The town of Nathdwara was built in the 18th century and is considered to be the abode of Lord Srinathji, popular form of Lord Krishna. The city is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus and its name translates to 'Gates of the Lord' where in 'Nath' and 'Dwar' mean 'the Lord' and 'gate' respectively. The name' Govardhana Giridhari' given to Lord Krishna is believed to have originated in this town.
There is a popular legend that the image of Shrinatji was brought to the regions of 'Mewar' for its protection from the clutches of the Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb. It is believed that Taj Bibi, the wife of Emperor Akbar often visited this temple. Later on the image was shifted to Rajasthan.
According to historical sources it is believed that the transport chariot carrying the image of Shrinatji got stuck in the sand en route. This was taken as a blessed omen and a temple was founded at the site. According to another legend the temple was visited by 'Vallabha Sampradaya' the religious leader of 'Vaishnavism'.
It is believed that 'Vajranabha', Lord Krishna's great grandson, installed the deity of Srinathji more than 5000 years ago. Madhavendra Puri found the deity around 500 years ago in a hill named 'Govardhana' in 'Vrindavan'.
In 1519 AD, Puri installed the idol on the hill. After this, the service to this idol was handed over to Vitthalnathji who was Vallabhacharya's son. Vallabhacharya is considered to be a highly considered Vaishnava guru. The practices of temple worship and deity worship have been propagated by Vallabhacharya's followers. There is a popular legend that Vallabhacharya, a Brahmin of Tamil origin, once defeated a group of learned men and was given gold coins. He kept only 7 gold coins and that these coins were used as an ornament for Shri Nathji's statues, and are still seen around his neck.
'Nathdwara' is a town in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan. It is surrounded by the Aravalli hills and lies on the banks of River Banas. Nathdwara is situated about 48 kilometers away from the city of Udaipur, with an average elevation of 585 meters.
By rail - The 'Mavli' Junction is located 28 kilometers from Nathdwara and Udaipur rail station is another important junction situated close by. From here one can take a bus reach Nathdwara. The town also has a small railway station located 13 kilometers away from the town center and has a small ticket reservation office near the temple.
By air - The nearest Airports are 'Maharana Pratap' Airport and 'Dabok' airport (Udaipur) located at a distance of 56 kilometers via 'Mavli' Junction.
By road- Express buses run by the state tourism department, as well as private companies connect Nathdwara to major towns and cities like Ahmedabad, Pushkar, Ajmer, Jaipur and Delhi. Daily bus services from Udaipur take about two hours to reach Nathdwara. The bus terminus is situated at a 15 minute walk from the temple complex.
Nathdwara has an extreme climate, experiencing hot summers from March to June with maximum temperatures reaching 46 Degrees Celsius in the month of May. The monsoons rains bring some relief during July to September, followed by winter between December to February. The weather during day time is pleasant, while the nights are cold with temperatures dipping to almost 9 Degrees Celsius. The region is very unlike a river valley, with a rocky and barren terrain surrounded by hills covered scarcely with shrubs. The scanty greenery sprouts during the monsoons.
Nathdwara has developed as a town due to the presence of the Shrinathji temple. The town being a pilgrimage center has led to the development of important infrastructure and facilities like health, hotels and transport. The River Banas is the main water supply of the town.
The buildings in the temple town are brightly painted with white wash. The houses are mostly rectangular constructions made of strong brick and stone with tiled roofs. Towards the outskirts of the temple complex the building clusters increase around narrow streets and have elaborate paintings on their entrances too. Bright paintings of elephants, warriors and tigers in the Nathdwara style adorn these walls. The houses of artisans have a neat but busy ambiance. The house usually has a balcony on the first floor overlooking the narrow streets below. The studios are located on the brightly lit first floor. Small windows and ventilators keep them warm during winters and keep the heat out during summers.
The temple of Shrinathji is where all the activity and roads lead to. The shrine is housed in a grand 'Haveli' or mansion. Since the deity is a living person for the devotees, the shrine that houses him is considered to be a home rather than a temple. It is modeled to resemble the traditional homes of Rajput princes and exudes royal grandeur. The 'Haveli' has several rooms, small passages, indoor gardens, pools and courtyards. The structure is of stone and brick embellished with Rajput style of balconies, arches and pillars. Other than the shrine, the rooms around are put to various uses as offices, jewel rooms, audience chamber etc.
Nathdwara is predominantly famous for Lord Shrinatji's temple and the town has grown around it. The religious importance and fame of the temple brings many devotees from all over the country and abroad, generating tourism business. Making the most of this opportunity, the town has taken to many businesses like holy garment making, jewelry for the lord, food offerings, paintings, hotels and accommodation for tourists. The town thrives on this and the lives of the residents revolve around the temple.
The residents of the town mainly consist of people who have migrated from surrounding areas centuries ago and chief among these are the people of 'Braj' who migrated here from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. According to legend they migrated from Mathura to Nathdwara carrying with them the image of Shrinatji and his pichwais to escape the plundering tyrant Emperor Aurangzeb.
Since then the descendants of Braj have lived in Nathdwara, creating a rich cultural amalgamation of Rajasthani and Uttar Pradesh cultures. One can see strong influences of Mathura in Nathdwara.
The religious town Nathdwara, livens up during the 'Darshan' or 'audience with the Lord' which is a grand event replete with much drama. As the temple gates open with loud drum beats, hordes of devotees wait with hands folded in prayer. The doors open to reveal the spectacular sight of Shrinathji with a beautiful Pichwai in the background. Shrinatji is not just a deity he is also their King.
The residents of Nathdwara comprise a mixed cultural background of people from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan with various tribes like the 'Banjaras' or Gypsies also part of it. The traditional attire for women is the 'Ghaghra-Choli' a traditional kind of skirt and blouse worn along with a garment called 'Dupatta', draped over the head. The women also wear silver jewelry. Men wear a 'Dhoti', 'Kurta' along with colorful turbans. The youth have taken to contemporary wear like t-shirts, trousers and jeans.
Shrinathji Temple - This temple also called 'Nand Bhavan' or 'Nandalaya' (as it was built to resemble Lord Krishna's abode in Vrindavan when he was young) is the chief attraction of Nathdwara. Built in the 12th century this structure houses a black marble idol of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhana Hill with his little finger. The lord's portrait has a large diamond studded beneath his lips, a gift from the Mughal emperor Akbar. The temple has over 500 cows of which one is considered to be sacred and only its milk is used as offerings to the deity.
Annakuta Festiva l - This festival holds a prominent place amongst the many temple occasions and takes place a day before 'Diwali' to celebrate Lord Krishna's 'Govardhan hill' legend. A mound made out of 2,500kg of rice is offered to the deity and is called 'Annakuta'. Once the 'Darshan' is over the celebrations begin with looting of the rice hill.
Rath Yatra - This is an important Hindu event that takes place during the month of April. The deity displayed in a silver chariot, is carried around the town as devotees give offerings of mango and butter to the lord.
Pichwai Paintings - Nathdwara is famous for its Pichwai paintings that are made in dark colors and serve as a visual narrative for the epics of Lord Krishna. These intricately handmade temple paintings are much sought after as souvenirs by art connoisseurs as well as devotees alike.