Mesmerized by the unique charm of a simple, apparently non-descript, ferry ride at the western most tip of the country, Sutapa Chaudhuri writes about one of those few places in the world, that remain well-trodden but still unexplored.
During the Republic Day holidays last January, we embarked on a journey to do the rounds of the oft visited holy circuit that the state of Gujarat, in western India, is so famous for. Little did we imagine what unique treasures this typical tour of temples had in store for us. We expected the usual dose of religious tourism promoted in this region; yet, quite unexpectedly, it was not the heavily loaded pilgrim places that gave us a taste of the heavens and a touch of the eternity beyond, but a simple boat ride- a day to day transit in the lives of many- that rendered solace to our souls thirsty for a drop of eternal, elemental and infinite bliss.
From a ferry ride to reach yet another temple, albeit famous and holy, it became a journey in search of the elemental pleasures in life, those simple joyous moments, emotions and experiences of truth that in our daily pursuit of a technocratic materialistic urbane lifestyle we have forgotten and conveniently consigned to oblivion. This unique and exclusive experience brought us in close touch with nature and its joys and also transported us close to the heavens- cleansing the clutter in our burdened souls more effectively than doing the rounds at the temples in all the holy pilgrimages put together. Truly the ride almost took us to the enchanting world of the famous Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.
The picturesque journey from the ferry jetty at Okha to Bet Dwarka is unforgettable not for the anticipation of 'punya' that one accrues by the holy passage from the two famous Hindu pilgrim places or a visit to the historic sites of national importance -Dwarka and Bet Dwarka ' it is impressive for its natural beauty and the beautiful congregate of sea gulls, flocks of white lithe satiny soft birds in multitudes and their wild, uninhibited and artless acrobatics in abandon that would shame even the most supple and perfect of gymnasts - swooping in, fluttering about, rakishly riding the white crests of the waves, flying down, soaring high, leaping straight out of the blue, lunging at the boats, pouncing on the proffered nuts, the next moment plunging deep into the waters of the sea; at times mingling their pearly feathers with the silvery frothy foams of the sea, swimming serenely, or diving headlong in the wild waters all in a fantastic and furious flurry of feathers.
The ferry ride from Okha, a port near Dwarka, the regal kingdom of Lord Krishna and one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimages, to the Isle or Bet, the mythical place where Lord Krishna met his beloved friend Sudama, makes for a wonderful and unusually exciting outing for the entire family any weekend. For the kids it takes the tones of an adventure and for the adults it holds the promise of almost a return to the unrestrained joys of childhood and innocence. The half an hour boat trip from Okha jetty to Bet Dwarka across a watery stretch of 5 kms. in the middle of the Arabian sea is truly enchanting. Sea gulls galore on this tiny strip of the mighty waters. This is where, even if for a momentary time being, one can discard the worldly worries, the frustrations of daily life and become a child again. To mingle freely with the natural beauty of the place, the salty sea and the satiny sea gulls, in order to rejuvenate the soul. As the sea gulls swoop down with lightning speed and perfect precision, to catch the bits of nuts that are tossed high up in the air, our souls take flight beyond borders to reach the ever boundless blue firmament. Like a happy child we too desire to spread our wings to reach out to our dreams. For us this trip is memorable not as a part of the journey from the famous mainland temple in Dwarka to the islet of Bet Dwarka, but as an enlightening experience of freedom.
Bet Dwarka or Dwarka Island a tiny habitat of traditional temples located on an island in the middle of the Arabian Sea, next to the coastal town of Okha at the western tip of the Gujarat peninsula. It is at a distance of 32 kms. north of mainland Dwarka. This Bet or island in the sea, near Dwarka makes pleasant outing. From the ferry jetty at Okha, it takes twenty minutes to half an hour by a regular ferryboat or steam launch to reach the island. State and private buses go to Okha from Dwarka (1 hr) every thirty minutes. One can also go by jeep or tour bus. The entire trip to the island from the town of Dwarka will take at least four hours.