Difference Between Personal and Impersonal Aspect

ASK BVKS | August 3, 2011 |

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Question:

My question is regarding deity outfits. On Nrsimha Caturdasi, at an ISKCON temple in Germany, the deity of lord Nrsimhadev was dressed/pasted with different flavours/colours of sandesh milk sweet dough instead of any sort of cloth outfit. 

Maharaja, my question is that is the above performed act, proper and in line with the scriptural rules of deity worship, just as during chandan yatra the deities are pasted with sandalwood paste or just as there are flower outfits for the deities in many temples? Or is it not to be accepted. I mean something similar to the previous incident of the deities dressed in Santa Claus outfits?

ANSWER by HH Bhakti Vikāśa Swami: 

I’m not aware of any scriptural rule that says to dress the Deities in a dress made of milk sweets. It’s the first time I ever heard about it. There are various aspects of Vaiṣṇava culture which may not be directly described in śāstra, but they may be performed in some places as a tradition. So, may be that in some traditional temple in India that there is a tradition on certain days dressing the Deities like that; although, at least in India, if you were to do so, then quite likely the Deity would be covered with ants very quickly. So, that may not be a very good idea to do that. Ants and flies would come. Probably not so much in Germany because there are not so many little living entities as there are in India. But there are some very desirable elements of Vaishnava culture which could, according to the discrimination of the devotees – that may be questionable also (the level of discrimination as to what should be accepted and what should not be accepted). But there are various items of Vaiṣṇava culture which can be adopted, but if something is not in śāstra, is not in tradition… I’d be very cautious about making innovations, especially in Deity worship. So, you probably have to ask the devotees in Germany where they got this idea from. One consideration is that it’s fairly common in India to see Deities of Hanuman covered with butter. That’s quite a common practice. I don’t know if the Deities get attacked by ants, or whatever. Flies come. I’ve seen that. It’s quite often done.

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