Shirnathji is the presiding deity of Nathdwara and is popular with the Vaishnav community in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is commonly believed that the Vaishnav and Mother Goddess cults do not see eye to eye. However we were surprised to spot the painting at the temple of Bahucharaji –
On enquiring, we were told the following myth:
Legend has it that the famous devotee of Bahucharaji, Bhakt Vallabh Bhatt once visited Nathdwara to worship Nathdhish (as Srinathji was known then). When the doors of the temple opened, Bhatt hailed the god by saying – “Jai Bahuchara ma”! On hearing this, the temple folk and the assembled Vaishnavs were agitated, and severely beat him up and kept him in solitary confinement.
In the middle of the night, Bahucharaji came with a plate of food to Bhatt to feed him. Bhatt declined to have the food and said that he would not have his food till he sees her image in the idol of Nathdhish. Bahucharaji promised him that he would see this the next morning.
Early the next day, Bhatt went to the temple and waited along with the rest of the crowd that had gathered for the morning darshan. As the temple doors opened everybody was shocked to see, that Nathdhish was wearing a nose-ring, ‘payal’ or anklets in his legs and had a ‘chunadi’, a veiled cloth worn by women, over his head. His hands were in a position to clap as in the traditional garba.
Realisation dawned on the assembled devotees who apologised to Bhatt. From that day onwards, Nathdhish is referred as Srinathji, ‘Sri’ standing for the goddess Srishakti.
Story collected by: Utkarsh Patel
Source: Temple priest
Location: Nathdwara, Gujarat