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.
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
era, serving the Lord of Nathadwara as the beloved prince and darling of Nanadaraj and
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
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
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.
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.
Sweets from the temple are the best in quality and will keep for weeks,
if not months.
Paintings range from the rough and ready to masterpieces. Depending on
how much you want to spend and how good you are at bargaining, you can pick up some truly
beautiful works of art. Paintings are mainly on paper, cotton, silk and ivory subsitutes.
Attars come in a range of flowery scents, but always check to make sure
you are buying the genuine item and not a cheap imitation.
Handmade gold and silver jewellery; solid gold and silver toys fit for
a rajput prince/ princess; enamel ware and filigree boxes are available in all the various
markets surrounding the main Haveli.
Tie dye saris are popular with all visitors.
Places to visit:-
Aklingji:- Half way between Udaipur and Nathadwara, it is one of the
most sacred shrines of Shiva in Rajasthan. It's 1000 year old architecture reflects the
extravagance and abandon of Indian society in pre-Islamic India. It's exquisitely carved
shrines sparkle with vitality and joy of life.
Chittod Ghad:- Towering fortress in the middle of an arid plane once
provided one of the strongest challenges to the Mogul rule in India. Hundreds of rajput
women committed "Sati", self-immolation, to inspire their men to fight without
restraint and to save their honour. The battle that followed has earned it's place in
Indian history as being one of the most bloody and brave. To this day, Chittod is the
bastion of rajput pride, valour and honour.
Udaipur:- White city of Mewar, beautifully nestled amongst hills and
surrounded by numerous lakes, it is a one of the most picturesque cities in Rajasthan.
It's numerous palaces and mansions reflect the golden era of Rajput achievements. Most of
its regal buildings are now hotels or restaurants, including the world famous Lake palace
Other places of interest include Haldi Gahti (historically important and
a great picnic area), Charbhujaji, Kakaroli and
© Bhagwat Shah
articles on Haveli
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