Time-Line of ShriNathji and his havelis

 

Shri Vallabh called him Gopalalji

Shri Vitthal called him GovardhanNathji

Shri GovardhanNathji was later shorted to ShriNathji

 

ShriNathji’s svaroop first came to notice of the villagers in 1410, when the left hand of the Lord was worshiped as snake deity.  Face of the image was revealed in 1479.  Rest of the image was discovered and worshiped as Devdamanji by Madhavendra Yati, Shri Vallabha’s teacher from Varanasi.  In 1493, Shri Vallabh arrived during the monsoon season and identified the svaroup of the Lord as Shri Krushna, Gopal-lalji who had called out to him in a dream.  Work on the first “Temple” was started in 1500 AD and completed in two stages by 1520 AD. 

First temple of ShriNathji was commisioned by Shri Vallabh and paid for by a vaishnav called Puranmal.  Being brave and having full faith in GOD, Shri Vallabh built a traditional Hindu style temple, with a spire, on top of a hill, within an easy ride of Dehli / Agra.  This was one of the toughest political periods in India and Shri Mahaprabhuji stood up to religious injustice of the Dehli Sultanate on several occasions. (read various episodes of his life to confirm this).  These were tricky times and during these early years, ShriNathji was moved to Tod-ka-Ghana, Shyam-dhak and Gantholi on three occasions to avoid marauding muslim troops.

After 1560s, during Mughal emperor Akbar's reign, peace prevailed and temple building began in earnest in and around Vraj area.  All Hindu sects established their own temples and institutions in Vraj during this rare period of peace, prosperity and communal harmony.  Pushti Marg also flourished and acquired land in and around Vraj at this time.  Shri Vallabh's second son, Shri Gusaiji, was well connected with the imperial court at Agra / Sikri and emeror Akbar was an open admirer of his.  Akber passed several imperial farmans in favour of the sect and presented a large diamond to the temple which still graces the chin of ShriNathji. 

Shri Gusaiji, built several "havelis" in Vraj for the "nidhi svaroops" he passed on to his sons.  These were built in the style of royal mansions through generous donations by several royal families including the queen Durgavati of Gond.  Some of the best examples of these havelis are still around in Gokul where each Nidhi svaroop was established in His own haveli.

After Shri Gausaiji, Girdharji > Damodarji > Vitthalraiji (first to be granted title of Tilkayat by the Emperor) > Lal Girdharji > Damodarji became the head of the sect. 

* Emperor Akbar was wedded to princess Hirabai / Harkabai of Amber (Amer / Jaipur) and was fairly well disposed towards his Hindu subjects.  He granted lands, tax concessions and made pro-Hindu laws (farmans).  Emperor Akbar granted Gokul and some villages to Shri Gausaiji.  (Indian film industry has wrongly associated Princess Jodha with Akber.  Jodhabai was his daughter-in-law)
*
Being born of a Hindu queen, Emperor Jahangir was fairly neutral about Hindus and their temples. 
*
Shah Jahan had no particular love for Hindus, but he found them helpful in ruling the empire. 
*
Aurangzeb was born of a persian queen (Mumtaz Mahal) and had no love for Hindus at all.  His tyranny forced many Hindus to move out of the Vraj region.

During Aurangzeb's rule, ShriNathji's vast wealth was a cause of concern for the Tilkayat.  After the destruction of the famous Keshavraiji temple at Mathura by Aurangzeb's army, HH Damodarji left mount Govardhan with ShriNathji on 18th September 1670 to look for a safer place.  Tilkayat was only 15 years old at the time.  He left with various other family members, temple servants, Vrajvasis and vaishnavs.  Soon, most other Nidhis svaroops also moved out of Vraj to seek safety in the semi-autonomous Hindu kingdoms of Rajputana. 

For two years, four months and seven days, ShriNathji's retinue moved from kingdom to kingdom, seeking political, economical and religious assurances from their rulers to make sure they would be safe there.  HH Damodarji did not feel there was long term safety in most rajput kingdoms close to the borders of the Mughal empire.  ShriNathji travelled to Agra > Gwalior > Kota > Pushkar > Kishangad > Jodhpur > Bambal > Bishalpur > Chapaseni > Sihad (Siha-nad) near Udaipur. 

Tilkayat eventually accepted offers of refuge from the Maharana Raja Singh of Udaipur.  Most popular story of how this happened is that on their way to Udaipur, ShriNathji’s cart-wheel becoming stuck in the mud outside Sihand, indicating divine will to stay in the small village rather than move on to the capital.  ShriNathji is also said to have promised a Mewari princess Ajabkumari  that he would come and stay here in the future.  Places where ShriNathji stayed for a while and celebrated special festivals are known as his Charan-Chokis (foot-rests).  Some of these are still actively used as Havelis till date.

With the help of his great grand uncle Hariraiji, Gausaiji's grandson, HH Damodarji build a haveli for ShriNathji.  Unlike the temple on mount Govardham, the new haveli was built in the style of a royal mansion, assigning symbolic meanings to various parts of the haveli.  Gopaldas Ustad, chief architect of the new haveli, completed the 1st phase of the haveli in just four months !  New residence of ShriNathji was now in keeping with the social and political realities of the time and hence very different from the temple Shri Vallabh had built at Mount Govardhan(The current "temple" on Mount Govardhan was built by locals after India's independance from the British.)

During 1802 - 1808, when the Maratha armies of the king of Indore threatened to loot the Nathdwara temple for its fabulous wealth, ShriNathji and his servants moved from Nathdwara to Udaipur and than Ghasiyar.  When the situation calmed down, Tilkayat returned to Nathdwara.  HH Dauji maharaj revived the war-torn town of Nathadwara and recreated the ruined haveli of ShriNathji.

Since 1808, ShriNathji has remained at Nathdwara despite various monumental national events including the 1st war of Indian Independence(1857) and various social, economical and political upheavals since Indian independence in 1947.  Fortunes of the haveli have fluctuated over the time, but it has retained its fine tradition of serving the living God as ShriNathji ! 

 

Historical development of the Pushti Marg

Bhagwat Shah © 

 

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