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Dvārakā (Gateway to Heaven) is a coastal town in Jamnagar district of Guajarat situated at the shores of Arabian Sea. This city owes its mention in the great epic Mahabharata as the city of Lord Krishna. Importance of Dwaraka could be understood in the light of the fact that it is regarded as “Sapta puri” (seven sacred cities) of Hinduism and it is a goal of “Tirtha” (pilgrimage) for thousands of Hindus every year. Apart from Mahabharata this city also finds it’s mention in Harivamsa, one of the most important works of Sanskrit literature, according to this text, Dwarka was built on “submerged land”, “released by the ocean”. It was squared “like a chessboard”. It was guarded by four main gates and the city’s houses were arranged in lines. The city had “high buildings”, “made in gold”, which “almost touched the sky” and “could be seen everywhere like clouds”. Moreover, the city is also mentioned in Bhagvat Puraana, Skanda Puraana and the Vishnu Puraana.
Dwaraka Excavation began with the finding of ruins around the Island of Beyt Dwarka, around 30 Km North of Dwaraka. The works began in the 1930s but soon stopped. The next exploration was carried out in 1969-1970 and yielded varied results.
In academic circles religious text books of Hindus are frequently targeted of being mythologies and devoid of any historical importance. Hindu Epic Mahabharata is no more in exception, before the discovery of the legendary city of Dwaraka, scholars were at loggerhead to accept the historical relevance of Mahabharata and widely inclined with the views that it would be futile to search for the remains of the ancient city and that too in the sea. Some even gone to the extent of saying that the Mahabharata battle was a family feud which was exaggerated into a war. Excavations of Dr, S. R. Rao at Dwaraka prove that the descriptions found in the texts are not to be discarded as fancy stories but are to be treated as based on logic and reasoning. Thus the results have proved that the account in Mahabharata as to the existence of a beautiful capital city of Dwaraka of Sri Krishna was not a mere figment of imagination but it did exist.
Archaeological remains found under the sea suggest the existence of a settlement during Late Harappan period, or immediately after it. From a historical perspective this disclosure holds significant relevance for the reason that Indus-Saraswati Civilization is unanimously regarded as the first phase of Urbanization in ancient India. Now following the timeline Dwarka being it’s successor perfectly establishes the factual existence of second phase of urbanization in ancient India, which therefore addresses the long awaited question of missing link of knowledge transfer from Indus-Saraswati Civilization to the succeeding eras.
The archeological site of Dwaraka is far from being fully explored, but still it is important to take note on the timeline of attempted explorations made so far on the archaeological site of Dwaraka, which basically reads as follows:
Dwarka, as of today is still one of the best-studied underwater sites in India. And indeed, it is true that that whatever has been excavated from Beyt Dwaraka or at the one at Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay), so far, is truly remarkable in bridging up the gap of continued existence of urban civilization in ancient India. But unfortunately the work on further excavation has met a formidable roadblock in the form of academic indifference and government apathy. A proposal submitted to the government by Dr S.R. Rao, renowned marine archaeologist, who led the underwater investigations is collecting dust for over four years now.
In reply to a question as to how sure he was that this was Krishna’s Dwarka, SR Rao had replied, “only the name board is missing.” He submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Culture in January 2000, that aimed at preserving the ‘underwater cultural heritage of India Dwarka’ and also promoting it as a pilgrimage-tourism center. His proposal, in three stages, was to cost Rs 14 crores. It is sad that the proposal was not taken up. The then Secretary, Ministry of Culture, visited Dwarka and promised to help, but nothing has been heard so far.
The important highlights of the proposal are as follows :
1. Further excavations in Bet Dwarka is required. It was suggested that access to the submerged city in Dwarka water can be given to visitors, in fair season, through underwater acrylic tubes or viewing chambers at specific points. Alternatively, underwater video cameras can be used to project images above water, in monitors.
2. The project also mooted the idea of a submarine museum of dolphins as they are in good population in deeper water, off Dwarka. There is also a strong case for a Maritime Museum of Antiquities found in excavations at Dwarka, Bet Dwarka, Somnath, Nageswar and dioramas of Lothal port and Dwarka city. As of now, the Dwarka antiquities are lying in NIO, Goa.
3. 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.