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India – Darshan in Nathdwara

Nathdwara Krishna Temple

In the 17th century outside Nathdwara, a chariot carrying an image of Krishna became stuck in the mud 26km north of Eklingji. The idol was being carried from Krishna’s birthplace Mathura to Udaipur to hide it Aurangzeb’s destruction.  Its
bearers interpreted the event as a divine sign and established a new temple where it had stopped. [In Venice there’s a parallel story, illustrated by a painting in the Academia, about a religious procession being stopped by unknown forces, then released, and a miracle declared]

 From our base at Khumbalgarh Fort, we drove about 65 km to Nathdwara the site of a temple dedicated to Krishna. Nath is another name of Krishna, a favorite avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, hence NATHDWARA means “Gateway to God” It’s the 2nd richest temple in India after Tirupati (in Andhra Pradesh). Nathdwara is a small town, and its narrow streets are filled with stalls and shops selling, beads, perfumes and small Krishna statues. In the centre of town the Shri Nathji temple awaits pilgrims. Each day, the image is awakened, dressed, washed, fed then later put to bed. The most elaborate session, aarti, takes place between 5pm and 6pm. .

There were only a few western tourists at this site. I had a guide for special darshan, which eliminates some of the queuing [500R inc guide, about $10]. He took me through a cluttered courtyard to a back entrance where I sat on some stairs, alone, in what looked to be a a warehouse as 2 men unloaded pumpkins from burlap sacks, some covered with mold, already in stored in a corner. After a short wait, my guide re-appears, from the inside and ushers me into a courtyard where a small crowd builds. The opposing doors open and everyone rushes ahead to get in line for next phase. Now we’re sitting in front of elaborate silver bas-relief doors. Again, the crowd builds. When doors open this time we run across yet another courtyard, where men & women gather in separate sections, divided by a large fence. The guide has me sit off to the side, at the back of the room, and then disappears for ½ hr (Remember – this is the express line!). When he returns he takes me to sit behind an elephant statue on the women’s side. When the next doors open and the women pass through, we become the head of the men’s line. The dividing barrier gate swings out and almost crushes my foot as the men surge forward into a small, narrow theatre, with terraces so everyone can see the sanctum at the end of the hall. A richly dressed statue of Krishna, served by 2 priests appears amid incense, candelabras, and other offerings as crowd chants. The darshan lasts much longer than our experience at Tirupati . Then we exit to halls where donations are collected; we get holy water, tikkal, Prasad, and charmed necklaces.


Maharana Pratap

Haldighati [turmeric valley] is a deep cut in red sandstone, just outside the town, with narrow 1 lane road about ¼ mile long; obviously long a strategic choke point for military operations.

Museum commemorates Maharana Pratap’s victory over Akbars’ General Man Singh at Haldigharti . When he attacked, Man Singh’s elephant wielded a sword which cut off one of Maharana Pratap’s horse’s legs, but the horse carried him another 20 km to get reinforcements and eventually win the battle. Small groups of tourists are ushered thru series of rooms – first with 3D map of the campaign; next with weapons and figures of various leaders, then a short movie recapping what we learned in first 2 rooms; then a dark passage, lit to reveal various dioramas – Maharana Pratap fighting tiger, Maharana Pratap’s consoling his dying horse, Maharana Pratap’s and army as guerrillas in forest camp.

Outside, several displays showed village life today with life sized dioramas showing water wheels, markets, etc that we had been seeing in real life on our trip. Indian tourists, probably urban, were fascinated by these displays.

A good lunch is served on site with several dals, gobi, chappatis, and rice, for a few rupees.

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