Tracing Krishna’s footsteps in Porbandar

Tracing Krishna’s footsteps in Porbandar

Lord Krishna’s friendship with Sudama has a special link with Porbandar, writes Sangeeta Venkatesh

Hari Mandir Temple, Porbandar.

It’s that time of the year when we celebrate one of the most favourite gods in the Hindu pantheon. The ‘birth’ of Lord Krishna, known as Krishna Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, falls on Monday this year. The antics and stories of Krishna have delighted both young and old for millennia which brings me to a trip to Porbandar, a town that celebrates the story of the friendship between Krishna and his childhood friend Sudama (or Kusela as he is also known in South India). 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. But a little-known fact is that it is also the birthplace of Sudama. 

Many would have read about Suka Deva, the son of Sage Vyasa narrating in the Srimad Bhagavatam the story of Sudama’s wife begging him to seek Krishna’s help when they were in extreme penury. Sudama agrees but does not want to go empty-handed to visit his friend. Sudama’s wife gets a handful of flat rice from the neighbours and ties it up in a piece of cloth. Sudama then makes his way towards Dwaraka where Krishna receives his friend with affection. They go on to talk about the times they spent together at the Gurukul learning with their Guru Sandipani. Lord Krishna then asks Sudama what he 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 is amazed to see his neighbourhood transformed and a palace in place of his humble cottage. Sudama realises that this was nothing but the benevolence of his dear friend. This story is refreshed when you visit the Sudama Mandir in Porbandar. 

Sudama Mandir: 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. 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 famous Krishna-Sudama embrace has been installed by the district administration.

Hari Mandir: Porbandar celebrates Krishna in more modern structures too. Very close to the airport is the Sri Hari Mandir, also called the Sandipani Temple. 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 that of Shri Lakshmi Narayan. 

Harsiddhi Mata: If you are visiting Porbandar, it is likely, you would also like to visit Dwaraka, which is best reached by road. In that case, you could make a stop at the Gandhvi village just 30 kilometres from Porbandar. Located on top of the Koyla Dungar hillock is the Harsiddhi Mata temple, which is believed to be the family deity of Lord Krishna. The original temple on top of a hill faced the sea and is believed to have been in existence since Dwapara Yuga when Krishna himself built the temple.

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