Rajasthan Land of Meera, the Renowned

The only temple for Brahma is located here

Jaipur city is a tourist attraction, built by Raja Jai Singh (early 18th century). The Kings of this State were renowned and so it is called Rajasthan-the State of Kings. He created Jaipur, the city of victory, as an offering to Lord Govinda.

Legends has it that Vajranabha, a great grandson of Lord Krishna, got three icons of Lord Krishna made 5000 years ago. He had never seen Krishna and was guided by Uttara, the mother of Parikshit.

The first icon, Govinda, was made with a lotus-like face (mukha aravinda). The second, Madana Mohana, resembled Krishna’s lotus feet (pada pankaja). The icon of Gopinath resembled Krishna from neck to navel.

To have a proper vision of Krishna, one must see all three icons in a single day. The Govinda and Gopinath icons are in Jaipur and Madana Mohana is in Karauli, a small town south-east of Jaipur. These icons were brought to Rajasthan from Brindavan in Uttar Pradesh to save them from destruction by emperor Aurangzeb.

Shifted from Brindavan

The Govinda temple is in the old north-eastern part of the city. It was originally built at Brindavan by Raja Jai Singh’s grandfather. The icons were brought by Raja Jai Singh to Amber City near Jaipur. He built the temple in the palace at 5 a.m. when the mangala arti was performed. The full-size deities of Radha and Govinda are in polished black marble.

The Gopinath temple has carved silver doors and painting of rasa lila on the ceiling and the walls. Cows are kept in the courtyard of this temple and the priests here claim to be descendents of the Goswami family which is in charge of a similer temple in Brindavan.

Blind-folded Identification

South-east of Jaipur is Karauli, where the Madana Mohana shrine is located. Madana Mohana means one who can charm even the Lord of Love. Jai Singh’s Brother-in-law, Gopal Singh, wished to install this deity at Karauli. Jai Singh told him that if he could identify the Madana Mohana deity blindfolded, he could take it. Gopal Singh, blindfolded, went directly and touched the deity’s feet.

At Galta, there is a Surya temple with hot springs whose water has curative power. The water flows out of a cow’s mouth craved in stone.

Temple for Brahma

Pushkar has the only temple for the four-headed Brahma. The temple has a red tower and a swan craved over the entrance door. The icon of Brahma has Savitri and Gayatri on either side. Icons of Indra and Kubera are also in this temple. The Mahabharata narrates that Pushkar tirtha is the lake on the edge of the desert, where all the holy rivers gather at sunset and sunrise. One should take a bath here, especially during the auspicious Kartik Purnima and do parikrama of the three Pushkar lakes.

Lord Brahma wished to perform a yajna on Kartik Purnima day. While searching for a suitable place, the lotus petals from his hand fell at three places and became the scared lakes of Pushkar. As Savitri, his consort, was absent, he requested Indra to help him complete his yajna before the auspicious hour passed.

Indra created Gayatri, who took the place of Savitri during this yajna Savitri came late and decreed that Brahma should not be worshipped at any other place except at Pushkar. She established herself at Raktagir temple on top of a hill south of Pushkar.

The Pushkar Lake has 52 ghats (places for ceremonial both and worship). The site is scared and one has to walk barefoot around it. The Varaha (boar) form, appeared here and there is a Varaha temple nearby. During Kartik Purnima a camel fair is held at Pushkar, where cows, buffaloes and camels are traded.

Door to Lord Srinath

Nathdvar (north-east of Udaipur) is famous for its Sri Nathji temple. Nathdvar means the door to Lord Sri Nath. Devotees throng the place during janmashtami. Sri Nathji is a black marble idol of Gopala with his left hand held up as if holding the Govardhan hill. The deity has beneath his lips a large diamond offered by emperor Akbar.

The Sri Nath idol is an ancient one made by Vajranabha and brought by Rana Raj Singh from Brindavan for safe-keeping. Bhaktas make garlands, sweep the temple and help in the kitchen.

Like a Mansion

The temple resembles an ancient mansion and it is called Nandalaya (house of Krishna’s father, Nanda). On top of this temple there is a kalasa, the Vishnu Chakra and seven flags. The idol of Sri Nath is also known as Nikunja Nayaka (Lord of the bower). The idol is set in black stone on which are engraved images of sages, cows, snake, lion, peacock and parrots.

Priests in this temple follow the Vallabhacharya sampradaya. When Vallabhacharya (15th century) won in a spiritual debate, Krishnadevaraya, the King of Vijayanagar, give him gold coins as a gift. Seven of these gold coins, made into a chain, now adorn the idol of Srinathji.

The temple maintains 500 cows. Out of these one cow, called Srinathji’s cow, hails from a lineage that has served the deity for many generations. The milk of this cow is used for the puja rituals.

Temples for Krishna as Navaneeta Priya (one who loves butter), as Vanamali (one who wears a garland of wild flowers) and as Dvarakadish are around the temple of Sri Nath.

Mound of Rice

The festival of Annakut is an impressive spectacle and is celebrated a day after the festival of Diwali. It is in remembrance of Krishna’s miracle performed at the Govardhan hill. A big mound of 2,500 kg rice is offered to the Public.

During the Rath yatra festival in July the deity is taken around in a silver chariot. On this occasion, 100,000 mangoes are distributed among the devotees. During the Jhulana festival, swings made of gold, silver, glass and flowers are used for the deity.

Picchwai, an art work popular with tourists, is painting of Krishna’s life on large cloth wall hanging. Picchwai originated at Nathdwar temple to be used as backdrops for the icons.

Mount Abu which is at the south-west corner of Rajasthan, was originally called Arbudachala and Nandivardhan. It is remembered as the asram of Vasishtha Muni, who reared the celestial cow, Nandini.

An interesting legend

When Parasurama decimated the Kshatriyas to average the killing of his father, the Devas pleaded with saga Vasishtha to remedy the situation. Vasishtha performed a yajna and out of the fire came the Rajputs of Rajasthan. At a temple that depicts this legend, Vasishtha, his wife Arundhati, Lord Rama and Lakshmana are worshipped. In the centre of mount Abu is a lake that is believed to have been dug our by a sage with his nails (Nakki Lake). Near the lake is the temple of Raghunthji.

Siva is said to have stopped Mount Abu from shaking by pressing it down with his toe. At the Siva temple, Siva’s toe print is in the sanctum instead of a linga. A deep hole in the sanctum is said to go all the way down to patala, the innermost region of the earth. In the temple compound there are idols of Lakshmi Narayana in his ten avatars.

The First Jain Temple

The temple of Tirthankara Adinath was built in the 11th century during the reign of the Solanki kings. The walls of the five Jain temples, called the Dilwara Jain temple, have intricate carvings of Narasimha and Krishna. No leather objects are allowed inside these temples.

An interesting temple, dedicated to rats and called the Karni Mata temple, is located south of Bikaner. Rats have a free run, including over the altar and shrine. There is an image of Karni Mata holding a trishul, protecting the rats. Huge bowls of sweet milk and grains are offered by devotees. Seeing a white rat near Karni Mata is considered lucky.

The legend of this temple originates from the belief of a tribal group called Charanas. Karni Mata was worshipped by them to protect rats that were an essential part of the chain of life.

Festivals of Rajasthan

The Gangaur festival is celebrated for 18 days in vaisakha (March - April) and comes after Holi. It celebrates the love of Siva and Gauri. Wooden images of Gauri, bedecked colourfully, are carried in procession while women perform the ghoomer dance.

Before the monsoons, during the festival called Teej, swings made of gold, silver glass and flowers are used to celebrate the love of Gauri and Siva. Girls pray for good husbands and wives pray for long life for their husbands.

At Bassi in south Rajasthan, professional bards called Kavadias move through the villages singing tales from the Mahabharata. They carry brightly painted folding boxes, each enclosed within another. Scenes of the episodes are painted on them. These wooden boxes are manipulated according to the narration.

Meera’s Place

Chittor is known for Meerabai, whose moving bhajans on Krishna continue to fascinate us till today. She is remembered by the Meera temple that is close to the kumbha Shyam temple (15th century).

Chittor is known for its tradition of Jauhar. The garden of Mahasati has a number of stones in memory of this amazing tradition. It commemorates the legend of Padmini (queen of Rana Rattan Singh) who ruled Chittor (14th century). Hearing of her peerless beauty, Alauddin Khilji, the sultan of Delhi, laid siege of Chittor. All the women of the Chittor court, dressed in bridal garments, immolated themselves and the men, smearing scared ash on their foreheads and wearing saffron clothes, rode out to face death.

Udaipur celebrates the sacrifice of Panna dhai, the nanny of the crown prince, Udai Singh, when he was a baby. When a traitor tried to kill the prince, Panna dhai placed her own baby, Chandan in the royal cradle and saved the Udaipur dynasty. The Panna dhai award is given every year for remarkable acts of courage and conviction.

The Sufi saint, Moinuddin Chishti, came to Ajmer from Persia in the 12th century. This shrine (dargah) attracts thousands of devotees on the anniversary of the saint’s death (called Urs).

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