The traditional mansion of the Samode family in Jaipur, now a hotel by the name of Samode Haveli hosted Path of Grace: Holy Glimpses of Shrinathji, an exclusive talk by city-based artist Shan Bhatnagar. Shan’s paintings of Shrinathji, a balak swarup of Lord Krishna, was showcased at the venue and Shan explored his relationship as a devotee of Shrinathji and how it has contributed to his art.
Shan took us through the stories and legends associated with this form of Lord Krishna, made more interesting by paintings and photographs from Shan’s collection. Pushti Marg (‘path of grace’) started by Vallabhacharya, believed in Chitraseva – worship of the god through pictures and painting. Pushti Marg treats the god as a living deity which means that the god and the devotee are one, and with strong faith and belief, one can attain the state of the god. Shrinathji is considered an avatar of Vishnu by the Pushti Marg sect. Vittalnathji, the son of Vallabhacharya, is responsible for the artistic heritage that the sect is known for today.
The most important temples of the Vaishnavs are the various deities that Vittalnathji asked his seven sons to worship. Shrinathji is the first of these deities, a little boy god who is perpetually seven years old. Shan introduced the audience to various paintings showing Navanithrajji, Vittalnathji, Dvarkadhishji, Gokulnathji, Gokulchandramaji, Balkrishnaji and Madanmohanji, the other deities worshipped alongside Shrinathji.
Nathdvara, a small town near Udaipur which has managed to retain the quaintness of yore, is the most prominent of Shrinathji’s abode. Pushti Marg enshrines the gods in havelis than in temples, as it believes in a living god who lives as humans do and not in an exclusive space. Shan explained in vivid detail the meticulously planned haveli of Shrinathji, aided by pictures of his visits to Nathdvara, pointing out the breath-taking frescoes in white and blue. The worship of Shrinathji is as carefully laid down as his haveli. The audience were treated to haveli sangeet in Brajbhasha that is traditionally performed for Shrinathji in the morning. The calendar of Nathdvara was also explained, along with its connections to art and the seasons of the year.
The evening was, in short, a serene celebration of the art, music and devotion of Shrinathji. Shan Bhatnagar, through both his words and paintings was the best person to introduce the audience to the intricacies of the Path of Grace.