It was towards the end of September that we undertook the 1.5 hour drive from Porbandar Airport to Mercure Dwarka. But looking at the bright blue skies and light green foliage, one would never guess that many parts of the country were still in the grasp of the last vestiges of monsoon.
Nevertheless, the numerous windmills on our way, grazing cattle and clumps of vegetation lulled us into a state of semi-stupor. And every time we’d shake ourselves awake, the beautiful scenery was exactly the same, rather like the fake driving scenes in films where the car is actually still and a movie projection creates the illusion of movement.
As we neared the impressive facade of Mercure Dwarka, we glimpsed the glorious blue sea in the distance. And we knew there would be more to Dwarka than its famed stories of Krishna, the mischievous lord of the Hindu faith. Mercure Dwarka is easily the classiest and most sought-after hotel in this little town and when you enter, you feel no different than you would in a luxury hotel in a big city. The interiors feature infusions of maroon, purple and ochre in a white-dominated colour scheme. It was lunch time and we were ravenous but our Gujarati thalis were being readied. So we decided to check into our abode for the next couple of nights.
A beautiful portrait of Lord Krishna hung above the double bed while a cosy writing desk and large flat-screen TV occupied the other side of the room. The bathroom housed all the amenities we could need – including a shaving, dental and vanity set. There was also a coffee and tea maker beside the wardrobe. Only three stories of the hotel were operational then and our room looked out onto the tranquil lawn and main road. As far as we were concerned, this was no less than a five-star room (Mercure Dwarka is a four-star hotel). After a nice cup of Assam tea, we headed for lunch.
The thali at Maakhan restaurant was colourful and delicious, featuring Gujarati delicacies such as sev tamatar sabzi, potato and brinjal preparation, khakra, kachori and sweetened dal. You can read more about the offerings at Maakhan here. We also loved sitting and soaking in the breeze in the outdoor smoking area adjacent to the restaurant. The staff always made us feel at home, and we were impressed with their ability to adjust in a small town like that, especially when a few of them hailed from Mumbai. On our final morning in Dwarka, we arose in time to watch a soft, golden sunrise unfold beyond the gates of the hotel.
There are numerous stories of Krishna associated with Dwarka, but to put it in a nutshell, it is where Krishna founded his kingdom after arriving from Mathura. Some believe that the town was swallowed by the sea after the death of the Lord, and there is some archaeological evidence to support this claim. True or not, we are glad to have found an oasis like Mercure Dwarka in this Devbhoomi (land of God).
Top places to visit in Dwarka
Nageshwar Jyotirlinga Mandir: A Shiva Temple with a serene courtyard, garden and magnificent Shiva statue. The temple also houses one of the 12 jyotirlingas cited in the Shiva Purana. Though not the most famous, it is our favourite place of worship in Dwarka.
Mo Mata Mandir and Beach: A hidden gem, this saffron and white temple is situated atop a cliff that affords stunning views of the beach below. After paying tribute at the temple with a heart-shaped pooja pit before it, descend the curved staircase leading to the beach and spend precious hours walking and watching the reflection of the sunset on the water ripples.
Rukmini Devi Temple: The temple dedicated to Krishna’s cohort is an architectural marvel and even atheists would enjoy examining the various carvings etched on the temple’s walls.
Bet Dwarka: The main attraction of Bet Dwarka is the enjoyable (though crowded) ferry ride that gets you across the Gulf of Kutch to the island housing a temple and colourful market.
Dwarkadhish Mandir: Photography is not permitted at the most famous temple of Dwarka. It’s a huge temple complex and the main shrine is five storeys tall, carved in soft limestone. There are inevitably long queues for a darshan of the deity housed within.
Sudama Setu: The bridge near Dwarkadhish Mandir is probably our favourite attraction in Dwarka. Witnessing the spectacular sunset over the glittering Gomti River was for us, a far more spiritual experience than a visit to any temple. The walk over the bridge offers lovely views of the river and when you reach the other end, you can either sit on the banks of the river or walk down to the beach on the other side.
Mercure Dwarka features different room categories, along with a fitness centre and function room. Room tariff starts at USD 49 (Rs. 3204) and for bookings, click here.