Lost City of Dwarka Found under Water

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A TLC series segment chronicling the discovery of what was thought to be the Hindu God Krishna's underwater city, Dwarka. Written, Produced and Directed by Virginia Williams. (2001) *Best Documentary, TV Asia Awards 2002.

The ancient city of Dwaraka, situated on the extreme West Coast of Indian territory, occupies an important place in the cultural and religious history of India. The fabulous architectural planning of the Dwaraka temple has attracted tourists from all over the world. The town has association with Lord Krishna, who founded this town by reclaiming 12 yojanas of land from the sea. During its glorious past, Dwaraka was a city of beautiful gardens, deep moats, and several ponds and palaces (Vishnu Purana), but it is believed to have submerged just after the disappearance of Lord Krishna. Due to its historical importance and association with the Mahabharata, Dwaraka continues to attract archeologists and historians besides scientists.
Sri Krishna killed the demon Kamsa (his maternal uncle) and made Ugrasena (His maternal grandfather) the king of Mathura. Enraged, Kamsa's father-in law, Jarasandha (king of Magadh) together with his friend Kalayavana attacked Mathura 17 times. For the safety of the people, Krishna and the Yadavas decided to move the capital from Mathura to Dwaraka.


Sri Krishna and the Yadavas left Mathura and arrived at the coast of Saurashtra. They decided to build their capital in the coastal region and invoked Visvakarma, the deity of construction. However, Visvakarma said that the task could be completed only if Samudradeva, the lord of the sea, provided some land. Sri Krishna worshipped Samudradeva, who was pleased and gave them land measuring 12 yojanas and henceforth, Visvakarma built Dwaraka, a city in gold.

Anyone engaged in the devotional service of the Lord is recommended to live in one of three places: Dwaraka, Mathura or Vrindavana. Because devotional service in these three places is magnified, those who go there to follow principles in terms of instructions imparted in the revealed scriptures surely achieve the same result as obtained during the presence of Lord Sri Krishna. His abode and He Himself are identical, and a pure devotee under the guidance of another experienced devotee can obtain all the results, even at present.

Submergence of Dwaraka

After Sri Krishna left for His abode and the major Yadava heads were killed in fights among themselves, Dwaraka became submerged in the sea. This is the account given by Arjuna in the Mahabharata:

"The sea, which has been beating against the shores, suddenly broke the boundary that was imposed on it by nature. It rushed into the city, coursing through the beautiful city streets, and covered up everything in the city. I saw the beautiful buildings becoming submerged on by one. In a matter of a few moments, it was all over. The sea had now become as placid as a lake. There was no trace of the city. Dwaraka was just a name; just a memory."

The Historical Dwaraka

The city of Dwaraka has been under investigation by historians since the beginning of the 20th century. The exact location of this port city has been under debate for a long time. Several literary references, especially from the Mahabharata, have been used to suggest its exact location.

Dwaraka is mentioned in the Mahabharata (Mausala Parva) and an appendix to the epic, Harivamsa, refers to the submergence of Dwaraka by the sea. Dwaraka was a city state extending up to Bet Dwaraka (Sankhoddhara) in the north and Okhamadhi in the south. In the east, it extended up to Pindata. The 30 to 40 meter-high hill on the eastern flank of Sankhoddhara may be the Raivataka referred to in the Mahabharata.

Discovery of Dwaraka

Excavations at Dwaraka helped add credence to the legend of Krishna and the Mahabharata war, as well as provide ample evidence of the advanced societies that lived in these areas such as the Harappan settlements.

The Dwarakadhisa Temple prompted the setting up of a Marine Archaeology Unit (MAU) jointly by the National Institute of Oceanography and the Archaeological Survey of India. Under the guidance of Dr. Rao, a great marine archaeologist, a team consisting of expert underwater explorers, trained diver-photographers and archaeologists was formed. The technique of geophysical survey was combined with the use of echo-sounders, mud-penetrators, sub-bottom profilers and underwater metal detectors. This team carried out 12 marine archaeological expeditions between 1983 to 1992 and articles and antiquities recovered were sent to Physical Research Laboratory for dating. By using thermo-luminescence, carbon dating and other modern scientific techniques, the artifacts were found to belong to the period between 15th to 18th century B.C. In his great work, The Lost City of Dwaraka, Dr. Rao has given scientific details of these discoveries and artifacts.

Between 1983 to 1990, the well-fortified township of Dwaraka was discovered, extending more than half mile from the shore. The township was built in six sectors along the banks of a river. The foundation of boulders on which the city's walls were erected proves that the land was reclaimed from the sea. The general layout of the city of Dwaraka described in ancient texts agrees with that of the submerged city discovered by the MAU.

According to the discoveries, Dwaraka was a prosperous city in ancient times, which was destroyed and reconstructed several times. The work of great excavators like Z.D. Ansari and M.S. Mate allowed chance discovery of temples of the 9th century A.D. and 1st century A.D. buried near the present Dwaraka.

Conclusions arrived at after carrying out these underwater archaeological explorations support and validate the dates arrived at through astronomical calculations. They also prove that the reconstructed city was a prosperous port town, and that it was in existence for about 60-70 years in the 15th century B.C. before being submerged under the sea in the year 1443 B.C.

(Editors' note: Although the adherents of western, empirical science date Dwaraka to 1443 B.C. or roughly 3,400 years ago, ancient Vedic astronomical texts and present-day practitioners of the Vedic tradition assert that the current epoch of Kali-yuga began in 3102 B.C. Lord Krishna's disappearance and the subsequent submergence of Dwaraka occured shortly before this date. Therefore, Dwaraka can be no less than 5,000 years old.)

"The discovery of the legendary city of Dwaraka which is said to have been founded by Sri Krishna, is an important landmark in the history of India. It has set at rest the doubts expressed by historians about the historicity of Mahabharata and the very existence of Dwaraka city. It has greatly narrowed the gap of Indian history by establishing the continuity of Indian civilization from the Vedic age to the present day." (S.R. Rao, former adviser to the NIO who is still actively involved in the excavations).

Rao said that if a fraction of the funds spent on land archaeology were made available for underwater archaeology, more light could be shed on Dwaraka, which had much archaeological significance because it was built during the second urbanization that occured in India after the Indus Valley civilization in northwestern India. Dwaraka's existence disproves the belief held by Western archaeologists that there was no urbanization in the indian subcontinent from the period between 1700 B.C. (Indus Valley) and 550 B.C. (advent of Buddhism). As no information was available about that period, they had labelled it the Dark Period.

Among the objects unearthed that proved Dwaraka's connection with the Mahabharata epic was a seal engraved with the image of a three headed animal. The epic mentions such a seal given to the citizens of Dwaraka as a proof of identity when the city was threatened by King Jarasandha of the powerful Magadh kingdom (no Bihar). The foundation of boulders on which the city's walls were erected proves that the land was reclaimed from the sea about 3,600 years ago. The epic has references to such reclamation activity at Dwaraka. Seven islands mentioned in it were also discovered submerged in the Arabian Sea.

Pottery, which has been established by thermo-luminescence tests to be 3,528 years old and carrying inscriptions in late Indus Valley civilization script, iron stakes and triangular three-holed anchors discovered here find mention in the Mahabharata.

"The findings in Dwaraka and archeological evidence found compatible with the Mahabharata tradition remove the lingering doubt about the historicity of the Mahabharata. We would say that Krishna definetely existed." S.R. Rao.

Dwaraka inundated by tsunami?

Could a tsunami have struck the coast of Gujarat to drown the ancient city of Dwaraka? Experts and others closely associated with the discovery of the lost city off the coast of Saurashtra don't discount this possibility. They speak of the Mahabharata talking about the sea suddenly engulfing the city after Lord Krishna's disappearance and Arjuna taking Krishna's grandsons to Hastinapura.

"The Bhagavata Purana (11.30.5) mentions 'ete ghora mahotpata dvarvatyam yama-ketavah, muhurtam api na stheyam atra no yadu-pungavah.' The literal translation is 'This calamity itself has become a symbol of death. The Yadavas should not stay here even a moment longer.' The suddenness of the present tsunami has caused similar devastation to what seems to have happened to ancient Dwaraka and its inhabitans."

But here are three texts including the Harivamsa, the Matsya Purana and the Bhagavat-gita, which state that it took seven days to vacate Dwaraka before it was submerged by the sea. If we suppose that Dwaraka submerged due to a tsunami, the gradual movement of the sea can't be explained.

According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11th Canto, Krishna sends a message to the people of Dwaraka. He tells them that once he leaves this world, there would be no one on this earth to save Dwaraka. The sea would finish Dwaraka and hence he asks the 56 crore Yaduvamsis to leave Dwaraka.

Source: Report about the excavations done by Dr. S.R. Rao of the Marnie Archaeology Unit of the National Institute of Oceanography of India.