A fun way for kids to become absorbed in Krsna consciousness.
I grew up in a gurukula asrama, a Krsna conscious boarding school, and a few of my friends had dolls of Krsna in His form as Lord Jagannatha. I always wanted to have Krsna dolls. Once an Indian lady gave me a doll, but because it wasn't related to Lord Krsna, I didn't like it.
My mother started making a Krsna doll for me, but she didn't finish it for several years because she was so busy with her temple service. By the time I got the doll, I was already out of the asrama. So I regret that I didn't get to grow up taking care of Lord Krsna.
When I had my first daughter, Mallika, I was determined to provide her with Krsna conscious dolls. At the time, Cabbage Patch dolls were very popular. I saw how the children became attached to their dolls and those mundane dolls became their heroes. Children need heroes, and the media provide a host to choose from Barbie, Barney, Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe. But in the Vedic literature we find the most heroic personalities. So for Mallika's third birthday I made twenty-five dolls related to Krsna consciousness. I made Radha and Krsna, Lord Caitanya, Nityananda, Advaita Acarya, Gadadhara, and Srivasa Thakura. I also did Sita, Rama, Hanuman, Lord Nrsimhadeva, and many more.
Mallika inspired me to do this service, so I'm grateful to her for that. My idea was not to start a business. I just wanted to give my daughter an opportunity to play in Krsna consciousness. But other parents saw the dolls and asked me to make some for their children. Now I receive orders from all parts of the world.
Although I sell the dolls, I consider making them to be devotional service rather than business. The dolls provide a fun way for children to become absorbed in Lord Krsna's pastimes. The children's attitude is that the doll is Krsna. They listen to Krsna book tapes and act out the pastimes with the dolls. They tie up baby Krsna, as His mother did when He was naughty. They give Krsna butter, which, of course, He loves. They offer incense to Krsna.
Because these activities are devotional service, I am glad I'm helping the children do them. I'll make any Krsna conscious doll a child wants. Once a two-year-old girl received a Krsna doll for her birthday. She wasn't satisfied with just Krsna. She didn't want Krsna to be without Arjuna. Her father sent me a letter saying his daughter was constantly asking, "Where is Arjuna?" So we made her a special doll of Arjuna with a helmet, a mustache, arrows, and a quiver. She was so happy to have Krsna and Arjuna together.
Worshiping Krsna in the form of dolls is not a new idea. Five thousand years ago some of the greatest devotees worshiped dolls of Lord Krsna. In a purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.2.2), Srila Prabhupada writes about Uddhava, the Lord's confidential devotee: "From natural instinct he used to serve Lord Krsna, even in his childhood. He used to play with dolls in the form of Lord Krsna, he would serve the dolls by dressing, feeding, and worshiping them, and thus he was always absorbed in the play of transcendental realization."
Later in the same purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, "Maharaja Pariksit also used to play with Krsna dolls in his childhood. In India the children in good families are still given dolls of the Lord like Rama and Krsna, or sometimes the demigods, so that they may develop the aptitude of service to the Lord. By the grace of the Lord we were given the same opportunity by our parents, and the beginning of our life was based on this principle."
The children automatically become very close to their dolls. If the mother is out working, the child may seek refuge in the doll. Several mothers have ordered Lord Nrsimhadeva dolls because their children were having disturbed sleep. The children had so much faith in Nrsimhadeva that as soon as they received Him they slept peacefully. By having a doll, they feel that Krsna is close by, just as their parents are close by, and they develop strong faith in Krsna.
If the young children develop an affinity for service to Krsna, that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.2.3) says, "Uddhava thus served the Lord continually from childhood, and in his old age that attitude of service never slackened."
Not only do the dolls help the children's Krsna consciousness, but they also improve mine. When I make the dolls, I become fully absorbed in thought of the Lord. That's why I call this project Dolls of Devotion.
Once, while making a doll of Lord Nrsimhadeva, I was going through a tough court case. I prayed so much to Him, and sometimes I felt He was real. He was there to protect me from this trying experience. I couldn't take Lord Nrsimhadeva into the court room, but He was there in my mind, and I was confident no one could harm me.
Another nice thing is that I do this service together with my mother. She sews everything; I stuff and paint. Mallika and Mohini (my younger daughter) like to help too, so it has become a family project.
Since the dolls are forms of the Lord and their clothes are made out of cloth worn by the temple Deities, they are sacred. Parents may have to train their children how to handle them. A child might be playing with Krsna and Balarama, for example, and then suddenly get into something else. So the parents have to guide the children and make sure they put the dolls away properly. The dolls come with a stand, and when the children are not playing with them the dolls should be on a shelf, just like Krsna conscious books.
This should not discourage parents from getting dolls for their children. Sometimes parents tell me they're worried about getting their children dolls because the children are too young. I tell them I wouldn't hesitate. My daughter Mohini has grown up since birth with these dolls. The children quickly learn to respect the dolls, either by watching other kids who have dolls or by listening to Krsna conscious storybook tapes.
A while ago I was supplying dolls to a gift store. The woman who managed the store told me that when people walked into the store they could sense that the dolls were special. They would ask if the dolls were demigods or if you should worship them. She asked me to write a description of who the dolls are and how they should be treated.
Since then I've had second thoughts about selling dolls to nondevotees. I told the lady I couldn't do it anymore because there is a special need for them in our society. The devotees are ordering, and I have to take care of them.
Maybe one day we could mass-produce the dolls and make them available to everyone, but I don't think I would sell Radha and Krsna to nondevotees. For nondevotees I would make cowherd boys and cowherd girls. Right now, though, serving the devotees is my priority, and I feel a lot happier because I know who's getting the dolls.
Parents call or write me from all over the world thanking us for doing this service. Many tell me they've been wanting this for years and they're happy and appreciative we're doing it. This kind of response keeps me going. As long as the devotees give me their blessings, I'll continue with this service.
To order Dolls of Devotion, see The Hare Krsna Catalog, in our center spread.