|Shrinathji Temple, Nathdwara|
|Deity||Shrinathji (form of Krishna)|
|Festivals||Janmashtami, Holi, Diwalietc.|
|Creator||Damodar Das Bairagi & Goswami Priests|
Legend and history
The Swarup or divine form of Shrinathji is said to be self-manifested. The deity of the Lord Krishna according to the legend, is self-manifested from stone and emerged from the Govardhan Hills. Historically, the image of Shrinathji was first worshipped at Govardhan hill, near Mathura. The image was initially shifted from Mathura in 1672 CE along river Yamuna and was retained at Agra for almost six months, in order to safeguard it from, according to legend, the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, who wished to keep the prestigious deity with him in Agra. Subsequently, the image was transferred further south on a chariot to a safer place to protect it from barbaric destruction unleashed by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. When the deity reached the spot at village Sihad or Sinhad, the wheels of bullock cart in which the deity was being transported sank axle-deep in mud and could not be moved any farther. The accompanying priests realised that the particular place was the Lord's chosen spot and accordingly, a temple was built there under the rule and protection of the then Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar. Shrinathji Temple is also known as 'Haveli of Shrinathji’ (mansion). The temple was built by Goswami Damodar Das Bairagi in 1672.
In 1934 an order was issued by the Udaipur King (Darbar), by which, inter alia, it was declared that according to the law of Udaipur all the property dedicated or presented to or otherwise coming to the Deity Shrinathji was property of the shrine, that the Tilkayat Maharaj for the time being was merely a custodian, Manager and Trustee of the said property and that the Udaipur Darbar had absolute right to supervise that the 562 property dedicated to the shrine was used for the legitimate purposes of the shrine.
Maratha looting of the temple
In 1802, Marathas marched on Nathdwara and attacked the Shrinathji temple. Holkar, the maratha chief looted 3 lakh rupees of the temple property. For exacting further money he arrested many priests of the temple. The chief priest (Gosain) Damodar Das Bairagi feeling the further ill intention of marathas sent a message to Maharana. Maharana sent some of his nobles to save Shrinathji from marathas and escort the deity out of the temple. They escorted Shrinathji to Ghasiyar a relative safe location from marathas in Aravali hills. The nobles like Kothariya chief Vijay Singh Chouhan had to lay down his life along with his men while fighting the marathas to save Shrinathji idol. Shrinathji stayed at Ghasiyar for five years before being brought back to Nathdwara. Marathas meanwhile frustrated with this development looted the Nathdwara town and left for Ajmer in the midway they also looted money from Dwarkadheesh temple, Kankroli.
According to the hagiography of the Pushtimarg, Shrinathji used to travel to Mewar to play chaupar (an antecedent to Parcheesi) with a Princess by the name of Ajab Kunvari. She was upset whenever her beloved Shrinathji would go back to Vraj and asked him to stay with her in the palace. Lord Shrinathji said that one day, when the time was right, he would re-locate to Rajasthan.
Presently, Shrinathji's worship is performed by direct male descendants of Vallabhacharya in a haveli (lit. palatial home) in Nathdwara, Rajasthan.
Economy and livelihoods in Nathdwara town revolve around the Haveli, the term used for the temple probably because it was situated in a fortified mansion, or Haveli, once a royal palace of the Sesodia Rajput rulers of Mewar.
Shrinathji was quite popular with other medieval devotees, as well, as there were preachers who founded Shrinathji temples in present-day Pakistan (Dera Ghazi Khan). This was done by Shri Lal Maharaj ji and his deity of Shri Gopi Nath ji and Shri Dau ji of Dera Ghazi Khan, earlier a part of undivided India and not far from here. Shrinathji was even worshiped as far away as Russia (in the lower Volga region) and other places on the Central Asian trade routes.
Structure and design
Structurally, a kalasha on the shikhara marks the top of the temple, on which seven flags are flown along with the Sudarshana Chakra. The seven flags represent the 7 'houses' of Pushti Marg or Vallabh Sampradaya. The temple is also popularly called Shrinathji ki Haveli (House of Shrinathji). With the mood of worship in Pushti Marg, Shrinathji is not seen as an impersonal God so the worship is not done like in a temple. Shrinathji is seen as Thakorji or Lord of the House or Haveli and Sewa (service) is offered rather than worship. Like a regular household it has a chariot for movement (In fact the original chariot in which Shrinathji was brought to Singhar), a store room for milk (Doodhghar), a store room for betel (Paanghar), a store room for sugar and sweetmeats (Mishrighar and Pedaghar), a store room for flowers (Phoolghar), a functional kitchen (Rasoighar), a jewellery chamber (Gahnaghar), a treasury (Kharcha bhandaar), a stable for horses of chariot (Ashvashala), a drawing room (Baithak), a gold and silver grinding wheel (Chakki).
The Nathdwara temple has subsidiary temples dedicated to deity Madan Mohan and Naveet Priya, located in the main complex.
Image of Shrinathji
Shrinathji symbolizes a form of Krishna, when he lifted the Govardhan hill, with one arm raised. The image is in the form of a single black marble, where the lord is revealed with his left hand raised and the right hand made into a fist resting at the waist, with a large diamond placed beneath the lips. The deity is carved in bas-relief out of a monolithic black marble stone, with images of two cows, one lion, one snake, two peacocks and one parrot engraved on it and three sages placed near it.
Festivals and rituals
Devotees throng to the shrine in large numbers during occasions of Janmashtami and other festivals, like Holi and Diwali. The deity is treated like a living image, and is attended with daily normal functions, like bathing, dressing, meals called "bhog" and the resting times in regular intervals. Since the deity is believed to be the infant Krishna, accordingly, special care is taken. The priests in all Havelis are Brahmins under Gurus who are the kul (descendants) of Vallabhacharya, the founder of this deity's image at Govardhan hill, near Mathura.
The main attractions are the Aartis and the Shringar, i.e. the dressing and beautifying of the deity of Shrinathji, which is changed seven times daily, treating it as a living person, adorning it with the appropriate dresses for the time of day or night. The intricately woven shaneels and silk cloth have original zari and embroidery work on them, along with large quantities of real precious jewellery. The formal prayers are offered with diya, incense sticks, flowers, fruit and other offerings, with local instruments and devotional songs of the Shrinathji, according to the demand of the time and occasion. The view of the deity after the parda (curtain) is removed is called jhakhi.
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