So no “Out of town” family trip is complete without a visit to a temple or a famous religious monument. Divine intervention is always something that we seek, in order to go forward on a journey on a positive note. And so here we were at Shreenathji -Nathdwara, on the 3rd day of my trip.
(P.S.: I would like to describe one place at a time, since its convenient and serves the purpose of giving a proper review about a particular destination.)
The Shreenathji Temple, located at Nathdwara, a few hours from Kumbalgarh, is one of the famous Vaishnava temples. It is the center place of Pushtimarg Sampradaya, a doctrine which was created by Jagat Guru Sri Vallabhacharya and is mostly followed by the Gujarati community of India.
Dedicated to Lord Shreenathji, the temple accommodates a shrine of Lord Krishna, which has been carved out of Black Marble. In the 12th century-Blimey, who would have done that! Though it is immensely popular amongst the Gujarati folks , I was particularly unaware of this Holy place. Ofcourse I had seen photographs of the lovely Deity, which happens to be one of the Top 10 Deities worshipped out of the 33 million deities in Hinduism, but the nature of devotion and craze that people have for this place was something that went unnoticed by me, inspite of being amidst loads of Gujju dosts..
(PS. This is a long one – Tread with patience)
( As told by the temple priests) During the siege of Aurangzeb, religious monuments of all faiths (except Muslims) were vandalized in Agra. Naturally, the Hindu devotees at Vrindavan feared the destruction of their beloved Krishna. To preserve the same, the cool Maharana Rajsingh of Mewar provided refuge to the statue of Shrinathji, by carrying the idol in a carriage to Mewar.
Folklore: The decision to settle in Nathdwara was of the Lord Himself, because the wheel of the chariot carrying the Lord got stuck in a puddle at a place called Sinhad in Mewar, and would not move ahead. This sign was taken to be a very auspicious sign by the Maharana and his followers , as if the Lord signaled that HE wanted to settle there.Thus a temple was built at that very spot, and the Idol installed therein, under the protection of Maharana.(The Rath is currently stored in the temple premises).
#InstaLife (As on date):
Aaj ke taarikh par, the little town is a honeycomb of lanes and alleys leading to the activity laden temple premises. The temple priests, often multitask as Good Guides to the temple, and have found another steady source of income through this addition to their job profile.
The Lord’s favorite animals,the Holy Cows, freely move around the temple premises at all times of the day, 365 days round. Be it Holi/ Janmashthami (the 2 occasions when people throng in huge numbers) or any other day. Cows are the Boss.
*Stud Life ( Specialties ):
Fun Facts: The statue of the 7 year old Shree Krishna is carved in Black Marble,with the left hand holding this “Govardhan hill” on His Left Finger tip and the Right hand made into a fist, resting on the waist. Also a diamond, placed beneath the lips cannot be ignored (Better known as Chibuk)!
The idol is flanked by a couple of cows,parrots, a single lion and snake and 3 sages all engraved on the black marble, which depicts its aura and ability to attract other beings. Also the idol is adorned with all sorts of Pre- Mughal era jewels , exquisite zari and embroidered silk clothes , which forms a visual One of a Kind treat. What a life!
- 8 portraits depict the Daily activity cycle of the Lord.(This forms substantial source of Audit Evidence for the current Aarti Timings which continue to be performed since time immemorial)
- Large life size cloth paintings, showcase the legends from the life of Lord Krishna (Raas lilas), famously known as Pichhwais.
- There is a print of a child’s feet in black, clearly visible on the cool, white stoned tiles. This footprint is believed to have been left by the Lord (then) for the people of the Kalyug, majorly as proof, since today’s generation does not believe on rumors and folk-lore and demand proofs and evidence.
What’s it all about, Bro?
Now Shreenathji ki Haveli is not a regular temple. Since it is considered to be the House of the Lord, Service (Sewa) is offered rather than worship. Like a typical household, the Haveli houses rooms for specific purposes and other specific items have also been organised like :
1.”Chariot/ Rath” stored in which the Lord was brought to Nathdwara for the first time.
2. Store room for Milk (doodhgar)
3. Store room for Betelnut (Paangarh),
4. Store room for Sugars and sweetmeats ( Pedagarh and Mishrigarh),
5.Functional Rasoigarh( Kitchen),
6. Store room for flowers (Phoolgarh)
7. Traditional Jewellery Chamber (Gahnaghar)
8. Treasury Room
9. Stable for Chariot Horses (Ashvashala)
10.Silver and Gold Chakki (Grinding wheel) and
11. Drawing room (Baithak)
In Indian tradition, children are considered to be the most auspicious and happiest forms of beings. Like special care is taken to adhere to each and every small need of any kid in the family, Krishna lovers follow the same tradition here. The deity is treated like a living child and special care is taken at all times. The temple is opened 8 times per day, depending on the day cycle of Lord Krishna, for Darshan or Short Glimpses.
Deets of the meaning of each aarti is as below:
Darshan 1: [ 5.15 A.M to 6 A.M ]- MANGLA AARTI
When the baby wakes up and has just had his breakfast, and greets his devotees with the “First” and the most Auspicious darshan of the day.
During Mangla Darshan, the main doors of the sanctum are kept closed and are only opened after the customary initial rituals. This ensures that the drowsy divine child is not startled by large crowds rushing in to see him. Another idea underlying the closed doors is that the “Svarupa” should not be tempted to play with his young companions as opening doors might tempt him to run out! Also His flute is not placed in his hand, for it is felt that if he were to play it early in the morning, everyone would be enchanted and all work would come to a standstill!
This ritual is performed to banish the evil spirits which hover around in the darkness of the night.
Darshan 2: [ 7.15 A.M to 7.45 A.M ]- SHRINGAR
Next thing what a Baby loves is getting dressed by His Mother like an Id ka chaand, where Mother Yashoda allows everyone to adore her baby.
The 2nd Darshan, follows the first by an hour, where Shrinathji is dressed carefully from head to foot, and a garland of flowers is placed around his neck. A Priest holds a mirror in front of him so that he can satisfy himself that, he is well dressed. This is his play hour like that of any other child, and he is offered dry fruits and sweets representing food brought to him by his beloved gopis. It is only after this meal that Shrinathji’s flute is placed in his hand, so that he can delight Radha -his beloved, with the tunes she loves.
Darshan 3: [ 9.15 A.M to 9.30 A.M ]- GWAL
Lord is about to Milk the cows and spend quality time with them.
Third darshana takes place at the hour when the Lord takes his cows to pasture. The Main Head of the Cowpen of Nathdwara visits Shrinathji at this time to inform him that all his Cows are well. He is then offered Makhan Mishri, a light dish with a milk base. The refreshments offered at Gwala darshana have to be light, since the lord is believed to have already eaten the comparatively rich foods offered to him by the followers earlier. Neither flowers nor his flute are shown during this darshan as it is assumed that he will be playing with his cowherd friends. The Lord is worshipped by reciting His Thousand Names and sacred Tulsi leaves are offered.
Darshan 4: [ 11.20 A.M to 12.15 P.M ]- RAJBHOG
Shrinathji is seen in all his regal splendor, holding lotus in one hand and wearing an elaborate garland. Beeda (folded betal leaves containing spices), are placed near him, along with a pitcher of water, his beloved flute, cane to play with Genda (Ball) and a mirror. Fine perfumes are sprinkled over the kalash on the roof, and the air is redolent with its scent.
Darshan 5: [ 3.40 P.M to 4 P.M ]- UTHAPAN
Aroused from the afternoon siesta.
During the afternoon, around 3.30 p.m., Shrinathji is aroused from his nap. A Conch is blown, it is time for him to return home with his Cows.
Darshan 6: [ 4.50 P.M to 4.50 P.M ]- BHOG
Sixth darshana of the day takes place an hour after the previous Darshan. A light meal is served to Shrinathji. A Chhadidara stands guard formally dressed in a Pagha (Turban), a Pataka (Sash) and a Gheradar Jama (A Garment with a Flaring Skirt). The Chhadidara’s function is to inform Swaminiji of Shrinathji’s arrival, so that she can obtain his darshana and arrange to milk the Cows.
Shrinathji is fanned and a morchhala is waved beside him to remove the possible effects of the evil eye cast while he has been in full view of many people.
Darshan 7: [ 5.15 P.M to 6 P.M ]- SANDHYA AARTI
This darshana takes place at dusk, when Krishna brings his Cows home from the fields. The predominant mood is of Motherly Love.He is offered his flute so that he can enchant his devotees and his Cowherd friends.
To signal end of the day,seven flags are wrapped round their sticks until the next day.
Darshan 8: SHAYAN
Since it is time for Lord to retire, various eatables are offered to Shrinathji. His bed chamber is readied for him, with a container of food, a pitcher of drinking water and Paan-Beedas. It is supposed that Radha will join him during the night, her garments and jewels too are kept in readiness. A carpet is spread on the ground leads from the image of Shrinathji to his bed chamber. It is presumed that he will walk on it in his spiritual, subtle form. The wooden platforms for the devotees to stand on during darshanas are removed. This ensures that Shrinathji does not encounter any obstacles at night.
This darshana is usually not held for the six months suring summer, when Shrinathji is suppose to visit the Vraja Forests to meet his followers residing in the forests.
KHANA KHAZANA !
In case you happen to miss the Darshan and have no option other than waiting for the next Darshan, worry not coz there are many eye-catching happenings around. I must admit, not only is the Darshan satisfying, so is the foood outside the temple premises.
Whether it is the unlimited prasad options you are entitled to ponce on, once you are done with the Darshan or the variety of food stalls serving Chinese, Punjabi cuisine, or Hot , Spicy Fried Potato and Sabudana crumbs (Popularly known as Kand ) or Garam Aloo Kachoris, every bit of food is delicious.
But the Most Delicious highlight of the destination remains to be the Thandai– which is Bubbling Hot and prepared in front of you and is Ice-Cold within minutes. The smell authenticates the taste and is a MUST Have!!
Also when, a traditionally dressed up man, all decked up in the most colourful Pagdi and singing in Marwari, happily pours out his Thandai from one picher to the other, doing his gravity- defying tricks and simultaneously posing for the camera, offers a fresh glass of mouthwatering Thandai, its hard to resist!
Also there are stalls selling Ukaala and Pudina / Masala Chai served on moving stalls, in traditional earthen cups which also complement the food very well and is sure to leave you wanting for more!
Over 1000 devotees reach the temple early in the morning ,to serve the Lord, each day of the year, all complete with regal splendor. The darshan is like a matter of life and death for the devotees , and they endure it bravely eight times in a day just to catch a glimpse of their favorite deity for those few minutes. The crowd increases in huge numbers during festivals since everyone wants to catch a glimpse of the their Lord during auspicious occasions.
For the Normal City Folk who are travelling for the first time to Shreenathji, the place might give an impression of being completely commercialized like other holy places at Shirdi and Tirupati. Also there is lack of Private space that an individual might absolutely need at times to gather his thoughts at a historic place like this and to get a feel of a place.
Since this was our first visit by a road trip, needless to say, it was quiet special. The atmosphere was positive and vibrant, you could feel alive in that moment. Also we were quiet on the alert since we were warned of theft and loss of dear belongings. But apart from these chotu fears, it was a different experience altogether. There is a power that you can feel when people pray in huge numbers. That’s something quiet rare, but I got to feel it after a long time. And boy, its a must visit.
It is all worth it, since this place gives you that positive vibe that you might be looking out for. Also it gives a rare opportunity – An Opportunity to pray to the Lord- TOGETHER as One (something which is getting rarer by the day). The more the prayers, the stronger is the positive vibe which passes through the environment around and through each one of us and which makes all of us connect in that particular moment.
By the end of this darshan, you are more than Just Satisfied.
Pooja and Pet Pooja have never been this good 🙂