Soft furnishings in Pushti Marg Seva


One of the most wonderful aspects of Pushti Marg is the visual impact of ‘darshan’ it offers vaishnavs.   Eight times a day, doors of the inner sanctum are opened for the public to have a ‘darshan’ of the main Svaroops in the haveli.  To enhance the effect of the darshan, the inner sanctum is beautifully decked out in simple, yet tasteful way.  Soft furnishings are used to enhance the look of regal simplicity.

This article looks at the use of soft furnishings, often called ‘saj’, in Pushti Marg’s seva.  Ofcourse, music, food and jewels (raag, bhog, shringar) play a big role in this too.  These items are covered in other articles on this site.       



One of the most important aspects of sevya svaroops (mool vigraha / Thakorji / presiding deity) in Pushti Marg is that most of these are fairly small.  To make the small svaroops stand out, they are set on a gadi (cushions) and surrounded by bolsters that are covered in white.  During important festivals, they are covered in red and during a ‘ghata’, they are covered in specific colours of the ghata. 

White background of the gadi helps bring out the colours of the clothes and jewels offered to the svaroop.  Bolsters around Thakorji are usually bound with ribbons embroidered with pearls.  The gadi Thakorji sits on is usually bound by a thick, embroidered ribbon.  In wealthy havelis, front of the gadi is covered with a faceplate made of embossed gold (at Kakroli) or intricate designs created by jewels (at Nathdwara).

While the gadi itself is covered in white, the throne is usually covered in a cloth with a colourful border.  These borders often reflect the colour of Thakorji’s clothes or the colours in the pichoi used that day.

In vaishnav’s homes, the gadi is often covered in colourful velvet and the front is embroidered with sequences, mirror and metallic lace to evoke the jewelled front pieces of havelis.  Usually the upper part of the gadi is covered with white cloth or material to match the saj of the day.



Svaroops like ShriNathji, Mathuradhishji, Dwarkadhishji, Kalyanraiji, have a stele behind them to support the icon.  The stele is usually covered in a cloth of contrasting colour to the pichoi and clothes worn by Thakorji.  That way Thakorji can stand-out and not merge with the background. Apart from a day when 'ghata' scheme is celebrated, the inner sanctum is rarely covered in a singular colour scheme.  



Usually the jewels worn on the day ‘stand out’ and complement the colour of Thakorji's clothes and other soft furnishings.  Most Hindu sects use jewellery predominantly made of gold and silver in their shringar.   Set in gold & silver, gems and enamel provide ‘colour’ in the shringar.  Having evolved amidst Mughal and Rajput royals, in Pushri Marg, shringar is predominantly composed of pearls.  Gems, gold and silver usually provide a dash of colour amidst a sea of white.  Main idea is to make sure the colours used in the shringar do not jar and flow smoothly from ‘saj to shringar’ in an effortless flow.



In a haveli, the svaroop and the throne they sit on (gadi) are relatively small compared to the size of the room.  A plain pichoi (backdrop) is hung behind the gadi to highlight it and  it’s occupant.  This was particularly helpful in an era before the electric lights and the inner sanctums were lit only by lamps.  Pichois often matches the colour and design of the clothes the svaroop is wearing.  As Thakorji usually sits on white cushions, the pichoi and his clothes create a harmonious picture within a framework of white. 

During festivals, such as Divali, pichois can be very elaborate.  Sometimes they are painted, printed, woven or embroidered to look extremely regal.  Sometimes the importance of a festival can be gauged by the splendour of the pichoi and saj used on the day.    

In vaishnav’s houses, pichois are by necessity small and sometimes only slightly bigger than the gadi in front of them.


Seasonal change in soft furnishings

One of the wonderful aspects of Pushti Marg is the ever changing nature of seva.  It follows the seasons and Thakorji is offered food, clothes, jewels, perfumes that are in keeping with the season.  Soft furnishings also change with the seasons to provide the most comfortable environment in our seva.  Almost all soft furnishings have a ‘border’ applied to them.  Mostly this is jari – gold or silver lace – but during summer and monsoon this can be silk or cotton lace to match the rest of the saj.  

During the spring and ‘khel’ season, pichoi and other soft furnishings in the haveli are almost always white.  During the gval darshan (3rd darshan of the day), Thakorji plays with colours and the pichoi and clothes are completely covered in colour.  As colour is used in perfusion, gold and enameled-gold jewels are worn rather than pearls.  This is mainly for the practical reason of being able to clean gold jewellery more easily than pearls.  During the khel season, soft furnishings spoil a lot and need thorough cleaning.  In a haveli is sufficient funds, they are simply ‘replaced’ at the end of the season.  

In vaishnav’s homes, a white cloth is usually spread over the clothes and jewels so when Thakorji plays with colour, it does not spoil the saj or shringar.

During the summer, pichois are usually translucent and have simple pastel shades.  Occasionally they are block printed with saffron and sandal wood.  Sometimes they are made of ‘net’ with designs of trees, gopis and cattle.  As it is the hot season, thada-vastra is not used to cover the stele and the darkness of the stele contrasts nicely with the pastel colours of the pichoi and white of the cushions and gadi.  Pearls, diamonds and silver necklaces predominate in the summer, making the whole scene rather cool, soft and serene.

During the monsoon and autumn seasons, colours and materials used are usually bright and vibrant.  Colourful jewels are worn on equally colourful clothes.  On occasions, the walls and ceilings are covered in diwal-giris and chandarvos.  During the rainy season, these are usually painted or embroidered to match the theme of the festival. They usually complement Thakorji’s clothes and jewels.



Colours of the ghata represent different bhavas (emotions) and are assigned to different sakhas and sakhis (friends) of the Thakorji.  For example, red colour represents the bhav of anurag – love – and it represents Shri Swaminiji. 

Vaishnavs can use ghata in their home at any time, whereas the havelis have days set aside for celebrating the ghatas. e ghatas.


Painted soft furnishings

Painted pichois are a popular subject for books and research scholars.  Design, theme, style and even colours used in a painted pichoi can tell us a lot about the period they were created in.  Analysing old pichois is a serious branch of spiritual and artistic anthropology.  Due to the time it takes to create painted pichois, they are not used as often as most people think. 

Painted pichois help highlight the main theme of the day / festival.  They also create a tableaux for the vaishnavs to visualize the story / legends associated with the festival. Painted pichois bring the 'outdoors' 'indoors' and recreate scenes of Vraj or Nand-bhavan in the inner sanctum.

If the pichoi is ‘commissioned’ for a particular haveli, the painters take account of the size and shape of the svaroop and its gadi to incorporate them in their painting.  Large svaroops like Shri Nathji necessitates leaving the middle section ‘empty’ as it wont be seen and will be hidden by the Svaroop.  Small svaroop can even be enlarged and included in the painting.     sp; 

To make Thakorji seem a part of the whole ensemble, the cloth hanging below the throne / gadi and even the cloth covering the steps leading up to the throne, are painted to look like they are an integral part of the painting. So when vaishnavs have their darshan, the pichoi, gadi and God all seem to be seamless.  Indeed, it often seems as if Thakorji IS part of the painting.  Sometimes, artists make it seem as if Thakorji is literally ‘stepping out’ of the painting and entering the inner sanctum!


Other items of soft furnishings

Jhariji, containing Yamunaji's water is an essential part of the seva.  It is usually covered with a red cloth. In the summer, an additional water pot is often placed near the throne.  This is usually covered in a colourful cloth.  In some havelis, flowers are wrapped inside the cloth to add colour and scent to the water pot.

Napkins and handkerchiefs are kept on the bolsters for Thakorji to wipe his brow, dab his mouth or simply clean his hands after eating a snack. 

Fans are used in the summer to cool the inner sanctum.  Made of contrasting or complementary colours, hand fans are usually placed near the throne or behind the bolsters.  Ceiling fans are hand pulled and almost always covered in white.

During Gval and Rajbhog darshans, steps are placed before the throne.  Apart from allowing Thakorji to get on and off the gadi, they are used to display his various toys.  The steps are covered in cloth to match the pichoi and usually thin gadi, covered in white, is laid on top of each step.  This is especially so on the step where ‘chopat’ is laid out for Thakorji to play with his swaminis. swaminis.

Carpets are used in winter and during the hindola season.  Usually they are bright and colourful with floral patterns.  Being rather hot, in Rajasthan and Guajarat, carpets are used only during the winter season.  Only other time a carpet is used is when Thakorji is swinging on the hindola.


Wear and tear

perfume and pollen stains them, as does small items of food that accidently spill on them as bhog is taken back and forth from the gadi.  If the svaroop is small, jewels are placed on the gadi and these sometimes 'catch' and tear at the fabric of the coverings.  Borders, applied to the fabric, drag on the floor and fray.  Creases and folds become more permanent as they are stored and restored for the umpteenth time.  All this means soft furnishings need to be replaced on an on-going basis. 

Without a museum to display old items, most havelis have no option but to discard damaged items of seva.  This is one of the reasons  old painted pichois come into the art market – they are damaged and no longer useable in seva.  Gold, silver and jewellery that is broken is usually recycled, repaired and remade.  Clay pots are disposed on a regular basis.  Toys are discarded once they are broken or the colour on them has chipped.  Soft furnishings – covers for gadi and bolsters, napkins, blankets, clothes, carpets and pichois made from plain or printed materials are regularly replaced.  Usually, embroidered and painted pichois are kept till they are threadbare out of sentiment. 

Examples of Pichoi



Simple orange pichoi is decorated with lotus design made of silver lace. Orange cloth with silver lace covers the back of the throne.
Pink bolsters are decorated with black lace embroidered with pearls and gold. Similar lace is used on the white gadi Thakorji sits on.


Golden pichoi

Modern take on similar pichoi that would be used in a haveli.  Gopies are standing with items of seva in a nikunj. 
Thakorji will be seated on a throne in front of the pichoi.



During khel (spring), a white pichoi is coloured on a daily basis with abil, gulal, chova and chandan



Rasa  pichoi - left part

Rasa pichoi - probably used in ShriNathji's haveli (not necessarily Nathdwara). 
This piece would have been hung on the left hand side of Thakorji - we can tell that because the 1st gopi's hand is raised to join with ShriNathji's raised hand. Quality of it's finish and detailed design points to this being commisioned for a major haveli. The style seems to be similar to that of Kishanghar, Rajasthan. Damage to the pichoi shows this was used on a regular basis and probably handled from the side as it was hung and removed. Upper register is untouched and hence undamaged.

 Bhagwat Shah ©

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