I came out of the temple of Charbhujaji looking dejected. It was now Manish’s turn to go inside.
We were carrying full camera bag and it was not allowed inside the temple complex. There was no deposit counter as only devotees come here, who unlike a traveler, come with loads of hopes and desires, not a heavy backpack. So we decided to go inside one by one.
We were at Charbhujanath temple in Rajasthan. This temple is highly revered in Mewar region of Rajasthan (Udaipur, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand districts), perhaps even more than the famous Shrinathji temple of Nathdwara. Both these temples are in Rajsamand district.
The big square outside the temple complex had many people. I found a place and sat pensively. There are sights, smells, people, places, food, games and goods, from our childhood and early youth, of which we retain a particular sensation, feeling or picture in our mind. Whenever we think or see or experience those later in our life, somehow we always get a vivid image or recall of those childhood experiences. Sometimes we find that things are as they were and other times we find that those of childhood were best.
I floated back and forth between the sea of memories and sea of people. Men in turbans of all color and women with all the jewels kept bringing me in present. When Manish came out, I handed him the camera to capture people and completely immersed myself in my childhood memories. Let us see both people and my thoughts together.
This rainy season in August when I went to Charbhuja Nath temple, I went with beautiful memories of my twenties of the same temple. It was some thirteen years ago on an early winter’s late evening. Sun had set long ago and pleasant coolness had spread everywhere. There was no power(light) and we made our way to temple dodging the cow dung. Evening Aarti was in mid-way and only the Diya (lamp) was giving light. The smell of incense sticks, flickering lights of Diya, full-throated singing of Aarti, fervor of devotees which were just a handful from the village itself, cast an energizing yet serene spell everywhere and on everyone. There was not a sound other than the singing of Aarti in that temple compound. Luckily there was no Power generator. Flickering light was being reflected from the intricate glass work, giving those colored glass a varied look at various angle. Once Aarti was over, villagers went home and the whole temple was to ourselves except a few Pujaris. Light from the sanctum sanctorum did not reach outside in the compound as sanctum and sanctum sanctorum are built on a raised platform. However it was a night just before the full moon. The stoned floor, lime washed walls and the village, all oozed an old world charm. Stillness of the time and rawness of the moonlit stones under our bare feet resonated in every pore of our bodies. We sat there for long, stopping the clock of our thoughts, and just sat more.
This time it was a cloudy afternoon, but not enough to make a downpour. But already there was a downpour. Of another sort, of course. It was Sunday, and devotees were coming in large numbers. It was chock-a-block in the sanctum. All the glass work, the gold-plated innermost door, outer silver door, even the beautiful black idol, nothing could be appreciated. I quickly made my way out to the courtyard but was stopped by what I saw. Many women were dancing the Ghumar dance of Rajasthan. Most of them covered their faces by pulling over the saree till chin. There was no music, no drum beats, only the pleasure of dancing for their God. It was not a performance. It was not a show. There was no spectators except me. Everyone was waiting patiently for their turn.
When I tore myself away from that, I roamed around in the courtyard and felt sad. Some devotees, who earned wealth and considered it Charbhujanath’s blessings, have removed the centuries old stone and workmanship, with the marble and gross work as thanks to God. This was altogether new kind of vandalism, worse than the arrowed hearts, paan spits and litter. Nothing could bring back that atmosphere and antiquity of bygone era. When I asked how did it happen, I was even more sad! All those to whom I talked were feeling proud to tell that Shri Charbhuja Ji specially rewards people of Maheshwari caste more than anyone else and it is they who have donated so magnanimously. I was aghast. Since when has God become partial to people by caste? I gave them a fake smile and came out with heavy heart.
Two elephant statues stand guard outside the temple, flanking the flight of stairs. People were queuing up to pass under the elephants tummy. Strange rituals! Only if we could understand that life’s problems can not be solved so simply! Or if blessings were really granted like that!
After a while, we both got up and roamed around in village streets. Most of the big and palatial houses were locked as people long ago moved to Bombay. But none were ruined. The families have not uprooted themselves, they have just branched out. People come back in summer and winter breaks and all the family functions are held at hometown.
Many local people also return during rainy season for the festival of Jal-jhoolni Gyaras( Eleventh day of bright half of Bhadra month of Hindi calendar) when the idol is taken out in a grand procession for a bath and special pooja. If you can find a roof or balcony in some local’s house, it is a must watch procession. At ground level, all that you will be able to do will be to save yourself from being grounded and grind-ed. Experience the fervor, zeal and colors of this festival here (I searched for it on youtube and found this)-
Even if you are not a devotee, it is a good place to have an authentic experience of rural Rajasthan, costumes, life and music and dance. Most of the fairs organised by government are for touristic purpose where people dance and dress and sing for tourist, not for their own joy. This makes everything artificial. Instead when people ignore tourist and go about their life as usual, experience is very different.
Now for the record, the place is called Charbhujaji because the idol has four hands. It is also called Charbhuja-Gadhbor where Gadh means fort and Bor is a rajput community. It was built in 1444 AD.
Note: It is a great place to experience rural Rajasthan. Please respect the freedom and feelings of people before photographing them.
1. It can be conveniently done on your way from Udaipur to Kumbhalgarh.
2. If you are travelling during monsoon, drive further ahead from Charbhuja to Sevntri. It is a scenic drive through undulating terrain and a lovely pond with a nice bridge over it. In fact, you will not believe that you are in Rajasthan but for the people.
3. Seventry itself is a small village that has a temple- RoopNarayan temple.
4. It lies about 38 kms north to Rajsamand and 103 km north of Udaipur, on the road leading to Jodhpur.