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Nathdwara - 48 km north east of Udaipur is a small town famous for handmade terracotta and paintings. Tourism in Nathdwara India offers the chance to travel to the largest known festival of Nathdwara is Annakuta , over the picturesque Govardhana Hill.

India - Rajasthan - Udaipur - Nathdwara Town in Udaipur

Nathdwara Town in Udaipur

Distance : 48 km north east of Udaipur
Population: Abour 20,000


Nathdwara situated 48km north east of Udaipur , it was built in the 18th century. Also known as the Apollo of Mewar it is famous as the residence of Shri Nathji - one of the popular icons of Lord Krishna . *The idol of Shri Nathji is made from a large black stone and has several animals engraved on it. *Nathdwara is famous for handmade terracottas and pichhwai paintings. *The largest known festival of Nathdwara is Annakuta , which is a continuation of the traditional worship of Govardhana Hill.


A Pilgrimage Site

The name of the town literally means the doorway to Nath (dwara: doorway). The town of Nathdwara is also known as the Apollo of Mewar and is famous all over Rajasthan as the residence of Shri Nathji, one of the most popular icons of Lord Krishna. The town may be small but has gained prominence as a great place of pilgrimage for the Pushtimarga sect of the Vaishnava community, devoted to Krishna as a child. Nathdwara was built after Lord Shri Nathji had settled here. The town, lying on the right bank of the Banas River, is a lovely place to visit but should be avoided by all means on Janmashtami and during the Govardhana Puja when the place is overcrowded with pilgrims.


Shri Nathji Temple in Nathdwara Town Udaipur¤ The Deity- Lord Nathji

Shri Nathji is the form of Lord Krishna when he lifted the Govardhana Hill. It is also said that Shri Nathji is actually the original form of Lord Krishna better known as Nikunja Nayaka or the Lord of the Celestial Bower. He is shown with his left hand raised and the right hand closed in a fist and resting on his hip. His followers worship him both as Shri Radhanath or the Lord of Radha and as the mischievous child god Krishna. The idol of Shri Nathji is made from a large black stone and has several animals engraved on it – two cows, a snake, a lion, two peacocks, a parrot by the god’s head, three seated sages, one on the Lord’s left and the other two on his right and another snake below the sages. A flower garland made of stone around the deity’s neck resembles a black snake. The lord here is given much respect: his clothes and jewellery are changed six times a day between the prayer services.


¤ The Legend Associated

Vajranabha, the great grandson of Lord Krishna, first installed Shri Nathji as a deity over 5,000 years ago. The deity was found by Madhavendra Puri around 500 years ago, lying neglected in some bushes next to the Govardhana Hill in Vrindavan. Puri then established the idol in a temple on the same hill in 1519 AD. Later Madhavendra handed over the service of the deity to Vitthalanathji, the son of Vallabhacharya (b. 1479). Vitthalanathji took up the worship of the deity and since then it has been carried forward by the followers of Vallabhacharya, the Vaishnava spiritual guru. Vallabhacharya, a Telugu Brahmin, once defeated a large group of learned men at Vidyanagar and was amply rewarded with gold coins by King Krishnadeva Raya. The scholar gave away most of those coins and kept only seven. Those seven coins were then made into an ornament for Shri Nathji’s statue which is still around his neck. The management of the temple is under the main acharya or the spiritual leader of the Vallabh Sampradaya, known as the Tilakayata. The acharya is also known as Gosain Maharaj.


¤ The Idol of Shri Nathji

Shri Nathji’s idol was brought to Rajasthan from Govardhana near Vrindavan to protect it from the hands of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who in 1665 was bent upon vandalizing the area of Vrindavan. When the Mughal army came to Govardhana, the devotees of the Lord showed them the titles and gifts given to the temple by the previous Mughal rulers. The army commander then ordered the deity to be taken away from Govardhana. For almost six months the statue stayed in Agra after which it went on a journey to Mewar which took 32 months to complete. Rana Raj Singh of Mewar later brought the deity to Nathdwara around 1669.

The decision to settle the Lord here at Nathdwara involves an interesting story. When the wheel of the chariot carrying the Lord got stuck in the mud at a place called Sihar, the Rana saw it as a divine sign that Lord Krishna wished to settle here. and thus a temple was built at this spot and the holy township of Nathdwara grew around the temple.


The Shri Nathji Temple

The temple of Shri Nathji dating from 12th century BC is a simple structure and is built like a house, but simultaneously has grace, design and harmony. It has been designed in the lines of the house of Krishna’s father, Nanda Maharaj, in Vrindavan. The temple is thus also known as Nanda Bhavan or Nandalaya (the house of Nanda Maharaj). A kalasha (spire) tops it on which are seven flags alongwith the weapon of Lord Vishnu, the sudarshan chakra (discus). The temple has a black marble idol of Lord Krishna with his hand upraised lifting the Govardhana Hill. The god wears a large diamond beneath his lips, a gift from the Mughal emperor Akbar. There is an interesting story regarding the deity of Shri Nathji that forms the basis of a temple ritual. It is said that once the Lord had torn his clothes while rushing back to the temple to be on time for prayers. Since that day it has become a custom to first blow the conch and then wait for a few minutes before opening the altar doors so that the Lord can return from his frolicking without any hurry and thus save himself from the embarrassment that he had already faced once. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple, but yes, exceptions have been made for foreign visitors.


¤ The Attraction of Holy Cows

The temple has over 500 cows amongst which one is honoured of being Shri Nathji’s cow. This cow comes from a lineage that has served the Lord for ages and whose milk is only for the deity to drink. Milk from the other cows is used to make various sweets.


¤ Other Temple Attractions

Nathdwara has several other temples dedicated to Madana Mohana and Naveet Priya, all located in the main Shri Nathji temple complex. The former deity was gifted to the temple by the wife of Maharana Fateh Singh of Udaipur. Naveet Priya temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, or one who is fond of butter (naveet means butter and priya means lover). The Banamali Temple is also a Krishna Temple and is located to the right of the Shri Nathji Temple, while the Vitthalnath Temple is right opposite the entrance of the Shri Nathji Temple. The deity of this temple was previously located at Gokula in Brajbhumi or the land of the Braj. According to Indian mythology, Lord Krishna had spent his childhood days here at Gokula.


¤ Festivals

The Festivals of Nathdwara are also quite unique in nature.


¤ Annakuta Festival

The largest is known as Annakuta, which is simply a continuation of the traditional worship of the Govardhana Hill as performed by the people of Vrindavan. It takes place a day before the Diwali, another Indian festival that is celebrated with much fervour and vigour. A hill is made of 2,500kg of rice and is offered to the deity of Shri Nathji. and then the temple gates are closed which are opened only in the evening during the darshan (public viewing) of the Lord. The looting of the prasada (mainly sweet offerings to a deity) of rice from the annakuta (the rice hill) follows. Every single worshipper of the Lord joins in the looting with much enthusiasm.


¤ Rose Festival

The month of April hosts the Rose Festival and the end of summer finds itself in the midst of the Rath Yatra. The deity is given a free ride around the town on a silver chariot and an offering of 100,000 mangoes are also made to him. Jhulana Yatra or the swing festival is celebrated here during June/July. Swings made of gold, silver, glass and flowers with the deity in it are put on display. Children specially find it fun to decorate the swing of the Lord. Janmashtami, celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna, is again a major festival and is observed with much fanfare.


¤ Pichhwai Paintings

Other than its temples, Nathdwara is also famous for its Pichhwai paintings, which are very similar in theme to the thangka paintings of Ladakh and Tibet. Local Brahmin artists produce fine and intricate paintings on paper and cloth. Literally meaning ‘something at the back’, these are large paintings on cloth portraying Shri Nathji in various costumes and moods. The Lord is also shown in the forests surrounded by cows and gopinis (milkmaids). They depict the events and happenings in the god’s life and are frequently changed to create different moods depending on the occasion and ritual. Ink blue clouds and dancing peacocks represent Lord Krishna with his blue complexion while the cows symbolize the devotees craving for their Lord. The name pichhwai has been derived from the position of the painting behind the image of the deity in Vaishnava temples of the Pushti Marga sect devoted to the childgod Krishna. The purpose of the pichhwai was to narrate the Krishna stories for the uneducated, and the painted pichhwai of Nathdwara has now become the main export of the town. The paintings are devotional in theme and have their own appeal for the Lord’s worshippers. The Nathdwara artists have triumphed in the art of detailing, creating pichhwais that are almost like a patchwork collection of miniatures.

The earlier paintings had used colours taken from crushed vegetables, like indigo and mineral colours such as lapis lazuli. However, commercial colours have now replaced them. Early pichhwais are rarely available as they are much in demand from foreign tourists and are sold at exhorbitant prices. These are miniature paintings and can be used as cards as well. Most of these serve their purpose mainly as low quality cheap, souvenirs. Well known musicians who play and sing for gods also live and study here. Musical instrument shops, cottage industries and the street and temple life of Nathdwara offer a nostalgic glimpse of the bygone era of valour and religion.


¤ Famous for Handmade Terracottas

Apart from its pichhwais, Nathdwara is also a major centre for handmade terracottas. A small place near Nathdwara called Molela produces this extraordinary folk art. The tradition of terracotta in this area goes a long way back by about 2,000 years. Today only about 20 families practice this dying art. These terracottas depict various local deities and legendary heroes and is eye-catching more for its rustic splendour than for its tradition. They are hand made using primitive tools, have no molds and are painted in bright colours.


¤ Accommodation

Apart from the few dharamshalas (inexpensive guesthouses found mainly at pilgrim sites), there are a few hotels around the temple complex. The RTDC Gokul Tourist Bungalow, just 3km outside the town, has dorm beds to offer. The best places in town are Hotel Utsav with both AC and non AC rooms and Hotel Vallabh Darshan which is a two minute walk from the temple. Hotel Vallabh Darshan also has a vegetarian restaurant. These two places are a bit on the higher side. Other hotels include Hotel Rajshee, right next to the bus stand, the Krishna Guest House and Hotel Vandana (AC option).


¤ Transport



Air:
Udaipur, the nearest airport is south at a distance of 48km.

Train:
Udaipur again is the nearest railhead, from where you’ll have to take a bus or a taxi ride to Nathdwara. However, Nathdwara does have a small railway station, which is about 13km away from the town. It also has a railway reservation office about five minute walk away from the Nathji temple.

Bus:
Express buses of the state tourism as well as private companies ply between Nathdwara and major towns like Ahmedabad, Pushkar, Ajmer, Jaipur and Delhi. From Udaipur also, there are several buses daily that take about two hours to reach Nathdwara. The bus stand is a 15 minute walk from the temple complex.



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