Namakal Nama-hatta Opening

Assorted Lectures | November 16, 2008 |

English; Namakkal, Tamil Nadu, India

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Question: Recently I was shocked to learn that few of ISKCON temples around the globe celebrated Christmas by dressing Sri Sri Radha Krishna deities Santa Claus styled outfits. Is it acceptable to dress the Lord in such a non-traditional style or it is just a speculation?… Expand>

Question:

Recently I was shocked to learn that few of ISKCON temples around the globe celebrated Christmas by dressing Sri Sri Radha Krishna deities Santa Claus styled outfits. Is it acceptable to dress the Lord in such a non-traditional style or it is just a speculation?

 

Answer by HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami:

So, I’ve been informed that some temples in Europe in the Christmas season dress Kṛṣṇa as Santa Claus, and that one temple, ISKCON temple (we are talking about ISKCON temples here), is dressing Kṛṣṇa as Santa Claus. And one temple in India also did this. And what do I think about this? 

Unfortunate…is one word I could use. Nonsense is another.

In one letter Śrīla Prabhupāda was informed that devotees sent some Christmas cards with a picture of Krsna. Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote that we are not for Christmas greetings. In another or several times, Śrīla Prabhupāda also spoke about speculation in Deity worship… So, there may be various reasons given. In India, the reason was given that Christians come to our temple. Well, in that case you can dress Kṛṣṇa as cricket star, maybe the cricket fans would come. Or you can dress Kṛṣṇa like some famous film star, then maybe people interested in movies, they would come. 

But the whole idea…Deity worship is to dress Kṛṣṇa as Rādhā likes Him, and dress Rādhā as Kṛṣṇa likes Her, according to the directions of great ācāryas. Getting mixed up with this Western culture…as far as possible we should try to avoid that. We have our own festivals. Why adopt this Christmas, which is supposed to be a birth of Christ, although they don’t actually know when Christ was born? The main feature of Christmas in the modern world is killing lots of birds, especially turkeys in England, drinking lots of alcohol…

Especially, dressing Deities like this, all I can say is- unfortunate. My saying so won’t stop it going on. There are so many great ācāryas in our movement who are introducing things that none of our previous ācāryas was doing…So, what to say? Whether to laugh or to cry?

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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… Expand>

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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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