After an absolutely wonderful Day 1 in Udaipur, we were looking forward to Day 2. Now, my mother is pretty religious, quite moderately as per Indian standards and for her if we were in Rajasthan we absolutely, totally and completely had to visit the Shrinathji temple in Nathdwara. Shrinathji is one of the most sacred places for Hindus who belong to the Vaishnav sect, especially Gujarati Vaishanavs. It is said that only the ones who are truly lucky get to visit Shrinathji. My parents have been planning to go to Shrinathji for years and for some reason it never did work out. This time though, we could manage to go and we were all elated.
I have heard such stories about the temple and the huge crowds it draws everyday. On a normal day, which isnot a very special religious day, the temple attracts about 45,000 devotees, which they consider as a small number(!!) On a very auspicious day, the numbers run in lakhs! On those days, the whole town of Nathdwara, where the temple is situated, is filled with devotees and there is no place to walk at all! I have to tell you that the street food at Nathdwara is legendary and so delicious! Some of the foods that are very famous from Nathdwara are – the tea, purple yam fried in oil and coated with a variety of spices, purple yam stuffed with potato vegetables and deep fried, potato cubes coated with dry spices and a delicious sweet and salty lemonade. We did try some of these specialities and they were amazing!! A million calories, probably, but worth every bit of it.
But back to the reason why we actually were in Nathdwara – for Shrinathji’s darshan. I was really excited and nervous to go to the temple. Excited because I knew how lucky we are to actually be able to go to the temple after so many years and nervous, because I had heard stories of how people push away and there is hardly any place to breathe!! Well, we ended up in the VIP section wherein they let the group in before the general public is allowed in. But don’t be fooled for a second! Its still madness. We held hands and managed to stay together in the crowd! It wasn’t too bad and to be honest, it was kind of fun pushing people around! (I am NOT a sadist! :)) The darshan was really unreal; even with all the chaos around you, the moment you are in front of the deity, you are enveloped with a feeling and calm and contentment.
Once the darshan was complete, we took a good long tour of the actual temple. They have two grinders – one made of gold and one of silver well preserved. They also have an accounts section, a storage section and a cooking area where they cook for the people serving in the temple as well as the ‘bhog’ for Shrinathji. What I loved the most were the paintings around some of the rooms. The paintings all told stories about Shrinathji and some of them had very strong Mughal influences.
Nathdwara is about 50 kms from Udaipur and you do pass the Eklinji temple on the way which is the main deity of the Mewar empire. Eklinji is a form of the Lord Shiva. While we would have liked to go and visit the temple, it was far too late in the afternoon and the temple was closed. Maybe next time.
Once we got back to the hotel, we all wanted to have a nice lazy evening. We met later in the evening for a delicious dinner. That evening they had an amazing harpist and a wonderful vocalist. We couldn’t help but feel very blessed and at peace with ourselves. A little dance, a little singing, lots of clapping and laughter around the table – the perfect end to a very, very special day!