ShreeNathji Himself Lives here in His Haveli Mandir; so is worshipped in a very live manner. It is assumed that He is Present at all times in His Child Form; hence Sewa is done as of ShreeKrishn in His child Form of ShreeNathji at Vrindavan dham. Unlike the other Hindu temples there is no Shikhar on the top; over Shreeji’s Nij Mandir there is a roof top with the Dhajaji flying, and His Sudarshan Chakra.
Similar to how we would look after a young child, His Sewa is done with the most pure of bhao and best of samagri.
According to Shrimad Bahgvat, Shri Vallabhacharya had started the Ashtyaam sewa with the bhao of Nandalaya. Later his second son Shri GusainjiVitthalnathji established the elaborate sewa of Bhog and Shringar which is followed till today as started nearly 500 years ago. The festivals and their way of celebrations is also not changed; the various type of clothes and ornaments that Shreeji wears are the same as started several 100 years ago by Shri Gusainji.
All His Bhog is prepared according to the various seasons and days. Every type of food is prepared for Shreeji and offered in His Nij Mandir. All the traditional foods; with every dry fruit, many very expensive herbs are also used depending on the seasons. Only black pepper and rock salt is used in the preparation of His food. A lot of sugar is added in His sweet preparations.
Like He mentions sometimes in fun, “Main toh bahut meetha khata hun, phir bhi mujhe diabetes nahi hota, ha, ha, ha”. (I eat a lot of sweets, yet I do not have diabetes, ha, ha, ha”).
During the hot summer months He is offered water with Chandan and Gulab; while in the winters with kesar.
The way of cooking food for Shreeji follows the traditional manner. Bhog is the most elaborate and perfect with the most pure ingredients being used. No one is allowed to watch Shreeji when He takes His meals.
Shreeji’s Shringar is the most artistic, opulent and beautiful. It is alokik in its grandness. All type of ornaments are there for Him; used according to the type of Shringar done on that particular day. The flowers are freshly grown, and bought every morning from various gardens, grown especially for His Sewa. There is a room for preparing Shreeji’s various Malas (Garlands), the Phoolghar; where different fragrant flowers are used. Shringar can be done only by the Tilkayatji or the Mukhiyaji who has been appointed by them. None is allowed to watch Shreeji when He gets ready.
Shreeji is Natkhat (naughty) so, though having stopped direct interactions; yet plays sometimes in His Mandir. There have been times when He refuses to accept certain ornaments or vastra (clothes). If He has refused them three times, it is assumed that Shreeji does not want this. A new pair of the same is always kept ready, which is then used for Shreeji. New Vastra are used daily for Shreeji. No clothes are repeated. There is a team of tailors at the Darjikhana, who continuously stitch Shreeji’s clothes.
Unlike all other Hindu mandirs, Shreeji’s Darshans are not open continuously for the day. As Shreeji Lives here in the ‘Live Form’ of a small child, all His Darshans are regulated accordingly, the bhao being that He is a child, so will get tired of standing and may experience shram; so frequent Darshans are there for short durations. From morning, when He is woken, right through till the time of going to bed, there are eight Jhankis (Darshans) which are open to bhakts. They are called-Mangala; Shringar; Guwal; Rajbhog; Utthapan; Bhog; Aarti; Shyan.
The bhao is of a young child who is woken up, offered snacks; bathed and dressed; ready for His play; offered an elaborate lunch; He must be tired so given rest in the afternoon; woken up for His afternoon snack; Aarti done; offered dinner; changed and asked to sleep.
Govardhan Parvat has eight doors. Each door is the place of one Asht Sakha (The eight Gwal friends) of Shreeji. The AshtSakha were the eight poet friends, who wrote and sang various bhajans in classical bhao. All these rachanas are in praise of Shreeji and express different bhaos. They are used till today in Nathdwara with each Darshan, according to the particular Darshan and time of the day.
Each Darshan has a special bhao and meaning. (This has been elaborated later in this chapter). Though each Darshan is important in Itself; ideal is to do all eight Darshans when in Nathdwara, for the maximum benefit of experiencing closeness with Shreeji.
Though the timings of each darshan are more or less fixed; they may vary at times by some 20-30 minutes, according to the seasons. The daily timings are declared outside the gate on a black board and also on an electronic board. At times two Darshans are combined. This happens when the crowd is extreme as on some important festivals and Darshans have to be kept open for a longer period so that all the innumerable bhakts get a glimpse of their Thakurjee.
This is the first darshan of the day. Shreeji is woken with the sound of Shankhnaad.
This darshan is open for 45 minutes.
This darshan time depends on the season. During summer darshans open a little late. The bhao is that during summer Shreeji plays longer and so will sleep later; hence has to be woken up late; the Shringar is also lighter. He wears a simple adbandha. His flute is not given because if Shreeji begins to play early all would be enchanted and none would be able to work. In winter He sleeps early, so will be awake earlier for the Mangala darshans.
In the winter season, He is covered totally in a rajai (blanket) so that only the Mukharvind is visible. There is a sigri (coal fire) lit before Him to create warmth. Rest of the year He wears an Uparna.
Milk and Mishri, butter, milk, thord, seera are offered as bhog; according to the season. The ‘Seera’ is one of Shreeji’s most favorite dish – the Mangal bhog ‘Seera’. He loves it. He told me once in Nathdwara when we were taking the Mangal bhog Prasad. Aarti is done in this darshan. Dou vat batti aarti (two standing wicks) is performed; with seven full rounds and seven half rounds.
Sewa is performed with the bhao of Navneet Priyaji. His Sthan is above the Surbhi Kund, below Shyam Tamal, at Govardhan. It is thought that in Nandalaya (at Mathura), all His sakha and gopijan will come for the Darshans of Bal Krishn.
Shri Parmanand das is the Kavi (poet) whose rachnas (poems) are sung in this darshan.
Around an hour after Mangala, is the Shringar Darshan. Shreeji is dressed according to different seasons and festivals. His entire Wardrobe and Jewellery of 365 days has been decided by Shri Gusainji nearly 500 years back and is followed till today. The clothes He adorns once are never worn again.
Shreeji is offered a garland of sweet fragrant flowers. The pink Kamal are decorated on His waist. The two Chadi are also offered, along with His Bansuri. After His Shringar is complete, the mukhiyaji shows Him a Gold Aaina (mirror) so that Shreeji can be satisfied He is well dressed.
The moment when Shreeji looks at Himself in the mirror is not to be missed, as in these few moments ShreeNathji will be Present for sure in His Mandir. It is incredible. All I can do is look at this divya (divine) happening and feel lucky to have been given this opportunity to be present here.
I get the bhao of Shreeji standing with both His hands on His waist, tall and erect as if asking me, “Main kaisa lag raha hun? Maine naye “Vah Vah” pehene hai, aur ab main khelne jaa raha hun”,(How do I look? I have worn my new clothes and now I am going out to play).
I just want to go hug Him, hold Him in my arms and tell Him, “Shreeji You are the best, I love You”.
There is no aarti in this darshan.
Bhog is offered of dry fruits and sweets.
Sewa is performed with the bhao of Shree GokulChandramaji. His Sthan is above Mansi Ganga, below the Peepal tree at Govardhan. Kirtans and bhajans of the poet Kavi ,Shri Nand Das is sung now.
An hour and a half after Shringar is the Gwal darshan.
This Darshan normally does not open for public during festivals and is done inside.
This darshan is the time when Thakurjee takes His Gaumata for grazing. The Gaushala mukhiya comes to inform Shreeji that all His cows are doing well. Tulsi Dal is offered at His Feet. Dhoop Dhunni is done for Shreeji so that no evil eye harms Him. Aarti with dou vaat batti (two standing wicks) is performed now.
Bhog is offered of rabdi, kheer, milk etc
Sewa is performed with the bhao of Shree DwarkaNathji. His sthan is in The Kadamb Khedi, above the Erapat Kund at Govardhan. Kirtans and bhajans of poet, Kavi Shri Govind Swami is sung now.
This is the fourth Darshan of the day.
This is the most bhavya (opulent) darshan. Before this Darshans open, one hears the call of the sewak to fetch Shreeji’s Mala quickly. It is with the bhao of when Shreeji stayed in Govardhan; the pujari had to call out loudly for His Mala; as Shreeji’s garden was at a little distance. So as a routine it is followed as a signal for the Darshans to open. This Darshan is open for a longer time than all the other Darshans.
After the call for Shreeji’s Mala; Shivji is called for taking ShreeNathji’s Darshans. When ShreeNathji shifted to Nathdwara, Shivji also was pratishted in a mandir near the Banas River. At this Rajbhog Darshan, it is believed that sakshat Shivji is seated on the round semicircle before Shreeji, in the Dolti Bari doing ShreeNathji’s Darshans. That is why no one should step on this circle during these Darshans.
In this Jhanki, Shreeji stands with Lotus and a new Mala (garland). His triangle betel leaves are offered, His Venu (flute) and Chadi (canes) are also there. Aarti is performed in this Darshan. Bhog is offered of all types of food equivalent of an elaborate lunch. Shreeji’s food is always made extra sweet and no chillies used in the preparation. His jal (water) is always mixed with either Gulab, Chandan or some Kesar. He does not like plain water.
Shreeji, when in the right mood at times talks to me about His food habits. About how He likes milk with Kesar; this happens many times when we are having tea at gurushree’s office mandir. Suddenly I hear Shreejis tiny sweet voice, “Main to kesar wala dudh peeta hun, tum log yeh kiya peete ho? Main jal bhi kesar wala he peeta hun”. (I drink only milk with kesar, what are you’ll drinking? I drink water also with Kesar).
After this Darshan, Shreeji’s Haveli is shut for the afternoon as it is His time for vishram (rest). Nearly three hours later the Shankhnaad (conch) is heard again.
Sewa is performed with the bhao of ShreeNathji Himself. His Sthan is at Anyor below the neem tree of Saddu Pande, at Govardhan. Kirtans and bhajans of the kavi, poet Shri Kumbhan Dasji are sung.
This is the first of the four afternoon Darshans.
From Rajbhog till now, which is around 4.00-4.15pm; is Shreeji’s resting period. The mandir is shut for the afternoon. Most sewaks also retire and rest, as they have been awake very early. Like Mangala, bhakts gather outside the gate, waiting for the door to open.
Shreeji is woken with the sound of the Vina. It is often around between 3.30-4.15 pm. This Darshan is open for a short time. At times Shreeji looks sleepy in this Darshan. The entire Haveli seems very peaceful and calm at this time. Bhog is offered of Fruits and milk products. Kirtans and bhajans of Kavi, poet Shri Surdas are now sung.
Sewa is performed in the bhao of Shree Mathureshji. His Sthan is at Saghan Kandara Parasoli above Chandra Sarovar at Girirajji.
This Darshan opens around an hour after Utthapan. During summers small fragrant fountains are started for cooling and in winters a coal sigri is burnt at some distance from Thakurjee for providing heat. There is Flower Shringar or Flower Bangala in this Darshan.
A ‘Chadi Dar’ with a gold chadi, is present on the side who dresses in the formal attire of the moguls. A morchadi is waved around Shreeji. Bhog is of mainly fruits, Thor and some light snacks. Kirtans and bhajans of Kavi Shri Chaturbhuj Das are sung now
Darshans are of the bhao of Gokulnathji. His Sthan is near Nava Kund, above Rudan Kund, below the Aavli tree at Govardhan.
This Darshan is immediately after the Bhog Darshan. Shreeji comes back home from Gocharan and play. Yashoda Maiya does Aarti for Her son, is the bhao of this Darshan. The Shringar and Vastra become light, preparing for sleep. Shreeji is offered His Venu (flute) now. It marks the end of the day. Aarti is performed. One can observe how important it is to wear gold kadas on both hands when doing Shreeji’s Aarti.
The Sudarshan Chakra is also offered Bhog. The Dhajaji is wrapped around and given rest for the night. Kirtans and bhajans of Kavi Shri Chitta Swami are now sung.
Darshans are of the bhao of Shri Vitthalnathji. His Sthan is at Apsara Kund, below Shyam Tamal at Govardhan.
This is the eighth and last Darshan of the day.
These Darshans are not always held at Nathdwara.
From Dassera to Maargshreesh Sudi Saptmi and Vasant Panchmi to Ram Navami Darshans open out for the bhakts. From Maargshreesh Shukla Satam till one day before Vasant Panchmi, Darshans are inside; from Ramnavami till Dassera, Darshans are totally closed.
It is opened only after the ‘rasoiya boli’; the sewak goes on the terrace of the Haveli to call out for Shreeji’s chief cook to come early the next morning, again being in the bhao of Govardhan hill. Drums are sounded for the Darshans to open. A bhajan in the form of a Lullaby is sung. The Vina is played and Shreeji offered His Venu (flute) for the night. His Gold bed is prepared in the right way. It is supposed that Shree Radha will join Him at night, so Her garments and Ornaments are also kept ready.
A carpet spread on the ground leads to Shreeji’s room.
Bhog is offered for the night. Jal (water) is filled. Laddoos are kept, Paan also are kept. Kirtans and bhajans of Kavi Shri Krishna Das are now sung.
The Darshan bhao are of Shree Madanmohanji. His Sthan is at Shyam Tamal and below the Kadamb tree, above Bilchu Kund at Girirajji.
It is the last Darshan of the day, after which Shreeji is free till the next morning.
The wooden platforms from the ‘Dolti Bari’ are removed. The doors of the ‘Singh Pole’ are left open.
It marks the end of that day and all will become still and silent till the next morning, till the Shankhnaad sound; signaling that Shreeji is now awake.
It is a very quiet & silent feeling in the entire town once Shreeji retires for the night.
All return to their homes to come back for sewa the next day.
This cycle continues every day all through the years.
ShreeNathji has been here giving us His Loving Darshans year after year without any holiday or change in His routine. We may have gone through various birth cycles, but Shreeji-Thakurjee without complaining or feeling tired stands there without fail; completing His Karma of giving Darshans.