Artists of Nathadwara, Part Four

BY: SUN STAFF - 26.2 2019

Lord Krsna Worshipping Himself as Sri Natarji


The Principal Deity Images of Sri Nathji

As has been described in earlier segments of this series, Sri Nathji is always depicted in black stone, with His left hand raised to hold up Govardhana Hill. His right hand is held at waist level. Behind Him, the mountain is usually shown, with various cows or other creatures, which might include snakes, sheep, birds, peacocks, and even bear. There is often a conch shell and lotus flowers nearby, and sometimes an ascetic is shown, tucked into a little kutir.

Sri Mathuranathji or Mathuresji - the Lord of Mathura

This is a four-armed standing image of Vishnu, which appears to be carved in the same sort of black stone as Sri Nathji. Images of this type normally carry a disc and mace in the upper left and right hands and a conch and lotus flower in the left and right lower hands.

This image was reported to have once been at Khamnor, a village ten miles south of Nathadwara. By the early 19th century it was at Kotah. Subsequently a dispute between the Goswami and the Maharaja of Kotah led to the transfer of the Deity image to the village of Jatipura on the southwest side of Mount Govardhan.

Lord Vitthal (Panduanga) and Rukmini from Pandharpur Temple

Sri Vitthalnathji

Vitthalnath is another name for Vithoba, a form of Visnu worshipped at Pandharpur in Maharashtra by a sect of bhaktas known as Varkaris Vallabhacharya is said to have visited Pandharpur during his second pilgrimage and received there the divine command to marry. It is possible that he might have been influenced by the Varkari cult in the formation of his own beliefs. The Deity image is represented as golden in color and is in the characteristic posture of the Maharashtrian images, with the two hands resting on the hips. As in the case of the image at Pandharpur, Vitthalnath is shown attended by His wife, Rukmini. It is traditionally thought that the image was found in the Ganges at Benares in 1516. In the early 19th century it was at Kotah, but in 1865 was reported as being in Kanauj. It now occupies a temple in Nathadwara.

Lord Dwarkanath

Sri Dwarkanathji or Dwarkadhisji - the Lord of Dwarka

This is a four-armed image of Visnu resembling Sri Mathuresji and also apparently carved from black stone. The Deity image is housed in a large and important haveli on the edge of the Raj Samudra lake at Kankroli, eleven miles to the north of Nathadwara. It is said to have been presented by Vitthalnath to his third son, Balakrishna, and removed from Mathura in 1669. It was moved to its present site from the nearby village of Asotiya when the Raj Samudra received its inauguration in 1676.

Sri Gokulnathji - the Lord of Gokul

Krishna is shown playing the flute but with four arms, the upper right holding a ball of butter. The Deity image is depicted as golden in color and is attended by a female figure on either side. The image is housed at Gokul in a temple which is said to have been built in 1511.

Gokulchandramaji - The Moon of Gokul

Krishna, shown as a dark-colored two-armed flautist, is without attendants. The image was said to have been found in a ravine on the bank of the Yamuna and later transferred to Jaipur, from whence it was sent by the Maharaja during the second half of the 19th century. It is now at Kamvan (Kamban) a place associate with Krishna's boyhood, thirty-nine miles northwest of Mathura.

Sri Madanmohanji - He Who Intoxicates with Desire

The Deity image resembles that of Gokulnathji but has only two arms. It shared the same deliverance from Jaipur as Gokulchandramaji and is now enshrined at Kamvan. The cult was also established at Jaipur in a garden pavilion of the city palace, where Krishna is worshipped, as is Sri Govind deviji.

Sri Balakrishna

Two other images, which are also sometimes included in lists of those distributed by Vitthalnath among his seven sons, are figures of the infant Krishna, crawling along with a ball of stolen butter in his right hand. These are Sri Balakrishnaji, the child Krishna, at Surat and Sri Navanitapriyaji, the lover of fresh butter, whose shrine is in the haveli of Sri Nathji at Natahdwara. Navanitapriyaji is said to have been found in the Yamuna by Vallabhacharya and is the household Deity of the head priests of the sect at Nathadwara.

The image of Balarama, Baladeva, or Dauji, at Baladeo, near Mathura, is also frequently represented in Natahdwara paintings, and is sometimes misidentified as Sri Nathji. Despite the fact that Balarama was of light complexion, this Deity image is black and has its right arm raised - instead of the left, as is the case with Sri Nathji. Balarama is attended by His consort Revati, and holds a cup of intoxicating liquor (varuni) in his left hand.