Let’s make a dress for their Lordships

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Though it is termed Ram Navami by the entire world, it is, for we in Vrindavan, the appearance day of our beloved Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara, Lalita Vishakha, Sri Sri Krsna Balarama and Sri Sri Gaur Nitai, who were personally installed by the very own lotus hands of our dearest Founder Acharya and well-wisher of the whole world – Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada! And so, it is also the birthday of all the different services and all the different departments here in Vrindavan under the establishment named Iskcon Vrindavan or Sri Sri Krsna Balarama Mandir. And! One such department here is  the Deity Dress Department, a department desired by Srila Prabhupada. 

So what is the story behind this? 

It was on the  1st  of Sep 2020, during the lockdown, when I happened to come across a video clip of Mother Ramadevi of Mayapur.  In it, she said,  “So in Vrindavan, in the very early days, when they were preparing for the installation of Krsna Balaram Mandir, some dresses were made by the mukutwalas and were very beautiful. When Prabhupada saw them, he said they were just too expensive. He really wanted the ladies to make the Deities’ dresses themselves. At this time, Dhananjaya Prabhu was there and Prabhupada asked him to try and establish a workshop in which devotees could make Deities’ dresses.”

These words of Srila Prabhupad were my inspiration. It was these words that got me to run to our Head Pujari , His Grace Mukunda Datta prabhu and say,   “I am willing to start this department for Srila Prabhupada. I will give all my time and efforts for this service.”  

Mukunda prabhu was amazed; he had been searching for someone to do this for the past 35 years, and especially in the last 5 years, he had searched in great seriousness.  He explained to me how the mukutwalas are ready to help, but they always say,  “It is impossible for the devotees to do this. It can be done successfully only through paid labor”. 

But we wanted it the other way, the Prabhupada way, made by devotees only! Mukunda prabhu happily moved forward my humble suggestion by asking Akinchana , who is aware of this work, to give support.

The two of us, along with my two daughters and my good husband Rakesh Bohra prabhu,, proceeded to set up this department in the month of December 2020 at the Goshala building. It was not easy and safe for Matajis to go there, and eventually, after a couple of months, we opted to shift into the Temple premises, but there was no space at all. Not, anywhere! We finally chose the Deity Dept godown , cleaned it up and proceeded to set up the Deity Dress  department there. 

The first dress we made was for the festival of Akshaya Tritiya. A group of 7 ladies gathered to plan the outfit to be tailored. Well! Radharani’s plans changed things. That very night, at 9pm, our Prime Minister annnounced the most sudden and unexpected declaration of a nation wide lockdown against covid. I had to move two ladies only into the Temple residence to working on this project. 

I am a computer engineer  and have never been keen at sewing or embroidery. But there I was, by Radharani’s will, not knowing even the basics of how to cut fabrics, now unexpectedly and suddenly involved in the seva of getting an entire outfit ready within a month. Not only that, I had to guide the two ladies  how to tailor. I could see that it was purely Srimati Radharani’s hands not only guiding them but also personally cutting the fabrics to tailor. 

The three of us gave time to this seva from 9am to 9pm every day for an entire month. Our humble efforts were finally accepted by our beloved Lordships on the day of Akshay Tritiya ! Eventually, in a couple of months Akinchana glided out of the seva to attend to personal engagements and I was placed fully in the hands of Srimati Radharani and Srila Prabhupada. Merely by Their mercy and the blessings of our Head Pujari, two mangalaratika outfits for Sarad Rāsa Purnima and New Year’s Eve, plus three flower outfits for Akshay Tritiya, Srila Prabhupad’s 125th appearance day and Kartik Rasa Purnima were offered in the year of 2021. 

Today , by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and Radharani, a team of 18 dedicated devotees and approximately 10 visiting devotees are in the process of making the first ever embroidered-day-dress. This is what Srila Prabhupad had envisioned in the year of 1975, on the day of installation of our Deities. Of course, 35 years prior,  Her Grace Vidya Mataji, with the help of Her Grace Purnima Mataji, successfully tailored five mangala outfits within one year then. Also , Her Grace Vidya Mataji made a painted version of the first day dress then. We hope to carry on their sincerity and devotional service by picking up what they determinedly started for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada.

Merely by the mercy of Sri Guru, the Head Pujari and Sri Radha, on this most auspicious 47th anniversary of our Deity installation, the day Prabhupad expressed his wish for the ladies to render this seva, our beloved Lordships are being offered the first embroidered-day-dress on behalf of all the members of our community, who have all been our well-wishers.  It is the manifestation of the efforts and desires of our Head Pujari, His Grace Mukunda Datta prabhu, his pure devotion and His kind mercy upon we unqualified and untalented servants that has made this possible.

We , in the Deity Dress Department, are all still tiny little toddlers, learning to walk at our toddler speed. We are an ocean of faults and imperfections both by nature and in our services. But, the all merciful Bhakta Vatsala Krsna is kindly willing to accept our imperfect services that we are ready to render. This is a service rendered not only to the Lordships , but to all of Their devotees who may attain pleasure by seeing the Lordships in these outfits. 

Devotees,  from children to the elderly are able to participate in this seva as per their capabilities. The devotees do practically everything here. The main idea is to make outfits that will encompass the talents of all. We therefore try to engage everyone, from absolute beginners who have never held a needle in their life to those well talented in this field. We try to engage any visitors too, who are willing to offer a helping hand in this seva, and even teach them the very basics. In this way,  they too may take up this project in their local temples around the world. 

By Sri Radha’s mercy, today we may be the only Temple on the planet where richly embroidered outfits are being made solely by lady devotees. But we wish to see this being rendered in every other Temple on the globe, for the pleasure of the Lord, Srila Prabhupada and the Vaisnavas. We welcome all who are interested to serve by donating their efforts and money to this project to whatever little or great extent that is possible by them. 

This is a service that demands great patience and endurance, all the while continuing to remain enthusiastic for months, until the outfits are offered to the Lordships. They say that the longer you have to wait for something, the more you will appreciate it when it finally arrives. This department bears testimony to this quote: The longer the wait, the sweeter the bliss !! 

All glories to Srila Prabhupad !

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga !

All glories to all the devotees of the Lord !

HareKrsna

Dandavat pranams to one and all

Sri Radhika devi dasi