Why are our sacred svaroops small ?

 

In most havelis of Pushti Marg, the svaroop we worship are small, often too small to be seen clearly from even 10-15 feet away.

Ever wondered why ?
Why is our Haveli so unlike a typical temple in look and feel ?
Why is the inner sanctum of the Haveli hidden behind so many doors and courtyards?

There are historical and ideological reasons for this.

Ideological :-

The universal spirit is so immense and all encompassing, it is impossible to capture it.  If you had to capture its ideals in any form, why not a form that is pleasing to the eye ?  As humans, we obviously find the human form most interesting and pleasing.  As God is suppose to reside in our heart, as our soul, atma, it would be fitting if it was the size that could fit into the heart.  Hence, the forms of God chosen were small.

Though we have been given about nine different forms of the Lord we can worship, an overwhelming number of vaishnavs have traditionally chosen to worship the Lord as a baby.  It than follows that the child form the Lord should be suitably small.

Historical :-

Pushti Marg came into being at a very difficult time in Indian history.  Hindu culture, traditions, temples, priests were being butchered at an unprecedented rate.  Pushti Marg flowered in Vraj, only a day's march from Agra, the seat of muslim empire in India at the time.   Countless temples were smashed already, priests were killed or converted by force in there thousands in and around Mathura.  The kazi - chief islamic judge - of Mathura had unprecedented powers in the area and wielded the power with religious zeal.  (Click here to read the incidence of how Shri Vallabh out-manoeuvres the kazi of Mathura)

At such a time, religious leaders of our sect decided to make sure that our temples and icons should be made in such a way, so as to have the best chance of survival.

The Haveli was made to look like a typical house / mansion and hence not an obvious target for zealots that maybe looking to hurt Hindus.  The inner sanctum was hidden for the same reason, so as not to offer any temptation to muslims passing by.  Icons draped in silk, arrayed with jewels, were targeted for loot and religious bigotry by muslims all over India, especially the North, where all the main pilgrimage sites - Mathura, Kashi, Ayodhya to name but a few, were ruthlessly razed to the ground. 

One of the reasons why we see so many of these pilgrimage centres with Rajput / Indo-Sarsanic style of temples is, most of these sites were rebuilt / renovated after the 1700s.  If you really want to see what the original / older temples may have looked like, visit the old mosques in these towns - masonry from razed temples were used to make mosques and hence give you an idea of what the original temples may have looked like.

To avoid the same fate, the Havlis of Pushti Marg were constructed to have strong outer walls, with heavy outer doors to discourage attacks.  Like the mansions and palaces of the time, the outer walls had few openings, while the air and light in the Haveli was mainly provided by courtyards and balconies.  The inner sanctum was usually safely esconed in the middle of the haveli, away from prying eyes and ears of their non-Hindu rulers.

The icons / Thakorjis were kept deliberately small to make them easy to transport in an emergency.  They were small enough to be hidden in the turbans of the priests, and hence the term - "...makthe biraje chai" (... resides upon his head).  Only a few of our main nidhi svaroops are large.  They are said to be "...gaud ma biraje chai"  (...resides in the lap) - because they were too big for the turban, but small enough to be carried by a single person.

A whole new vocabulary of shringar was developed to serve the tiny icons of Pushti Marg.  Furniture and furnishings were developed to complement the small thakorjis.   For example, small  "bungalows" could now be erected with ease in the inner sanctum and the thakorjis would not look out of proportion - bringing out-doors in-doors !  The oversized gadis of the sanctum were draped with garlands and jewels in such a way, so as to focus our eyes (and minds) on the Lord(s) at the centre of these artistic arrangements.

A whole new industry has sprung up to cater for the smaller svaroops - everything from clothes, jewellery, eyes made of precious metals and enamel, miniature turban accessories, wooden furniture, japijis, Pavitra et all !

Bhagwat

 

Return to the Philosophy index

Return to the main courtyard of the Haveli

 

bhagwat_s@yahoo.com

 

1