At the north-western tip of Saurashtra is Dwarka, one of the ‘Char Dhams’ (sacred places) for Hindus, where Lord Krishna is believed to have shifted his capital from Mathura (in UP). The Dwarkadhish Temple here is an impressive five-stbreyed carved structure supported on 60 columns and crowned by an elaborately carved spire. This is the place to be in for the Janamashtami Festival (August/September) when the birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated with great fanfare.
Further south near Veraval lies Somnath Temple, famous for the shore temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. About a thousand years ago, the immense wealth held in the temple was described by Al Biruni in his chronicles. Mahmud of Ghazni learnt of it, and in 1026, descended on Somnath, demolished the temple and carried away camel loads of gold and jewels to Afghanistan! The temple was rebuilt and then destroyed thrice during the next 700 years. The present temple was built on the same site in 1950 and is one of the most venerated Shiva shrines in India.
The men folk in rural Saurashtra still wear their traditional dress – a short, pleated, full-sleeved coat, pyjamas that resemble jodhpurs and turbans worn in their distinctive style. This dress is also worn while dancing the ‘Dandiya Ras’, a unique dance on the Ramayana theme, traditionally performed only by men. They hold short, lacquered batons in both hands, striking them together in time to the beat of drums, cymbals and songs as they quick-step in a whirling circle. And seeing their coats billow out as they twirl around to the heady beat, one cannot help feeling that their dress was designed only to facilitate dancing! In recent years the ‘Dandiya’ has become very popular among urban teenagers even outside Gujarat, and, of course, boys happily welcome the girls to join the fun!