Beyt Dwaraka? Sounded vaguely familiar. We city dwellers never quite feel the vastness of the sky, condemned as we are to mere glimpses of it through the concrete rooftops. At Beyt Dwaraka, there is nothing to impede one's view of the huge expanse of sky in its majesty and mystery.
Except for a few cacti strewn about and a thin scattering of jute hovels, there was nothing much else on the island. Beyt Dwaraka is a tiny horseshoe shaped patch of sand in the Arabian Sea, about 5 km off the coast of Gujarat, at the westernmost tip of India.
Except for the sole lantern is suspended on a bamboo pole. There is no electricity there. A moderate wind may whip about, which can pick up during your stay there, into near gale force. The mildly cold weather, could bite through your layers of clothing, as the wind-chill factor would sharpen its razor edged teeth.
Live in makeshift jute tents, and the sand your floor. In addition to being electricity free, there is no drinking water either, which had to be brought in every day from the mainland. Freshwater being a scarce commodity, also brush your teeth with seawater. Try it some time, and you'll know how godawful it tastes!
The island is so narrow that when the tides come in, the waters actually licks the edges of the tents. In the dark of the night that can be an overwhelming sight to behold indeed. That huge mass of water, the whole ocean, coming in closer and closer, until one felt it would swallow us all up, dragging us all in, into its dark, fathomless depths.
And then, there is that dome of a sky. That huge entity. Making you feel as small as a grain of sand on that patch of sand lost in the middle of the sea. The night sky is particularly spectacular. There is no moon, and the stars looks close enough to touch.
No electricity, so the sky, the sea, and everything else, can meld together in the pitch of darkness. Lie under that sky on the silky sand, the sea nibbling at your toes, and some of the more knowledgeable may point out the constellations.
The most fascinating thing about Beyt Dwaraka lay unseen, submerged under the sea. The city of Dwaraka, renowned in myth and legend, was once the capital of Lord Krishna's empire. It is one of the seven sacred cities, or Sapta Puris, as well as one of the four dhams, or great pilgrimage centers, for Hindus.
Dwaraka city, as shown by archaeological excavations, stands on a site with five earlier archaeological layers of human occupation. Beyt Dwaraka is said to be the place where Lord Krishna lived while he ruled Dwaraka.
And the palace, inundated by the rising seas over eons of time, time which has since slipped into the pages of mythology and fable, lay right there under those heaving, seething seas, discovered by the Marine Archaeologist, S.R. Rao.
Artifacts like pottery and utensils have been brought up and are in the process of being carbon dated to establish the time period. Many Indians are convinced that the time period of the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which features Lord Krishna, goes way further back than the mere 5000 BC that western historians date them at.
So the wonder and the mystery of a philosopher king, cloaked in divinity, who gave us the Bhagvad Gita, the remnants of whom have been washed away by the oceans of time. And somehow time stood still. And a sense of timelessness may engulf you.
Look around the island for sea creatures, shells, corals, migratory birds, like the plovers, herons, egrets, sandpipers― or sit at the edge of the sea and simply watch nature's pageant in awe, feel the mystery of life wash over you. Whenever, you visit a new city, you may walk, explore and feel the place. But at Beyt Dwaraka, you just need to sit quietly.