Bhagwan Swaminarayan adopted the garb of the local people by wearing simple white garments, such as a dhoti on the lower body and kediyu, dagli or gatariyu on the upper body. The dhoti and gatariyu are long, unstitched garments. On the head, he wore various types of pagh and safo common in contemporary Kutch and Saurashtra. This traditional garb endeared him to the devotees. On rare occasions, such as festivals, as instructed by Ramanand Swami, he wore richly embroidered garments offered by devotees.
The Harililamrut (6.15.58–59) cites the first occasion on which he accepted and wore such rich garments brought to Dhoraji by devotees of Surat in 1807, during the festival of Fuldol. He wore a jamo of jari, surwal, other shangar and a mugat on his head.
“Mãvãne shir mugat dharãvio, hato Suratnã sanghe karãvio;
Pelvelo evo shangãr, dharyote din Dharmakumãr.”
“The devotees of Surat had made a mugat (crown), which they placed on his head. These were the first such ornaments offered to Bhagwan Swaminarayan.”
The simple white garments he usually preferred to wear reflected his vairagya and austere life. This all the more established and strengthened the bond of devotional attachment of devotees for him. This bond prepared them to receive spiritual instruction whenever imparted by him, especially during the period of the Vachanamrut.
The description by the paramhansas of his apparel is of importance since it gives readers a vivid impression of his persona. This exciting journey back in time also provides information about several aspects of life in early 19th century Gujarat, about Bhagwan Swaminarayan himself and the intense love of the devotees who visited the places of the Vachanamrut, to offer him puja and to listen to his divine katha. It provides details of handwoven fabrics and golden embroidery in the absence of power looms and sewing machines. It provides valuable information about the flora in Saurashtra and Gujarat then, the simple varieties in the former compared to the many fragrant varieties in the latter. Such details help readers to visualize the murti of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, which calms the hyperactive mind. Calming the mind is necessary to listen to katha and absorbing its salient principles.
Of the 273 Vachanamruts, Shriji Maharaj has adorned simple white garments on 234 occasions and coloured or rich garments on 39 occasions. All white garments, described as ‘sarva shvet vastra’, were worn 161 times; other white garments, described as ‘white khes’, 66 times; and ‘white surwal’ 7 times. This means that he wore white garments on 234 occasions (161+66+7).
In the first paragraphs of the Vachanamruts, the following types of garments are cited: khes, dhotiyu, dagli, chadar, chofal, rajai, pachhedi, shelu, rento, surwal and angarkhu. Head adornments include pagh, feto, bokani and moliyu,
The labelled photograph shows most of the above.
The flower shangar (adornments) cited include: tora, bajubandh, gajara and berkha.
All these were probably adorned on Maharaj by a personal sevak, such as, Mulji Brahmachari or a paramhansa.
The flowers in the Gadhada kathas were specially grown by Sachchidanand Swami on a plot of Dada Khachar’s land on the outskirts of Gadhada.
The word ‘khes’ needs some clarification. It denotes either an upper garment – uparno – known today as gatariyu, or it describes a dhotiyu worn on the lower body. Whether it refers to a gatariyu or dhotiyu can be gleaned from the verbs odhio (ઓઢ્યો હતો) and paheryo (પહેર્યો હતો). When the verb odhio is used for khes, it means a gatariyu, and when paheryo is used, it means a dhotiyu (Vaghela 1988:121). This is evident in Sarangpur 3. Maharaj has adorned two khes; a khes with a black lining as a gatariyu, because odhio is used, and also a khes as a dhotiyu, because paheryo is used. This meaning is further supported in Gadhada III 23, when Maharaj describes the ritual of mansi puja. He advocates offering, “a washed, white khes.” Since he uses the verb paherva apvo (પહેરવા આપવો), it means a dhotiyu. If he had used odhva apvo (ઓઢવા આપવો), then it would mean a gatariyu. Only in one Vachanamrut, Gadhada II 43, is the word dhotiyu used to mean a dhotiyu. Otherwise in all cases in the Vachanamrut, the word khes is used. When the word chadar is used with the verb odhi, it also means a gatariyu, as in Vachanamruts Gadhada I 14 and 17.
On rare occasions in the Vachanamrut kathas, Shriji Maharaj is adorned in special ways: a mala of moti (pearls): Gadhada I 13; a new tulsi kanthi: Gadhada I 64, Gadhada II 48; turning a tulsi mala with the hand: Gadhada I 70, Panchala 4, Ahmedabad 5 and Jetalpur 2; a rakhdi on his wrists: Gadhada II 9 on Shravan sud 14, instead of the usual Shravan Purnima. Also, in his hands, he has clasped a pomegranate in Vartal 13 and Jetalpur 3, a lemon in Jetalpur 1, 3 and a handkerchief in Jetalpur 2. In Gadhada I 32 and 59, his forehead is smeared with kesar chandan paste and in Jetalpur 4 his upper body is anointed with kesar chandan.