Beaten rice, butter with sugar, curds and Tulsi leaves are my association with food on Gokulasthmi or Krishna Janamasthmi.
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
asnami prayatatmanah (Bhagvad Gita: Chapter 9, verse 26)
which translates to, ‘if anyone offers me a leaf, or a flower, a fruit or water with devotion, I will accept it.’ No doubt then, he was thrilled when his childhood friend Sudama brought with him a bundle of puffed rice. Suka Deva narrates this story in the Bhagvatham that when Sudama was in extreme penury, his wife begs him to seek Krishna’s help – reminding him of their childhood friendship. Sudama agrees but does not want to go empty handed. Sudama’s wife gets a handful of flat rice from neighbours and ties it up in a piece of rag. Sudama makes his way towards Dwaraka where Krishna receives his friend with affection. He makes him sit on silken cushions and washing his feet personally. They went to talk about the times they spent together at the Gurukul learning with their Guru Sandipani. Lord Krishna then asks him what Sudama had got for him. Sudama hesitatingly offers the beaten rice to Him. Lord Krishna takes a handful and eats it with great relish. As he goes to eat another handful, he is stopped by his consort Rukmini, who whispers to Him saying, “By partaking a handful of rice you have already made sure that Sudama will be wealthy not only in this life but also the next!” Sudama, on his part was elated to be in the company of his friend and left without asking for anything. On reaching his town, he was amazed to see his neighbourhood transformed and a palace in place of his humble cottage. His wife and children were dressed in the best garments. Sudama realises that this was the benevolence of his dear friend.
The story narrated comes to mind when you visit the Sudama Mandir in Porbandar. Porbandar, a coastal city of Gujarat, perhaps needs no introduction. The town as we know was the birthplace of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. A little known fact is that it is also the birthplace of Sudama or Kusela (as he is known in southern India).
The Sudama Mandir is perhaps the only temple in India dedicated to Sudama. The temple, which is in the centre of the town, was built sometime around 1902- 1907 under the patronage of Shri Ram Devji Jethwa, the ruler of Jethwa Dynasty. They were Rajputs who had come from northwestern India, Sind to Kutch to Saurashtra. Located at the centre of Porbandar, it is one exceptional temple in India which is dedicated to this great devotee of Lord Krishna. This temple is particularly popular with newly married Rajasthani Kshatriya couples
The temple architecture is simple and made up of marble carved pillars and a tall ‘Shikhar’ or tower. The temple has been renovated recently and a statue of the Krishna- Sudama embrace has been installed by the district administration.
The Krishna-Sudama embrace reminds me of the five types of devotion, that ancient texts speak about to the Supreme Being. Of them is Sakhya Bhava, where the devotee thinks of the Almighty as one’s friend. Sudama epitomized just this bhava, when he realised that the Lord could be his most intimate friend. Only a close friend could confidently take a pouch of beaten rice to the King of Dwaraka.
Hari Mandir: Very close to the airport is the Sri Hari Mandir or Sandipani Temple. This should perhaps be your first stop in Porbandar if you arrive by air. Architecturally, this temple is marvelous and is the labour of love of the spiritual leader, Shri Rameshbhai Oza who is known as Bhaishri to his followers. The groundbreaking ceremony was done in May 1998 and it took seven years for it to be completed. All the stone came from Porbander itself. The height of the temple is 105 feet with 48 steps leading to the temple. The temple has five Shikhars or spires. The doors and pillars have exquisite carvings.
The main deity enshrined in the sanctum sanctorum is Shri Lakshmi Narayan. On either side are the murtis or idols of Shri Janki Vallabha and Shri Radha Krishna. Housed under the other 2 domes are Lord Shankar with his family and Devi Durga. Shri Ganesha and Shri Hanuman are placed at the two extreme ends of these deities. No photography is allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum. All around the vast landscape has beautiful gardens, shrubs and trees making the ambiance a beautiful and peaceful one.
When we arrived at the temple on the day of ‘Ganesh Chaturti’ last year, students of the Sandipani Vidyaniketan were assembled in the hall for a special event. Indeed, the school is named after Lord Krishna and Sudama’s revered guru Sandipani.
Harsidhdhi Mata: After Porbandar, we started on our way to Dwaraka by road. Enroute to Dwaraka is the Harsidhdhi Mata temple. This is located at the Gandhvi village just 30 kilometres from Porbandar on top of a hillock – the Koyla Dungar.
It is believed to be the Kula Devi or family deity of Lord Krishna. The original temple on top of a hill faces the sea and is believed to have been in existence since Dwapara Yuga, when Krishna himself built the temple. The deity is also known as Harshal Mata. The story goes that when Lord Krishna went to fight Jarasandha he prayed to Goddess Amba for victory. When Jarasandha was defeated, the Yadava clan was elated and celebrated by calling the goddess as Harshal Mata (one who gives happiness).
The temple on Koyla Dungar was built by a Jain merchant called Jagadu Seth in the 13th century. It was believed that if the eyes of Goddess in the original temple fell on any incoming ships, the ships would invariably be wrecked. Jagadu’s ships were also wrecked but he escaped unharmed. It was then that he decided to fast at Amba’s temple to request that she lower her eyes away from the sea. She appeared in Jagadu’s consciousness and demanded that she would descend only if he sacrificed a buffalo on each step. As a Jain, Jagadu was in a dilemma but agreed to sacrifice the buffaloes. However, he was a little short of buffaloes and so he decided to sacrifice his family and himself to keep his word. Goddess Amba was merely testing his resolve and was hence pleased with his devotion. The family was brought back to life also with a blessing that that his lineage would go on till the end of time. Jagadu’s statue is also placed in the temple on the right-hand side of the Goddess. Harsidhi Mata is now venerated by fishermen and sea-faring people of Gujarat.
Kirti Mandir: While this does not form part of the Krishna route, Porbandar in modern India is synonymous as the birth-place of Mahatma Gandhi. The house where Gandhiji was born is now a museum. The original 3-storied building was purchased by the great grand father of Mahatmaji, Shri Harjivan Raidas Gandhi, in the 17th century. The credit of the present structure as a national memorial goes to Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta, the philanthropist industrialist, who not only initiated this idea but also funded it by buying the ancestral house and build the new complex called Kirti Mandir.