Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dwarka and some “insider tips” on shopping in Jamnagar

This weekend, some of us headed to the seaside-ressort at Diu while others (including myself) opted for a temple-sightseeing trip to Dwarka.

Dwarka is one of the four holy sites for Hindus and the Dwarakadheesh temple was - in an earlier form - build some 5,000 years ago in honor of Lord Krishna.

When we arrived in Dwarka, we were met by our guide who gave us an excellent overview of the temple and Hindu religion. Lord Krishna is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu (I’ve since learned on the internet, that there may be more incarnations – Avatars – but 7th is what our guide told us) and the temple not only had a dedicated shrine for him, but also for a number of his wives, teachers and other people important in his life. Coming from a Christian background it is quite interesting how the gods are portrayed and seen as actual people (small puppets in the case of the Dwarka temple) and how they seem to follow a daily routine. For example when we arrived we were told that the main temple was closed as Lord Krishna was having his breakfast and in another room we saw a bed made up for him in case he wanted to rest. Also, the clothes on the gods are changed daily and there is always some food around in case they get hungry.

Unfortunately it is not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, so you have to come and see it for yourself.

An interesting ritual is that 5 times per day the flag flying over the temple is changed and a person or family (who had a wish granted by Lord Krishna) will sponsor each flag. In case anyone wants to become a sponsor we were told that the next available slots are free in 2016…. Quite amazing! We actually got to see the flag changing ceremony and it was really impressive how this is done by one man, standing on a tiny platform in 150 feet height.

As there is - apart from the temple - not a lot else to see in Dwarka, we decided to head to Nageshwar Temple (dedicated to Shiva) where a huge statue greets visitors long before you reach the actual temple (which features a lovely Ganesh statue over the entrance porch).


After a quick stop for lunch at a TATA chemicals canteen, we headed for Bet Dwarka which is famous for its temples dedicated to Lord Krishna. When we got there we realised that Bet Dwarka could only be reached by boat, which was a fun experience.

Apparently the boat is build for 60 people but the captain clearly has different views (and was probably a risksha driver before taking on this role)…. The picture below only shows the people on the front third of the boat and I think here alone you can easily count a good 60+ people…

But the water was calm(ish) and didn’t look too deep, so we decided to take a chance and went onboard.

The boatride was actually be best part of the journey, as the temple in Bet Dwarka was closed and there is not a lot else to see on the island. But the trip was great fun and we certainly enjoyed it.

On our way back we also passed a herd of camels and although I have seen a lot of wild camels by now, I still don’t cease to be amazed by these majestic animals!

I had promised you in a previous blog some insight into (alcohol) shopping in Gujarat, which is quite different to anything I’d experienced before.

As Gujarat is a “dry” state, locals can’t (officially...) buy or consume alcohol but there are exceptions for foreigners (and apparently for Indians from other states). When we arrived in Jamnagar we were asked by the hotel if we wanted to get a liquor license (which is free), so we all (surprise, surprise :-) signed up. In order to get the license we had to go to the “Hotel Vishna International” (just in case you are wondering – it's not a hotel I’d recommend on Tripadvisor, partrly because they seem to have forgotten to build anything above the 1st floor apart from concrete walls…)

and were let through a very smelly, dark, long corridor in the basement to some kind of store room.

Some government officials asked us to hand over our passports (!)  and some other documents and we were told to come back when they were ready… After ca. 20mins waiting in the hotel “lobby”, we were asked to go back to the dodgy room and received our passports (which had been stamped with a liquor permit, now making it clearly visible to everyone that we are probably alcoholics...) and the official liquor permit tracking sheet (where every purchase is recorded).

We could then select which kind of drinks we wanted (there was very limited choice – two types of beer, some spirits and wine, which we later discovered had no resemblance whatsoever to any kind of wine any of us had ever tasted…) and once paid for, we could leave.

It all felt really surreal and the rules are still not yet quite clear to us. Some of us were “made” to buy a certain amount of drinks (e.g. you have to buy exactly 3 bottles of wine), others could chose the amount up to a certain limit (e.g. 2 bottles of gin) and for others a time limit until they could come back (no sooner than 10 days) was imposed…. Very strange and it felt almost as if we were committing some kind of crime. So if you ever get to Gujarat, don’t worry – this is how alcohol purchases are supposed to work :-)
Shopping for other goods is more fun yet equally surreal. When going to a clothes shop

you will be inundated with choice and it seems the shop owner wants to make sure you see every last piece of clothing they have, so they will pile it all up in front of you (not really listening to anything you may have said about what you actually want to buy or which colours you (do not) like and refusing to give you a price until you have made it very clear that you are actually interested in a purchase). Haggling doesn't seem to be the way to go (maybe that's different in the street markets, but in the shops the price is pretty much what you are told in the beginning).

Most clothes are also not ready to wear but need to be tailored, so you either go to some back-room or across the road to a tailor (who only takes some rough measures and does not speak any English but has some books where you can point on the kind of design you like) and then pick up your purchases a couple days later. I’ve bought a Kurta and hope to wear it next weekend for an event, so watch this space for some interesting pictures :-)

Enjoy your bank holiday weekend in England and hope you all have a great start to the new week!

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