Sevki system  


The system of “sevki” is used throughout the haveli system in Pushti Marg.  In its most basic form, its meant to be a voluntary “TIP” a vaishnav give to a temple servant for helping them in someway – e.g. for getting the Prasad or allowing them to help with some seva.  It was vaishnav’s way of saying thank you to all the temple servants who were involved in making their visit to the haveli a joyful one.  This was especially true when they requested a manorath to be celebrated.  The sevki was a way of saying thank you to the sevaks for spending time cooking extra food, setting up the bangala or palana for the manorath, for decorating the hindola or any such seva related to the manorath.


Sadly, now it has become a way to supplement the wage of the temple servant.  Its no longer voluntary, but a mandatory fee vaishnavs must pay to get whatever they want / need in the haveli.  Even Prasad that is entitled to them, can only be obtained after paying sevki !  Often, the sevak has done no more than bring the food from inside of the room to the outside and still demands a sevki !  And its not as simple as paying the man who comes to deliver the prasad to you – you have to pay everyone in the chain above and below him !!  Otheres who are totally unrelated to the task will also try their luck with the vaishnavs - seeing if they will pay up.  In some cases, the sevki is built into the payment of a manorath, especially for the high-end sevaks such as a the mukhiyaji.  Sevki entitlement for some manoraths go all the way up to the Tilkayat and this is charged upfront !


Often I have heard vaishnavs say that to do the manoraths is a pleasure, but to deal with the sevaks and their sevki demands is a nightmare.  Indeed, sometimes these sevki demands cost almost half as much as the manorath itself !  For vaishnavs on a budget, this is often an expense they have not factored into the costs of the manorath !  Worse than the amount, it’s the method in which it is exacted that is upsetting.  Sevaks often abuse and curse the vaishnavs if their demands aren’t met in full.  Often vaishnavs “pay” a panda to deal with the temple sevaks in order to avoid making a scene. 


Often sevaks berate their employer and say we are paid nothing and must live on what vaishnavs provide.  In Sudhadvaita, we say the whole universe lives on what the Lord provides, and His servants, in His own haveli, say they live on what vaishnav’s provide !  How can such a statement lead to pride in one’s religious convictions ?  Indeed, they often show very little regard for the Thakorji they serve by chasing sevki rather than seva.


Recently, I offered a large quantity of high quality “mashru” cloth to a Haveli in Nathdwara.  Unbeknown to me, the cloth can only be sewn up for saj if the tailor is paid sevki of over R700 !!  Not that I can’t afford the fee, but it is a ridiculously high amount of money to be paid for simply sewing up a simple pichoi and awning.  There were no special cuts to be made with this cloth – it simply had to be stitched and joined to form a pichoi and awning for the inner sanctum.  Even the shape of the simhasan was simple to cut and stitch.  But, none of this could even commence till the sevki was paid !  No one told me at the outset and the cloth remained in store for over six months !  It is amazing that temple servants won’t do the job they are contracted to do until they are paid an additional amount by the vaishnavs.  I just wonder, how many other things are stored up in the havelis because the right palms aren’t greased to get them past the sevaks to the Thakorji !


Unfortunately, no one speaks on behalf of the vaishnavs and even when we complain, we are simply told that this is the way it has been for 500 years, so live with it !


I feel its wrong !


500 years ago the situation was different and the social structure of India was different.  Now, its totally transformed.  These temple servants aren’t as dependant on vaishnav’s handouts as they were before.  They also have businesses and investments other than the temple work.  Indeed, they sell the food and Prasad they get from the temple to make a tidy profit.  The money they get from selling Prasad is far more than a “wage” they would be getting if the temple was to pay them the going market rate for their work.


500 years ago travel was difficult and vaishnavs used to go to major sites only once or twice in a lifetime.  Under such circumstances, fulfilling a manorath or two was a major event and vaishnavs would have financially extended themselves to share their joy with temple servants who may have worked hard to make that manorath possible – by cooking the extra food or preparing things in the haveli.  But now, when vaishnavs go very regularly to places like Nathdwara and proffer several manoraths a year, its difficult to justify the demands of the sevaks.  Besides, sevaks now cook and produce vaste quantities of food not for one but several manoraths perday, demanding money from each manorathi as if they have cooked for him alone !  In ShriNathji’s haveli, number of manoraths per day often runs into hundreds – with adhakis and various bhogs being offered in addition to hindola, bangala, palana etc per day.  Sevaks are rapious in their demand of sevki from each and every manorathi, pocketing several hundred if not thousands of rupees per day.



I feel the sevki system is in urgent need of an overhaul.

It can remain as a voluntary payment, with no demands being made and no hassel given to the vaishnavs to pay.

BUT, Ideally, it should be banned altogether.

It demeans the sevak to have to ask vaishnavs for money in such a manner.

It embarrasses and upsets the vaishnavs who are often hard-put to understand how much sevki is too much or too little.

Temples should pay their workers a fair / living wage so they don’t have to beg for a living in this shameful way.

Vaishnavs should lobby their gurus and temple trusts to replace the sevki system with a fair / living wage for the sevaks.



© Bhagwat Shah


Pushti > 2000

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