On the day of Nutan Varsh, I with my family in the temple town of Nathdwara, Rajasthan, were walking briskly to the temple for the afternoon’s Rajbhog darshan. The Annakut had been set, on the occasion of the Hindu New Year. The sounds of cowbells and other passers-by, majorly tourists and local men tinkling away on bicycles, mingled with the ringing of temple bells and loud kirtan by Haveli sangeetkars (musicians). The gates were open for the audience.
Hurriedly entering the temple, lost in the hustle bustle of the hundreds of devotees, a glimpse of the Shrinathji with an array of vegetarian foods decorated in tiers was stunning. The grandeur left me dumbfounded for a few moments. Sweets were placed nearest to the Lord. As the tiers descended, other foods such as dal, vegetables, pulses and fried savoury were offered. A mound of cooked rice, symbolic of Mountain Govardhan, was placed in the centre. Shrinathji’s Annakut was symbolic of a great king’s opulence and generosity.
Even after being jostled out of the garbha griha by the crowd waiting for their chance to have a glimpse, my eyes were still stuck to the space where the feast was arranged in front of the Lord. I walked backwards, awestruck with the magnificent display, my vision now interrupted by a thousand heads in front. I couldn’t see anything but I couldn’t take my eyes off either. And just then, the lady inspector held my shoulder to stop me as I had almost stamped her feet.
The inspector woke me up from the phantasmagoria of amazement and pointed towards the way out. That was of course a direct signal of what I was expected to do, on a busy Diwali day at the temple. My mother and sister were already waiting.
“These are the real ancient and original traditions. So rich.” My mother exclaimed. “So deep and meaningful. Otherwise, in Mumbai, the Annakut Darshan are rarely this elaborate.” Of course there is no comparison of Nathdwara with Mumbai, but the heart still reacts. “The evolved and change traditions are too altered, too hollow. They barely echo the originaltraditions. The variety of food is mere and the occasion just so banal and trite.” She ranted on.
To this I absolutely agreed. Being the inquisitive one, always questioning and curious to know why, what, how and probe deep into the reasoning behind the practises and traditions, I asked my mother, “Why is this Annakut darshan happening on the day after Diwali?”
My mother in response narrated the story of Shri Krishna raising Mt. Govardhan only on his little finger, thus sheltering the residents and cattle of Gokul, underneath. She also pointed out the underlying sentiment of the episode. “Lord Krishna taught people to worship nature, instead of worshiping the God of Rains, Lord Indra. His was the message that we should take care of our nature.”
Remembering her childhood was spent in a small village of Gujrat, Kotdi, she told me a lot about how they lived very close to nature. That traditions lived in close contact with their local environment. This taught and reminded them that nature must be respected, cooperated with, in certain ritualized ways. One did not make huge changes in the environment, beyond clearing fields for agriculture and villages. Society saw itself as a part of nature; its spiritual beliefs and values held humans as the kinsmen of plants and animals.
We know that evolution and change is the law of Universe, but are we risking and putting on stake high-valued culture? In this race of evolving, we need to remember every soul should service one another.