Weekend at Nathdwara, Mewar
Nathdwara near Udaipur in Rajasthan, lured jewellers Renu and Neeraj Rastogi from Lucknow for a weekend visit.
Having spent a colourful day with Shri Govardhan Nath, they share their kaleidoscopic experience here...
Fly by night
We took a flight via Delhi for Udaipur from where Nathdwara is barely an hour's drive away. This wasn't our first trip so we already knew how to make the most of a weekend here. Else, Nathdwara and surrounding areas have so much for a visitor, that even a week wouldn't suffice for a full-length discovery spree.
Every day at Nathdwara is necessarily woven around Sri Govardhan Nath ji's Haweli. Nathdwara got its name when this deity arrived here in the year 1672 from Govardhan hill near Mathura. The Haweli, a Rajasthani style palace-home was built under patronage of Sisodia rulers of Mewar. Even now, the eight darshan timings, from Mangala to Shayan keep everybody at Nathdwara busy through the day.
Pichwais illustrate Krishna's life as a cowherd in Vrindavan, while Shriji's paintings depict the deity's daily shringar
The lanes outside this Haweli have a colourful array of probable tributes for the deity. Lotus flowers and buds are especially available in profusion. We enjoyed picking up supplies of flowers, milk and vegetables to deposit in the Phool Bhandar, Doodh Bhandar and Rasoi Bhandar. These individual rooms offered panoramic sights! A huge room each full of pumpkins, gourds, etc, - abuzz with preparations for daily meals.
As we sat in Kamal Chowk in the Haweli, we enjoyed classical Dhrupad Dhamar notes that drifted through the air. Authentic Haweli Sangeet as promoted by Asht-chaap Sakhas - Surdas and others with themes in accordance with different darshan timings, festivals and seasons of the year is still in vogue here.
This Haweli, counted among the richest temples of India, has a retinue of Vaishnavs in service. Right from the Mukhiya to the cooks, everyone is in service of Krishna. We offered Rajbhog Seva, and a jewelled necklace to the deity, which His personal jeweller okayed and added a black string so that the deity could wear it. Black strings camouflage the pin up efforts that go in dressing up the Lord daily with regal finery. We were delighted to see Shriji, as his nickname goes, wear our necklace and accept the Rajbhog.
Food, glorious food!
When the Rajbhog prasad came to us in shallow cane baskets or paatal as they are called we were mesmerised by the spread of dishes! We had not seen, leave alone tasted most of these before, and could name just a few correctly. Everything from kheer to chaach, candied butter, kadhi, rice, puri, roti, etc. made with cows' milk and ghee, tasted out of this world. Each puri by itself was about a foot in diameter!
Nathdwara's paintings of Shriji and pichwais are renowned globally, and we couldn't resist them. Pichwais illustrate Krishna's life as a cowherd in Vrindavan, while Shriji's paintings depict the deity's daily shringar which is different for 365 days of the year, where each item of clothing and jewellery holds a special meaning. These artworks are liberally embellished with embroidery, sequins, gold patra, etc.
It took just a weekend here to forget city-life back home and soak in the gaiety that envelopes life at Nathdwara. But with more time at hand we'd love to explore the royal retreats in and around Udaipur.