are a national heritage, a symbol of pride, an honor that is shared by all who are born in this land of Bharata. It is a call for action on Dwarka.