Why do we push, shove and jostle so aggressively in Havelis?


One of the most unpleasant aspect of visiting a large haveli is the pushing and shoving that goes on during the darshan.  It is unpleasant and unwarranted, especially in a sacred space like a haveli. This is a peculiarity of havelis more than other Hindu temples.  I have seen and suffered it in havelis large and small.  Even in London, with barely 50 people for a darshan, some vaishnavs seem to relish the idea of pushing just because they are in a haveli!

Pushing and shoving is especially intense just before and during the arti.  Everyone seems to desperate to get a view of arti, they are willing to push, shove, jostle and generally manhandle anyone and everyone to catch a glimpse of the arti.  No one cares about the Thakorji – it’s the ARTI they are waiting for.  WHY?

There is no sensible explanation for pushing, shoving – basically hurting others for darshan.  There is certainly no spiritual one.  However, I will try my best to give reasons as to why vaishnavs do it and why they should not.

In the old days, before electricity, lighting in the nij mandir (inner sanctum) was rather limited.  Oil lamps were employed in limited numbers because they were a fire hazard in a room full of soft furnishing like pichois, gadi and takiya (painted cloth behind Thakorji and cushions of the throne).  For various cultural, historical and architectural reasons, some nij mandirs in Pushti Marg are at right angles to any open courtyards (eg – ShriNathji’s haveli at Nathdwara).  This further reduced any possibility of direct or indirect light entering the inner chambers.

Under such circumstances, arti afforded a rare opportunity to actually catch a glimpse of the entire svaroop of Thakorji.  In those days, people had to be as close to Thakorji as possible to actually see what the svaroop looked like.  This was doubly true in Pushti Marg where the svaroops are generally small and people with poor eyesight had to jostle to be as close to the arti as possible to see the deity with any clarity.  Once the arti was gone, the inner sanctum was once again plunged into semi darkness.

Arti may have illuminated the svaroops for a few minutes in the old days, but in the 21st century, inner-sanctum of the haveli is flooded with light for the ENTIRE duration of darshan.  There is no need for anyone – even those with poor eye-sight – to push vaishnavs out of the way just to do darshan.  Unlike in the 19th century, people now have glasses and binoculars to allow closer look at the Thakorji.  So why push and shove vaishnavs to get a good darshan?

If the arti is done by a Vallabhkul balak, they do it facing the Thakorji.  IE – the ENTIRE svaroop is hidden from view for the ENTIRE duration of the arti!!!!  In which case, why push vaishnavs out of the way?  No one gets to see Thakorji properly so why push and shove?  Arti, in Pushti Marg, represents ‘our pain of separation from God’.  For that reason, unlike most sects, an arti is never ‘taken’ in Pushti Marg.  Once it is done, arti is taken away and not circulated amongst the laity.  So where is the compelling reason to cause others pain when we are actually presenting our own pain to God?

Does the Thakorji change before and after the arti?  If not – than why not wait and do darshan after the rush for the arti is over?  The only darshan where things are changed after the arti is Rajbhog (mid day meal).  Only during Rajbhog darshan, flowers, flute and vetra (polo like stick for playing with a ball) are presented before the arti.  These items are then taken away after the arti.  But is this reason enough to upset other vaishnavs?  What will you lose if you don’t see these items of shringar?  Are you there to see the shringar or Shri Hari?  Hari is still there – even 20 minutes after the arti.  So why hurry?  Jostling to be at the front or to be first to do darshan is a futile activity that does not engender brotherly love for our fellow vaishnavs and it does not evoke the feeling of oneness with God.

Unlike most Hindu temples, havelis of Pushti Marg open their inner sanctum for limited periods eight times a day.  As a consequence, many vaishnavs feel that unless they are there on time, they will miss a darshan.  They rush, push, dive in – just to catch a few seconds of darshan.  In the old days, when the number of visitors to the haveli was limited, the darshan times were curtailed to 15 min for minor darshans and 30 min for major ones.  But even in those days, during popular festivals, darshans were often merged and extended to allow everyone a reasonable opportunity to do darshan.  No one was (or is) ever ‘turned away’ and not allowed to do darshan. 

In the old days, there was an air of ‘unpredictability’ in the darshan time and duration.  In the time of our great grandmother, mukhiyajis used to take their own sweet time to do seva and the darshans used to open later than expected.  Infact, if ever you asked ‘When will the darshan happen?’ the answer was always the same, ‘‘Soon.”  That is no longer the case.  Mukhiyajis are now consummate professionals and keep to the published darshan times.  Most havelis keep their darshans open for a minimum of 30 min.  Apart from the afternoon siesta, there is usually a minimum of 30min and maximum of 60 minutes gap between darshans.  So why rush?  Why push?  Enjoy the darshan and if you are late, wait 30 min for the next one.  But crucially, why shove other people out of the way just so you can catch a glimpse?

Some vaishnavs excuse their appalling behavior on hoary tradition.  They often say, this is how it has always been and always will be.  Infact they even give beautiful euphemisms to such pushing and shoving as ‘Yamunaji ni laher’ (undulating waves in the river Yamuna).  Would Yamunaji, who is forever concerned about the wellbeing of the vaishnavs, appreciate vaishnavs trampling vaishnavs?  Would Shri Yamnaji appreciate kids being traumatized because they are crushed or separated from their parents by an unfeeling crowd?  Would Yamunaji ever, in her entire life, want any vaishnavs to feel upset during a darshan?

Other than a perverse fetish to push and shove just for the sake of pushing and shoving, why indulge in such a disgraceful manner in an environment that is supposed to be marked by grace?  Often enough, in such a crush of (in)humanity, people often lose their glasses, wallets, children and glass bangles are broken, leading to further  injuries to everyone around.  Pushing and shoving can (and often does) lead to people falling over and hurting themselves.  Sometimes the falls are serious and can lead to painful sprains or even fractured bones.  For the older vaishnavs, this can lead to debilitating pain for months to come!!  Would we consider such pushing and shoving to be a reasonable, sensible behavior of a civilized person in any public place?  So why find an excuse for it in a haveli? 

Pushing and shoving often leads to frayed tempers, raised voices and unnecessary amount of negative feeling (and sometimes colourful speech) in a sacred space.  WHY?  Why should anyone have to feel upset about having visited the haveli?  Infact, such experiences often mar the experience of coming to haveli and provide a massive disincentive for ever going back!  Kids often get scared by such frenzied behavior and prefer to go to other Hindu temples were orderly ques are formed for darshan. 

There is no moral, ethical or spiritual reason for pushing and shoving vaishnavs out of your way so you can do darshan of Thakorji!  It pains Thakorji to see his vaishnavs causing mutual upsets while they have come to see him.  Instead of focusing on the spiritual aspect of darshan, if we are thinking of who is pushing us and how we will remain steady or how soon we can be out of this crush, we have lost the whole reason to be there – to be in the presence of the divine!


Here are my tips for improving our experience of having a darshan in a haveli. 

First – Wait for the rush of humanity to disperse after an arti.  Most of the time you can sit / stand and have peaceful darshan after the ‘arti rush’ is gone.  Vaishnavs will still be streaming in, but they won’t be in such a frenzy as before arti.
Second – stand back from the front few rows and no one will push you.  For those of us with 20x20 vision, it doesn’t matter how close you are to the inner sanctum, so allow other to get as close as they wish.  For those of us who are short sighted, we now have the technology in the form of contact lens and glasses to get as close to 20x20 vision as possible.  So once again, it doesn’t matter how close you are to the nij mandir.  Allow others the luxury of being closer while you enjoy the darshan of the Lord.  I am sure Thakorji will appreciate your self-restraint and will appreciate that you are allowing others to get closer to Him.  What can be more graceful than allowing other vaishnavs the opportunity to get closer to God!  Surely that is the essence of Pushti Marg – that you share and spread the grace of God!  Afterall, we believe Hari, Guru and vaishnavs are one and the same.  In that case, it is incumbent on us to be kind and considerate towards ALL vaishnavs and now push or hurt them in any way.


Here is a shorter article on best way to do darshan in a haveli and what we should and should not do in a haveli.   



Bhagwat Shah © 


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