The Town of Nathdwara
Nestled in the Aravalli hills, on the banks of the Banas river in the Rajasamand district of present-day Rajasthan state of India lies the town of Nathdwara which is famed for its temple housing the deity of Shrinathji, depicting the Hindu god Krishna as a young boy.
Around 1670, in anticipation of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707)’s raids, the svarup (living image) of Shrinathji was shifted from its original temple on Mount Govardhan in the Vraj region (identified today with the easternmost districts of Rajasthan and neighbouring areas of Uttar Pradesh) to Rajasthan, where it would be safe in the hands of the Rajputs. Accompanying the image of Shrinathji, the lord’s sevaks–the priests, halwais (confectioners), cows and their caretakers and the painters also came along to look after him.
As they were passing through this region en route to Udaipur, the bullock cart got stuck in the ground at Sinhad, which was interpreted as Shrinathji’s desire to travel no further, so it was decided to establish a temple quickly at the spot. In time this place came to be known as Nathdwara, meaning simply “the Lord’s Doors” or “Gates of the Lord”.
Origin and History of Pichvai
The shrine of Shrinathji and the other svarups of the Pushtimarg sect are adorned with many exquisite objects as well as wall hangings. The pichvai serves as the backdrop to the svarup and evolved over time into a spectacular art form. Pichvai, literally meaning “displayed at the back,” is a painted or decorated cloth, that is suspended behind the Krishna svarup in a Pushtimarg haveli. They can be painted, printed, woven or embroidered as well.