Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dwarka - the Lost Atlantis

Atlantis of India

The western most of Adi Shankaracharya's Four Dhams

Some time ago, my mother wanted me to take her to Dwarka, the last of the Four Dhams of Adi Shankaracharya (we had already visited the other three).
The fact is she loved to travel.
I also love to travel.
And there were many other places to see around Dwarka.
So we landed in Dwarka.
The story of Atlantis flashed through my mind.

The Lost Isle of Atlantis

Plato first mentioned ‘Atlantis’ in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias writtenin 360 B.C.
For unknown reasons, Plato never completed Critias.
According to Plato, “Atlantis, lying “beyond the pillars of Heracles”, was a naval power that conquered many parts of Western Europe and Africa 9,000 years before the time of Solon, or approximately 9,500 B.C.
After a failed attempt to invade Athens, Atlantis sank into the ocean “in a single day and night of misfortune”.

Scientists and researchers agree that there was no such island as Atlantis.
Atlantis was a piece of sheer imagination.

But the ancient Dwarka has far too many similarities to the imaginary Atlantis.
This cannot be pure coincidence.
Dwarka is about 4000 years old. Plato wrote about Atlantis only around 360 B.C., that is, much later.
I think the only plausible explanation for the striking similarities is that Plato heard about Dwarka and based his imaginary Atlantis on Dwarka.


The present day Dwarka is a city in Gujarat state in Western India.
The name Dwarka has come from the Sanskrit word “Dwar” meaning door.
Once upon a time, if you were coming from the West, Dwarka was the gate way to India.
Today, Hindus regard it as a gateway to Heaven.

The legendary city of Dwarka was the dwelling place of Lord Krishna.
It is believed that due to damage and destruction by the sea, Dwarka submerged under the sea six times; and the modern day Dwarka is the seventh city to be built in the area.

The Dwarkadhish Temple

Dwarkadhish (from Dwarka and Dhish) means Lord of Dwarka.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna.
The city is believed to have been built by Vishwakarma, the celestial architect.
And the ancient temple was built by Sambha, the grandson of Lord Krishna.

The present temple built around the 16th century has a five storey tower.
It is made of limestone and sand.
The structure of the temple is quite complicated.

A 24 metres (84 ft.) long, multicolored flag, decorated with the symbols of the sun and moon, is hoisted on the temple tower every day.
It majestically flitters in the air welcoming the pilgrims.

The temple has two gateways:
· Swarg Dwar (Door to Heaven), through which pilgrims enter, and
· Moksha Dwar (Door to Salvation), through which the pilgrims exit. From the temple, one can see the sangam (confluence) of Gomati River and the Arabian Sea.

Bet Dwarka

The Bet Dwarka temple is built like a palace.
It is believed that Lord Krishna had ruled from here.
An idol similar to the one in Dwarka is kept in Bet Dwarka temple also.
Bet Dwarka can be reached by a short boat ride.


Dwarka is mentioned in the Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana, Skanda Purana, Vishnu Purana and other ancient scriptures.
According to mythology, Lord Krishna killed Kansa (his maternal uncle) and made Ugrasen (his maternal grandfather) the king of Mathura.
Enraged by this, Jarasandha (King of Magadha), the father-in-law of Kansa, and his friend Kalayavan, attacked Mathura 17 times.

For the safety of his people, Lord Krishna renounced war (hence Krishna is also known by the name Ranchod - meaning one who has left the battle field).
He and the Yadavas decided to shift the capital from Mathura to Dwarka.
They reclaimed land from the sea on the banks of Gomati River and built a well planned city organized into six sectors, residential and commercial zones, wide roads, plazas, palaces and many public utilities.Dwarka also had a good and prosperous harbour.

After Krishna left for his heavenly abode, the major Yadava heads fought among themselves and killed each other.
Arjuna went to Dwarka to bring Krishna’s grandsons and the Yadava women to Hastinapur. After Arjuna left, Dwarka was submerged in the sea.

This is how Arjuna has described the event in the Mahabharata:
"The sea, which had been beating against the shores, suddenly broke the boundary that was imposed on it by nature. The sea rushed into the city. It coursed through the streets of the beautiful city. The sea covered up everything in the city. I saw the beautiful buildings becoming submerged one by one. In a matter of a few moments it was all over. The sea had now become as placid as a lake. There was no trace of the city. Dwaraka was just a name; just a memory."

The incident is described in the Vishnu Purana in much the same manner:
"On the same day that Krishna departed from the earth the powerful dark-bodied Kali Age descended. The oceans rose and submerged the whole of Dwaraka."

Atlantis was also wiped out like this!

Archeological Evidence

The search for the mythological Dwarka has been going on since the 1930’s.
The Marine Archeology Unit (MAU) of the National Institute of Oceanography, Government of India started the search for Dwarka in the coastal waters of Dwarka in 1983.
Underwater explorations between 1983 and 1990 revealed the remains of a well-fortified township.
The foundation of boulders on which the city’s walls were erected proved that the land was reclaimed from the sea.
The general layout of the submerged city discovered by Marine Archeology Unit matched the description of Dwarka in the ancient texts.
Further excavations continued till 1994.

Murli Manohar Joshi, then HRD minister claimed that the ruins were 9,500 years old and would lead to a rewriting of world history, crowning a Hindu India as the cradle of civilisation over the claims of Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus valley.
The old Dwarka does not appear to be that old.
Scientists estimate the date to be around 2280 B.C.

Scientists have recently discovered a circular wooden structure under the water at a near-shore excavation site off the coast of Jamnagar.
They believe this to be a part of the remains of the lost city of ancient Dwarka.
The wooden structure is well preserved and surrounded by another structure made of stone blocks.
Wood can be more scientifically carbon dated and may help the scientists determine the exact date.

No doubt, influenced by the Tsunami of 2004, a group of ocean scientists have suggested that the ancient city of Dwarka could have been destroyed by a tsunami about 3,000 years ago.

World’s First Underwater Museum

The Marine Archeology Unit submitted an exciting proposal for setting up an underwater museum at Dwarka.
The proposal envisages an acrylic tube on the bottom of the sea through which visitors can view the ruins of the ancient Dwarka.
I have seen such tubes even in Bangkok.

The Government of Gujarat and their Travel & Tourism Department have been working (sleeping would be a better term) on the proposal for over two decades.
This is a unique opportunity to create something unique.
It will attract a lot of tourists.
The work can be outsourced to an international bidder.
This will solve the problem of funding and maintenance.
When completed, it will be the world’s first under water museum.

Reaching There

The nearest airports from Dwarka are:
Jamnagar - 121 Kms.
Rajkot - 225 Kms.
Ahmedabad - 375 Kms.
There are a number of daily flights from Mumbai and other cities.


Visit the real Atlantis, in India itself.
You can also visit lions of India in Gir Forests and the Somnath Temple.


chunduri said...

Hi Mr.Binoy Gupa

Thanks for this wonderful article "Atlantis of India". I am quite impressed reading this article.

Though I am not from any archeological or historical background, I always want to imagine mythology with history. When I heard about Atlantis, I compared it with Dwaraka in my imagination, googling it and my search led to your article.

Though your article comparing Atlantis with Dwaraka is not a proven history, it makes a lot of sense and hopefully could be proved soon.


Bharat Bhushan said...

Excellent post. Very impressive.