Raag, Bhog, Shringar
Since the time of AcharyaShri Vitthalnathji (Shri Gusaiji), Raag, Bhog and Shringar
took on a new significance in the sect. He highlighted the importance of
transforming people's natural addiction to material things to spiritual.
In an imperial age when artistic and cultural achievements were reaching new heights,
Gusaiji recognized the need to evolve the more austere form of Shri Vallabhacharyaji's
form of worship into something more elaborate. In order to make God available to the people of his own time, Shri
Gusaiji expressed the basis of Pushti Marg in a way that the modern man / woman could
understand and follow.
At a time when new modern musical instruments were being introduced (tabala, sitar
etc), new musical modes and raags were being devised, Shri Gusaiji helped preserve the
purest form of ancient Indian music - Drupad. He helped resurrect interest in the
original Indian music and through his active encouragement, he helped revive popular and
imperial interest in Drupad. Tansen, the greatest musician of Akber's court,
converted to Islam to further his career at court. Later, impressed by the divine
court of Shri Nathji, and the music it produced, he converted to Pushti Marg and returned
Shri Gusaiji was a connoisseur of fine things in life - spiritual and material.
Just as he helped preserve the best of the old world, he also took ideas from the best of
the new world. Many of the bhogas (food items) introduced during his time reflected
the culinary delights introduced / invented in the modern India of his time. For
example, the jalebi we all eat with such gusto, and a central feature of the bhog during
Gusaiji's uttsav, was a new delicacy at the imperial court in Agra. Many regional,
courtly and folk delicacies were introduced at the time. Soon, the kitchens of Shri
Gopal at Gopalpura were cooking fine delicacies that were certainly the envy of all.
Even in dress code, new, modern dresses were added to the wardrobe of purely south Indian dress of dhoti
& uparna. Ghardar jamma, charvaag, achkan were offered o the Lord on
occasion. These dresses preserve the haute couture of Medieval India.
It is in Shringar that we see some of the best fusion of this ancient and modern
ideals. The age old paagh was now decorated with expensive strings of pearls, rubies
and emeralds, a style very much in vogue at the imperial court. Aigrettes with
plumes of peacock feathers (at court they wore feathers from various exotic birds) were
studded with precious stones, chokers worked in gold and precious stones replaced the
enamel ornaments of the previous era. Soon, like the royals of his time, ShriNathji
also began to be dressed head to toe in a glittering array of jewels. Even his socks
and shoes (mojadies) were embroided with real jewels. In this way, Shri Gusaiji helped save
the embattled Hindu sense of self-confidence by introducing a new court at
Govardhan. A court that could rival the imperial court of Agra and yet be its best
friend, thus embodying the very spirit of the time.
Many of the greatest politicians of the time, rulers and courtiers alike, were drawn
to the court of ShriNathji. Akber himself came on a number of occasions to converse
with Shri Gusaiji and even managed to obtain darshan of the Lord during Sharad
Purnima. During his many visits to Gokul he was even allowed to attend the regular
darshans of Shri Navnit Priyaji. Taj begam, the chief queen of Akber and mother to
the heir, was a deeply religious woman who was a devotee of Shri Gusaiji. Tansen,
Birbal and Raskhan were devotees too. Many Rajput kings prided themselves in being
devotees of the sect.
This had a great impact on the fledgling sect at the time. It absorbed many of
the customs (purda for example) and ideas of the these esteemed devotees of the time. Gifts from
the royal played a great part in helping to shape the modes of Shringar that
were offered to the Lord at the time. Many jewels of that era are still offered to
the lord and are worn on special occasions. One of the most important jewels offered
at the time is the diamond that is worn in the "chibuk" (chin) of the
Lord. Akber offered this during his Sharad Purnima darshan and since than, it has
come to occupy a very special place in the shringar of Pushti Marg.
It is not known exactly when pichoies were added to the "Shringar" portion
of the darshan, but the idea of using soft furnishings to transform a room was well known
at the time of Shri Gusaiji. It is more than possible that coloured and embroided
cloth may have been hung in the inner sanctum of Shri Nathji from the earliest time. Painted pichoies were
added later and later still, more and more of them were commissioned and preserved to
commemorate special events.
Over the centuries, this idea of progressive infusion has been carried out by several
enlightened Goswami balaks. New festivals, such as Teej and Ghoomar have been
added. New foods and musical instruments (such as sarangee) have been added to
further the raag, bhog and shringar, much espoused by Shri Gusaiji.
Here is a lovely example of the darshan at ShriNathji as it would be on Sharad
The pichoi depicts gopies joining hands to perform the maha rasa. The sythesis of
various Rajput styles lead to a new indigenous "Nathadwara style being
developed" by artists in the town. But, the strong and self assured look of the
gopies is very reminicent of the Bundi and Kota style.
Note the rich array of jewels; lush, but simply drawn trees; deep blue night sky and
silver moon (oxidised over the centuries).
Compare this to the picture of the pichoi
used as a backdrop for this page.
The detail in the drawing is extraoridnarily fine, and ladies are shown to be shy !
Bhagwat Shah ©