Travel Guide to NATHADWARA

("Gateway of the Lord", in Rajasthan, India)

 

Set amid idyllic hills, Nathadwara provides a welcome respite from the searing heat of Rajasthan.
This large town is home to one the most wonderful temples in India. The main temple is known as Haveli - a mansion - and is famous for it's exuberant festivals, miniature paintings, jewellery and above all, it's sweets. Threat of cholesterol and calories have yet to deter the culinary experts of this town who add sugar and butter to almost all dishes!!

Life in the town revolves around the "Haveli" term used for all the temples of the "Pushti Marga". This is one of the most colourful sects within the devotional side of Hinduism. It also happens to be one of the few that do not advocate renunciation for spiritual growth. It is this worldly, practical and realistic view of life that lends itself to the colourfulness of the sect.

Only 42 km. north of Udaipur, Nathadwara is easily reached by plane or car. Constant stream of pilgrims has resulted in plentiful supply of transport and accommodation at Nathadwara. Cheap and cheerful rooms are there for those on the budget, moving up to high quality accommodation. Price of accommodation depends on the amount of luxury it affords - aircondition, lifts, running water etc.  Reasonable rooms, with on suite toilet and bath, can be easily found even in the middle of the town.  Restaurants in town cater for a wide range of vegetarian tastes.  It is illegal to consume alcohol within the town limits.

The Haveli is the centre of attraction in the Town. Its inner sanctum is opened up to eight times a day when devotees throng to catch a glimpse of the sacred form of the Lord Shrinathji. Rest of the time, it is relatively free of crowds, ideal for those wanting to explore the beauty of Rajasthani art and architecture. Though changing rapidly, the Haveli still seems to be in a time capsule, living the regal life long abandoned by Maharajahs of India. Temple servants still wear the clothes and costumes of a bygone era, serving the Lord of Nathadwara as the beloved prince and darling of Nanadaraj and Yashodaji.

At regular intervals, classical music is played live in various parts of the Haveli as pilgrims float through its perfumed marble halls and courtyards. Pankhwalas still manually pull on the large fans to cool the inner sanctum. Drums and trumpets are still played to announce the mid-day's "Royal Darshan". Like all rajput palaces/ mansions, the Haveli is built around several split level courtyards. The solid white exterior hides the airiness achieved by this device. All doorways are painted and are often flanked by drawings of elephants, horses, beautiful maidens and doorkeepers.

Shrinathji, the main deity of the sect, resides in regal splendour, always immaculately dressed and jewelled. Exquisitely worked jewels, some dating back to pre-Mogul India, are worn by Shrinathji on a daily basis. Here at least the jewels are not kept behind glass and are worn originally designed.  Everything in the inner temple, from china to silver/ gold-ware, paintings, wall hangings, clothes and furniture, are of the finest quality. Havali itself employs some 1000 people, whilst rest of the town thrives on the business given directly or indirectly by the Havali and the pilgrims.

The best thing about the place is its mystic. The feeling of peace and spirituality seems to rise above the humdrum of the town. Numerous groves, gardens, parks and fields outside the town provide perfect escape from the crowds, you can also cool off in the river Banas nearby. Town itself is small enough to be explored on foot. Rickshaws and horse carts are available for those who do not wish to brave the heat of Rajasthan.

Best time to Visit:- Nathadwara celebrates, on average, minimum of three festivals a week, providing plenty of interest to visitors throughout the year. Monsoon July-September, Indian New Year October-November, and Spring March-April provide some of the most colourful festivals. Rajasthani summers are notoriously hot and winters are bitterly cold. Monsoon revives the earth and the country side bursts forth in to a riot of colour. Spring is equally colourful and pleasant.

( Here is a list of some of the festivals celebrated at Nathadwara )

Apart from visiting the various Havalies in town, shopping and sightseeing are order of the day. Nathadwara's strategic, central, position and cheap accommodation makes it an ideal place as a base from which to make day trips. Availability of Guides, hire cars and jeeps is apparently inexhaustible.

Shopping:- Sweets, paintings, attars (oil based natural perfumes), jewellery and tie dyed clothes are the popular buys.

Places to visit:-

Other places of interest include Haldi Gahti (historically important and a great picnic area), Charbhujaji, Kakaroli and Raisagar reservoir.

Bhagwat Shah

 

Index of articles on Haveli

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