“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart
- A leaf, a flower, fruit, or water - I accept with joy.”
- Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita
After visiting the Dakor Gaushala and taking a leisurely stroll along the Gomti lake, I finally reached the main temple – The Ranchhodraiji Temple. After going through the normal security check (Photography is not allowed inside), I entered through one of the four main temple gates. The gates were huge and magnificently carved with Vedic Gods like the Sun, the Moon and the Ganesha. They all seemed to guard the entrance. The gates open in a wide and a large courtyard. Standing high on a plinth (about ten stone steps on each side), in the middle of the courtyard is the main temple overlooking the Gomti lake. The main temple was built by Shri Gopalrao Jagannath Tambwekar in 1772 A.D.
[ Main entrance to the Ranchhodrai Temple ]
It was 11 am, the sun was shining and the temple was closed. Still the courtyard was filled with people – sitting on the steps, waiting for a glimpse of their beloved and singing devotional hymns. Their soulful renditions reverberated in the depths of my heart and draped the entire atmosphere there in divinity and sanctity.
Like all ancient temples, this temple too has a captivating saga that unfurls when one delves in its history.
Vijayanand Bodana, a rajput of Dakor, and his wife Gangabai were ardent devotees of Lord Krishna. Bodana used to go to Dwarka every six months to worship Lord Krishna carrying with him – ‘Tulsi Patra’ (basil plant leaves). He did this continuously and persistently till he reached a ripe age of 72 years when he began to find it more and more difficult to pursue his ritual. Exceedingly pleased with his devotion and seeing his troubles, Lord Krishna came in his dream and said, “You need not come now, I myself will come near you. On your next visit to Dwarka, bring a bullock-cart and I shall accompany you to Dakor”. He did exactly this on his next visit to Dwarka. Upon learning his intentions, the priests of Dwarka (Gugli brahmins) locked and sealed the sanctum sanctorum of Dwarka Temple for the night. At mid night, Lord Krishna broke open all the doors, awoke Bodana and together they left for Dakor.
In Dwarka, the priests finding the idol missing chased Bodana and came to Dakor searching for it. Fearing the priests of Dwarka, Bodana hid the idol in the Gomti lake. Thereafter, Lord Krishna directed Gangabai, wife of Bodana, to give gold equivalent of the idol’s weight and ask the priests to return to Dwarka. The priests agreed and a large weighing scale was set up on the banks of the Gomti.
As Gangabai was very poor, a golden nose-ring was all that she had. Accordingly, the idol of Lord Krishna was weighed here against the golden nose-ring of Gangabai and Tulsi Patra. Miraculously, her pure devotion towards the Lord made it possible for the nose-ring to balance the weighing scale. Even today, the place where the idol of Lord Krishna was weighed exists on the bank of the Gomti lake known as ‘Tula Ka Sthan’ that I had described in my last post.
The priests were saddened but the Lord mercifully directed them that they would find, after six months, an exact replica of the idol in Sevaradhan Vav (well with steps) at Dwarka. Unable to resist their curiosity, the priests looked for the idol sometime earlier, and found an idol which though similar to the original one, was much smaller in size. This smaller idol is currently enshrined at the Dwarka temple.
Thus, Lord Krishna stayed permanently at Dakor where he is fondly known as Ranchhodraiji.
Similarly, there is an interesting story behind the Lord's name - Ranchhodrai as well. According to the Hindu scriptures, Lord Krishna once fled (chhod) from the battlefield (Ran) during a war with an ally of Jarasandh and since then, he came to be known as Ranchhodrai.
[ Magnificient Ranchhodrai Temple - Dakor]
It was around 11.30 am now and time for the Lord to have His meal (Rajbhog darshan). Amidst beating of drums and ringing of temple bells, the temple opened and people rushed in to seek His blessings. In a matter of seconds, the temple room got filled with hordes of devotees.
The front portion of the temple is railed off for women and I sneaked in through. Two men carrying Hundis (large metal pots) were standing on the railing and swaying it to and fro, so that people could put their donations in them. I have visited so many temples but have never come across such a unique way of collecting donations. On the sidewalls, there are beautiful artistic stone carvings and mural paintings depicting the various stages in the life of Lord Krishna (Krishna leelas).
Finally, the diya was lit and the inner sanctum lit up – the divine image of Lord Ranchhodraiji in black touchstone glittered… it was a sight to behold… The lord is always smiling, looking lovingly towards His devotees – a gaze which can convert even an atheist into a believer.
[ Image of Lord Ranchhoraiji
courtesy www.ranchhodraijidakor.com ]
He was wearing a silky white robe, His body adorned with garlands of fresh flowers, valuable ornaments, His lotus feet covered with Tulsi leaves. The arti started… The heady clanking of the temple bells, the echo of the conch, the clapping of hands and the vibration of the chants ‘Ranchhodraiji Ki Jai…’ spiritually charges up the entire atmosphere so powerfully, that it stirs your soul. I closed my eyes and bowed my head in prayer. The arti ended… While circumambulating the temple, I recollected the words of my mother. Before commencing the trip, she had said - The punya (virtues) gained by visiting Ranchhodraiji temple and having a glimpse of Lord Ranchhodrai is considered to be as equal as visiting Char Dhams – And I realized how fortunate and blessed I was!