Practical guide to Shringar Seva
One of the most beautiful things about darshan in a Pushti Margiya haveli is the way the Lord is adorned.
Its usually very tastefully done, with just the right amount of jewellery, beautifully combined, wonderfully coordinated and artfully displayed. The clothes are equally elegant, though understated and always in keeping with the weather. “Bling” is usually kept to the minimum and only used on festive occasions.
For those who interested in learning how to do the Shringar seva, here are a few tips.
In Pushti Marg, we have Thada-svaroop, Lalan and Chitraji.
We also occasionally worship the footprints, handprints, hand-written scripts and footwear of Shri Mahabraphuji, Gausaiji and other balaks.
Thada-svaroop – These are the icons that are standing – eg - ShriNathji, Mathuradhishji, Dwarikadhish, Gokul-Chandramaji etc.
Lalan – Baby Krushna, crawling on the floor. Balkrushnaji and Navnit-Priyaji are good examples of these.
Chitraji – Painting or picture of Thakorji.
These are usually three-dimensional. Sometimes the icon is completely three-dimensional and sometimes its created in high-relief, leaving a backing piece to give added strength and stability to the sculpture.
Truly three-dimensional svaroops like Vitthalnathji or MadanMohanji can be clothed as you would cloth yourself – just in miniature. Pagh etc can be tied around the crown or bun of the hair on the head. Sometimes, pre-made paghs, kleh etc can be stuck at a jaunty angle, slightly to the side of the head.
Jewels can be worn, with strings going over the shoulders. The mass of strings at the back can be kept tidy by twisting them all together and sticking them neatly to one side. Some svaroops, like GokulNathji are complicated to adorn due to close arrangement of hands and lack of space between them. Even with MadanMohanji and Gokul-Chandramaji, it is difficult to adorn with a lot of jewels as these can’t pass between the hand and the body, they have to cascade over the left arm. If we are not careful, these can look askew and off-centre.
The thing to do here is to make some malas with more beads on the left shoulder than the right. This way, the strings that have to pass on to the right can disappear between the wrist and the body without upsetting the balance of the jewelled arrangement. Other malas can have their full complement of beads and these can be arranged to pass between the arms or the other side, depending on the size of the icon.
In Havelis, a leaf shape is cut out of lagau (sticky material made with wax, soot etc) to suite the size of the icon and malas are arranged on that. This lagau is than stuck to the body of the Lord, making the malas look exactly in line.
Small Gaps left between longer malas, are filled in with short malas with very long strings. These short malas are carefully placed, with their long strings hidden by the bigger malas around them. Sometimes, large lockets / pendants are set with only a few beads around them. These short malas are arranged in such a way so as to look like part of the longer strings of pearls and emeralds.
Svaroops carved in high relief, such as ShriNathji, Dwarikadhishji etc have no space at the back for you to pass the clothes through and through. Clothes for these svaroops often have to be cut to pre-prepared templates and stuck or tied on to the sides of the icon and the stele. As there is no gap at the shoulder level, the strings have to pass discreetly over the stele. Having a thada-vastra helps as this helps to tidy up and hide the straggling threads. In Havelis, sticky substance called "lagau" is liberally used to keep the malas in place. Depending on the colour of the svaroop, the lagau can be black or honey coloured.
Shrungar such as earings, pagh, mukut etc have to be “flat” where possible. These are stuck on using lagau. Curved eyes are usually made of enamel and applied at an angle so as to look down. The most emotive eyes are curved, almost into a semi-circle. These are amazingly effective and look very poetic and romantic. However, eyes are sometimes made to look “up” as well as “straight ahead”. It all depends on the bhav of the vaishnav or the lila being celebrated.
In South Indian temples, free-standing, three dimensional svaroops have a stick added at the back, in line with the shoulder, so that a large number of necklaces and garlands can be placed to extend the shoulders of the Lord. Hence the icon of Tirupati can be seen with garlands that seem to go beyond his physical form. In Pushti Marg this idea is used for the shrungar of the Lalans.
Lalan is usually very small. It is diffcult to get more than a couple of necklaces upon his slight frame. From afar, these would be difficult to see. To overcome these difficulties, two sticks are placed on either side of the Lord to extend his shoulders by a considerable amount. These sticks allow the mukhiyaji to adorn the Lord with several malas. In this arrangement, the right hand holding the butter-ball is beautifully framed, emerging from a cascade of malas. You can see this in the chitraji used as the margine on this page.
Usually, Lalan has gadji’s Shringar to extend the jewels from his person to the throne. This is the only way numerous jewels can be offered to a svaroop that is so small.
Gadiji's Shringar -
For all shringars, its best to start with the longest mala first. That way you set up a frame work within which you know you can build up to the central figure of the Lord. This is specially true for gadiji’s shrungar. Once the main malas are offered, any gaps can be covered up by adding smaller malas with long strings. These fill out the gaps, particularly in the middle, near the central pendants. A hasadi or a large pectoral can be placed near the neck to cover the gaps near the top. On a gadiji, the odhani covers the back of the Lord and also covers up all the strings and lose ends at the back.
Observe the shrungar carefully in a haveli and you will see that the pendants of the malas line up, with the ones at the top lying on top of the malas going downwards. This can only happen if the malas are worn from outside in.
Flower garland(s) are placed at the end, to provide a fragrant, colourful frame for the whole shringar. These are placed on the outside, so they can be added and taken away with ease.
In a haveli, the Lalan’s gadi is usually tilted up at a small angle. Gold kadas, a small stick or some such device is usually placed there to tilt it up. This automatically makes the lord “look up” directing his gaze at the vaishnavs.
Gadiji on which the Lalan sits is usually smaller than the gadi of the main throne. It is this smaller gadiji that has the shrungar laid out on it. As the Lalan is often transported between his palana and main gadiji in the inner-sanctum during the day, having two gadis helps. The Gadi with the Lord and his shringar is smaller and easier to transport than the main gadi. It is this smaller gadi that is transferred between the different thrones. This allows the mukhiyaji to transport the Lord without having to re-set the gadiji’s shringar everytime they move him.
Clothes used for Chitraji are somewhat simple. Like a cushion cover, these are slipped on, covering the edges. Depending on the weather, it could be made from cotton, silk or quilted material. Now-a-days, Chitrajis also have “flat” clothes trailored to look like dhoti, char-vagh, gherdar etc – similar in every way to the clothes of the thada-svaroops carved in high relief. These are stuck on top of the chitraji.
Jewellery for chitraji usually consists of malas and flat shrungars for the head. Lagau is used to stick all this on the chitraji. The cloth around the chitraji hides the strings that go up and over the top edge.
On the whole, the amount of shrungar used oscillates between festive and non-festive days. As a simple rule of thumb, pearls are predominantly used in the summer, heavy kundan and glittering gem-stones are used in the winter and gold / enamel used during the spring. Monsoon sees the use of most colourful jewellery, pearls, stones, gold et all ! Pearls are worn throughout the year, as is gunja mala, as both are easy to wear and match most clothes.
An array of head gear (pagh, kuleh, dumala etc) is worn throughout the year to match the season, bhava or the festival being celebrated. This is usually adorned with various ornaments made from silk, feathers, gold, silver, gems etc. Strings of pearls and emeralds usually add an elegant touch to it all. Wonderful descriptive names are given to these, such as chamak chandrika, tipara, mor-mukut, kalgi etc.
Tempting as it is, its best not to overdo the shringar. An understated elegant look with just a few choice pieces can sometimes look more appealing than a mountain of tat. It is best to invest in a few pieces that are well made and will set off the simplest of shringars. A simple row of red rubies or green emeralds can be set amidst pearl necklaces to set it off very nicely and can match the colour of the Lord’s clothes. Glass and imitation jewellery is just as good as the real stuff – remember – it is bhav that is an essential ingredient in seva.
Practice makes perfect.
Do the shrungar seva regularly to get a hang of it and than you can see what works best for your seya-svaroop and you !
Click here to see some shringar in the havelis
galleries of the lord
Bhagwat Shah ©
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