We are now on the last leg of The Temple Food Trail ; destination Udaipur.We took the morning flight to Udaipur and proceeded to the Shrinathji Temple at Nathdwara in a fleet of cars. We were going to witness the much famous Rajbhog Aarti at the Temple and have the Rajbhog Prasad for lunch. You must be thinking how much talk of food food, only food but this was the end to the gluttony of the last four days.
I didn’t put on any weight after all that food and I would like to believe that every meal that we partook was an enormous blessing from Lord Krishna himself. Most of the group was relishing the temple food because of their religious beliefs, but for me it was more to do with the unique scrumptious and traditional flavours. I do believe in religion but I am not into elaborate pujas and paths. I think the best religion in mankind today is Be Good Do Good and that is what I follow.
Udaipur is the capital of the former princely state of Mewar and is also known as “Venice of the East”, the “Most Romantic City of India”, the “Kashmir of Rajasthan” and “City of Lakes”. Udaipur is a beautiful city surrounded by the azure lakes and the lush hills of the Aravalis and narrow lanes strewn with stalls carry the flavor of heroic past, epitomizing valor and chivalry. It is a favorite city for destination weddings for Indians and foreigners. But we didn’t get to see any of this as we were headed to Nathdwara, a small town 48kms away.The route was quite picturesque and the hills were like shields around us. It is renowned for its 17th century temple that is dedicated to Lord Shrinathji (Krishna). The term ‘Nathdwara’ means the ‘gate of the lord’.
We reached the temple well in time for the Raj Bhog aarti. In fact, we were asked to freshen up at the temple guest house. After a brief rest all of us trooped out to have some chai tea. Now what do I mean by chai tea? Well chai is tea, and tea is also tea, so chai tea literally means our masala ‘tea tea’ isn’t it? My daughter-in-law is Mexican and she would ask for Chai tea and I never knew this term existed. But later I came to know that Indian tea is called chai tea all over the US of A and Europe. The chaiwallah was grinding fresh ginger, mint, cardamom, black pepper corns and adding lemon grass to concoct this amazing aromatic tea. I am lactose intolerant and he brewed me a black tea which tasted awesome.
After the elaborate chai ceremony we were asked to leave our bags, cameras and cell phones as it was not allowed in the temple premises. Sadly I do not have any of my own pictures of the temple. We were made to sit in an anteroom of the temple as there was some time before the Rajbhog aarti started.
Like the idol in the Govind Devji Temple, Jaipur the idol at Srinathji was brought from Govardhan by Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar to save it from the marauding army of Aurangzeb. When the idol was on its way the wheels of the bullock cart in which the idol was being transported got stuck deep in the mud and could not be moved any farther.The accompanying priests construed that the particular place was the Lord’s chosen spot and accordingly, a temple was built there by Maharaja Raj Singh. The Shrinathji Temple is also known as ‘Haveli of Shrinathji’ (mansion) and it actually looks more like a mansion than a temple.
The passages were narrow and the way to the sanctum sanctorum was full of fervent worshippers, jostling to have a glimpse of the deity. If it weren’t for the temple authorities giving us a special darshan, I would never have dared to enter the temple in that frenzied crowd as I am demophobic. We were taken to main place of worship and we were lucky to get a close darshan of Srinathji. The image of Shrinathji is worth seeing and the celestial beauty has a charm of its own. Presently, Shrinathji’s worship is performed by direct male descendants of Vallabhacharya.
A narrow staircase, which allowed only one person at a time, led to top of the temple which is headed by a Kalash( round pitcher). The pole is surrounded by seven flags which envelop the legendary Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Krishna. The Gold Chakra was revolving and a priest was spraying a perfumed mist over it from time to time. Shrinathji is seen as Thakurji or Lord of the Haveli and thus it is more of a Sewa (service) that is offered rather than worship. Like a regular household He has a chariot for movement and in fact we got to see the original chariot in which Shrinathji was brought to Singhar. Like any affluent man of that time, the temple has a store room for milk, a store room for betel (Paanghar), a store room for sugar and sweetmeats (Mishrighar and Pedaghar), a store room for flowers (Phoolghar), a functional kitchen (Rasoighar), a jewellery chamber (Gahnaghar), a treasury (Kharcha bhandaar), a stable for horses (Ashvashala), a drawing room (Baithak), a gold and silver grinding wheel (Chakki).
Shrinathji symbolizes young Krishna, when he lifted the Govardhan hill, with one arm raised. The idol is carved in the same form out of a single black marble, where the lord has his left hand raised and the right hand locked into a fist resting at the waist, with a large diamond placed beneath the lips. Images of two cows, one lion, one snake, two peacocks and one parrot engraved on it and three sages are placed near it. Since, the deity is said to be the infant Krishna, He is worshipped with tender care. The temple has a Goshala or Cowshed with 500 cows and amongst them; one is regarded as Shrinathji’s cow. It is considered that this cow has come from the same pedigree that served the lord centuries ago.
The temple admin was present at that time and he came out to greet us and handed over the ceremonial saffron scarves to each one of us. We were led to the dining hall and bhog was served to us. There isn’t much to write about this lunch as it was certainly nowhere close to what we had eaten at the previous temple. Yes, the temple was interesting but there was something missing in the bhog. But then it was Prasad and we did have it religiously.
Outside the temple everyone again made a beeline to the masala chaiwallah and I spotted a Banta Wala and hastened to quench my thirst. We got to laze and stretch ourselves at the cottage before setting out to the airport. All of us ladies were holed in one cottage and were just ribbing each other when suddenly the mood of the place took over and there was an impromptu rendering of bhajans in the praise of Krishna.
Nathdwara was our last stop on this delectable food journey. It was time to say our goodbyes to our new friendship which had bonded over a love for travel and divine cuisine. We set out to the airport where those taking the Mumbai flight left early while we had some time before we took the flight to Delhi. I found a few minutes to talk to Dr.Pant and brushed up my knowledge about the trail.
I have decided that this is by far not my last trail but a first of many.I travel not to escape from my life but to see that life doesn’t escape me.As a food blogger, this was a culinary journey to taste Godly foods on the Temple Food Trail and it was a soulful journey too, getting to know the divine and heading towards Nirvana!
Thank you for giving me company on this divine journey. I feel blessed to have you all along.
PS. Most of the pics courtesy Dipen
Finally the trail is on air on Times Now.