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Jallandharnath chitra-puja*. Jodhpur, circa 1820. Gouache and gold on wasli. 30.4 x 21.2cm

The Naths were an order of ascetics who after predicting his accession to the throne became the prime court advisors to Maharaja Man Singh. Jallandharnath, their founder in around the 10th - 12th century, was worshipped and considered by Man Singh to be holy enough to usurp the principal gods of the Hindu pantheon. This may be why he he is here depicted with the emblems of Shiva. As pujaris (ritual practioners) the Naths were believed to have gained through their aceticism supernatural powers and became both revered and feared for their ability to perform miracles and grant boons or curses. Their status as deities and their being bestowed by Man Singh riches and priveleges normally the preserve of thakurs (nobles), including the building of temples to worship them. With, for example, established Krishna worship falling by the wayside with the maharaja ordering that the royal court and its nobility should also worship the Nath gurus, the status quo of Jodhpur was disrupted. Jodhpur's thakurs could do little but eventually the British intervened and in 1842 forced Man Singh to expel them, which he did, but including himself in this chose to follow them as they left the palace, renouncing his wealth and position to become an ascetic disciple, dying soon afterwards.

*Chitra-puja: a painting considered like an icon into which a Hindu god can descend and inhabit during puja or prayer.

Ref: Jodhpur Jallandharnath 8411

All images and text © Peter Blohm