Since the time of Acharya Shri Vitthalnathji (Shri Gusaiji), Raag, Bhog and Shringar took on a new significance in the Pushti Marg sect. He highlighted the importance of transforming people’s natural addiction to material things to the spiritual.
In an imperial age, when artistic and cultural achievements were reaching new heights, Gusaiji recognized the need to evolve the more austere form of Shri Vallabhacharyaji’s form of worship into something more elaborate. In order to make God available to the people of his own time, Shri Gusaiji expressed the basis of Pushti Marg in a way that the modern man or woman could understand and follow.
At a time when new modern musical instruments were being introduced (tabla, sitar, etc.), new musical modes and raags were being devised, Shri Gusaiji helped preserve the purest form of ancient Indian music – Dhrupad. He helped resurrect interest in the original Indian music and through his active encouragement, he helped revive popular and imperial interest in Dhrupad.
Tansen, the greatest musician of Akbar’s court, converted to Islam to further his career. Later, impressed by the divine court of Shri Nathji, and the music it produced, he converted to Pushti Marg and returned to Hinduism.
Shri Gusaiji was a connoisseur of fine things in life -–spiritual and material. Just as he helped preserve the best of the old world, he also took ideas from the best of the new world. Many of the bhogs (food items) introduced during his time reflect the culinary delights introduced and invented in the modern India of his time. For example, the jalebi we all eat with such gusto, and a central feature of the bhog during Gusaiji’s utsav, was a new delicacy at the imperial court in Agra. Many regional, courtly and folk delicacies were introduced at the time. Soon, the kitchens of Shri Gopal at Gopalpura were cooking fine delicacies that were certainly the envy of all.
Even in dress code, new, modern dresses were added to the wardrobe of the purely south Indian dress of dhoti and uparna. Ghardar jamma, charvaag and achkan were offered o the Lord on festive occasions. These dresses preserve the haute couture of Medieval India.
It is in Shringar that we see some of the best fusion of these ancient and modern ideals. The age-old paagh was now decorated with expensive strings of pearls, rubies and emeralds, a style very much in vogue at the imperial court. Aigrettes with plumes of peacock feathers (at court they wore feathers from various exotic birds) were studded with precious stones; chokers worked in gold and precious stones replaced the enamel ornaments of the previous era. Soon, like the royals of his time, Shrinathji also began to be dressed head to toe in a glittering array of jewels. Even his socks and shoes (mojadies) were embroided with real jewels.
In this way, Shri Gusaiji helped save the embattled Hindu sense of self-confidence by introducing a new court at Govardhan: a court that could rival the imperial court of Agra and yet be its best friend, thus embodying the very spirit of the time.
Many of the greatest politicians of the time, rulers and courtiers alike, were drawn to the court of Shrinathji. Akbar himself came on a number of occasions to converse with Shri Gusaiji and even managed to obtain darshan of the Lord during Sharad Purnima. During his many visits to Gokul he was even allowed to attend the regular darshans of Shri Navnit Priyaji. Taj Begam, the chief queen of Akbar and mother to the heir, was a deeply religious woman who was a devotee of Shri Gusaiji. Tansen, Birbal and Raskhan were devotees too. Many Rajput kings prided themselves in being devotees of the sect.
This had a great impact on the fledgling sect at the time. It absorbed many of the customs (purda for example) and ideas of the these esteemed devotees of the time. Gifts from the royal played a great part in helping to shape the modes of Shringar that were offered to the Lord at the time. Many jewels of that era are still offered to the lord and are worn on special occasions.
One of the most important jewels offered during that period is the diamond that is worn in the “chibuk” (chin) of the Lord. Akbar offered this during his Sharad Purnima darshan and since than, it has come to occupy a very special place in the shringar of Pushti Marg.
It is not known exactly when pichwais were added to the “Shringar” portion of the darshan, but the idea of using soft furnishings to transform a room was well-known at the time of Shri Gusaiji. It is more than possible that coloured and embroided cloth may have been hung in the inner sanctum of Shri Nathji from the earliest time. Painted pichwais were added later, and later still, more and more of them were commissioned and preserved to commemorate special events.
Over the centuries, this idea of progressive infusion has been carried out by several enlightened Goswami balaks. New festivals, such as Teej and Ghoomar have been added. New foods and musical instruments (such as sarangi) have been added to further the “raag, bhog and shringar” much espoused by Shri Gusaiji.