Servants of the Lord
Here I have tried to give an overview on the various temple servants at Nathadwara. Hopefully the names and terminology will become familiar as a result of this. Also, in order to understand how the temple organises itself, I have tried to include a section on how the temple "pays" its staff. This will help explain why prasad is "sold in shops" rather than given out by the temple. There is also an article of how the sevki system in the haveli is in total need of an overhaul.
This list is not made in any particular order.
Tilakayat :- First amongst Goswami balaks of Pushti Marg. High priest and head of the Vallabh dynasty. All staff and servants of the great haveli, as well as the national branches of the haveli's belonging to Nathdwara, report to him.
Mukhiyaji :- The priest(s) who adorn the Lord and are in-charge the day-to-day activities in the inner sanctum. Several assistants help Mukhiyaji in the seva, often fetching and carrying what he requires.
Bhitariaji :- Assistant to Mukhiyaji and other servants of the inner temple - including the cook.
Chadidar :- Chief stewards who announce the arrival of important people into the inner sanctum.
Zapatia :- They help keep the area directly in front of the inner sanctum clear by asking, shouting, coaxing, and if need be, by "hitting" the pilgrims with a "zapat" from a cotton scarf.
Samadhani :- Clerks and accounts staff of the Lord. They record payments made for manoraths and various sevas for the Lord as well as donations in cash.
(Krshna) Bhandari :- Chief treasurer to the Lord. He records large/ precious gifts of cash and materials to the Lord. He also looks after the Lords' treasure house of gold, silver and jewels.
Kirtania :- Musicians to the divine court. They sing and play classical Indian music during most activities in the inner temple, from the moment the Lord awakens to the moment He goes to sleep.
Jalgharia :- Carry heavy (silver) urns and pots of water from the well/ river to the temple.
Phoolgharia :- Makes garlands, torans, flower arrangements and adorn the swings etc. in the temple.
Pangharia :- Makes the beetelnut "pan" for the Lord.
Rasoia :- Cooks and prepares all the food in the temple.
Gval :- Looks after the cows of the Lord and brings their milk to the temple. During festival days, they also bring the cows and calves to the temple.
Darji :- Tailors of the Lord. Apart from sewing new clothes for the Lord (ShriNathji wears new clothes everyday !), they also sew his flags, scarves, quilts, simple pichoies, awnings and various curtains for the haveli.
Chokidar :- They guard the many doors and gates of the great Haveli. They are also responsible for the safety of the pilgrims.
There are innumerable servants of the Lord. Those listed above are but the most obvious and "visible" servants of the Lord. Others perform the various services in the inner and outer temple of the Lord, without being really seen or noticed by the pilgrims.
Number of goldsmiths and jewellers are also employed/ commissioned by the temple to make and maintain the various jewels, plates, bowls, toys and furniture for the lord. Painters and decorators repair / repaint the entire haveli every year. Due to the size of the haveli, some are kept on as permanent staff, whilst others work mainly during the festivals.
To account for illness, holidays, and general "un-availability*" of staff, up to 300 men are employed as "spare" in the "par-chana" (cow-dung-collection) department, who can be called into work at the drop of a hat.
As ShriNathji owns a number of other properties outside Nathadwara, offices are setup in cities like Bombay and Calcutta to deal with "His investments". Buildings, temples, shops, farms, cattle etc. are all looked after from these offices. Everything is centrally controlled from Nathadwara. There is usually a haveli attached to these remote offices of the Lord.
* Temple servants must abide by the Hindu rules on purity. As a result, a man/ woman may become "impure" (and thus unavailable for temple work) for a number of reason. For example, birth or death in the family leads to an automatic exclusion from temple service for a number of days - depending on who and where this occurred. The birth/ death does not have to occur in the house itself to incur the impurity. Even if a family member dies abroad, the ritual impurity would exclude the temple servant from working for atleast 10-15 days. Illness would also make a servant unavailable for work and an automatic leave of three days is granted to allow the temple servant to get over his illness. This leave can be extended as required. Par-chana servants cover these absences.
It is for reasons of "purity and impurity" that women are not directly employed by the temple itself. By Hindu rules of purity, female menstrual cycle renders the woman unable to work in the temple for up to a week at a time. Twelve weeks guaranteed leave per year would be too much for any employer to bear.
There is also the historical reason of "purdha" which made it impossible for women to work in a place as public as the temple. Rajasthan is still one of the few states in India where strict segregation between men and women is still maintained.
However, this is not to say women cannot work in the temple. Many volunteer themselves as and when they can in the various "ghar" sevas of the Lord. Phool-ghar, pan-ghar, rasoi-ghar are favorites amongst female pilgrims.
As I do not work in the Haveli myself, this article and the article on sevaks' pay, is based on the information I have gathered from talking to people.
© Bhagwat Shah
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