At the heart of any Krsna conscious community are the Deities. On the main altar of the Mayapur Chandro-daya Mandir (ISKCON's temple in Mayapur) stand Sri Sri Radha-Madhava (Radha-Krsna) along with Radha's eight intimate gopi(cowherd girl) friends. Overseeing the worship is Jananivasa Dasa, who has been serving the Deities in Mayapur for twenty-seven years. The following history of Radha-Madhava was adapted from an interview with Jananivasa conducted by Mahamaya Devi Dasi.
IN 1970-71, Srila Prabhupada toured India with a group of Western disciples, holding Krsna conscious programs wherever they went. During the tour a gentleman named Mr. Dalmia gave Srila Prabhupada three sets of brass Radha-Krsna Deities made from the same mold. Prabhupada sent one set to the ISKCON center in Boston (Radha-Gopivallabha), one to the center in Berkeley (Radha-Gokulananda), and one set (Radha-Madhava) he kept with him.
While the party was in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, one morning Srila Prabhupada taught the devotees the song "Jaya Radha-Madhava." Prabhupada then began regularly singing that song whenever he would speak on the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
After the tour, Prabhupada brought Sri Radha-Madhava to the Calcutta temple. When we had our first Gaura Purnima (Lord Caitanya's appearance day) celebration in Mayapur in March 1972, Prabhupada said that Radha-Madhava should come to the program. We put up a tent (pandal), and They stayed there, presiding over the festival.
When the program ended and the devotees were ready to take the Deities back to Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada said that the Deities should stay in Mayapur.
A Humble Residence
The only building on the ISKCON property at that time was a temporary structure of thatched split-bamboo walls, where Srila Prabhupada and his disciples lived. Radha-Madhava took up residence in the same building.
I had just received my second initiation, entitling me to worship the Deities. Because we were living so close to Radha-Madhava in the thatched building, I could see everything the pujari was doing.
I thought, "I'd like to spend my whole life serving the Deities. It's such a wonderful way to become Krsna conscious."
A few days later the pujari decided to leave, and I was chosen to replace him.
Radha-Madhava are small Deities, but Srila Prabhupada wanted big Deities for the permanent temple: Madhava should be 5' 10" and black marble; Radharani should be 5' 8 1/2" and white marble. He said their pose could be like that of the small Deities.
Prabhupada Orders Help
In 1978, while in Calcutta, Jayapataka Swami paid a visit to Radhapada Dasa, a wealthy industrialist and ISKCON devotee, who told him that in a dream he had seen a young sadhu who asked him, "Do you recognize me?"
Radhapada replied, "No."
"Sometime ago you gave me some money," the sadhu said, "and I've come to repay it."
Radhapada said, "If I give money to a sadhu, I don't expect it back. No, I cannot accept it."
"Are you sure you don't recognize me?" the sadhu asked.
"No," replied Radhapada.
Suddenly the sadhu assumed the form of an elderly man.
"Now I recognize you," Radhapada said. "You're Srila Prabhupada."
"Now my disciples are having problems," Srila Prabhupada said. "After a while everything will be all right, but you should help them now."
As a result of this dream, Radhapada said he wanted to buy Deities for ISKCON. When asked if he would pay for the large Deities of Radha-Madhava for Mayapur, he agreed.
The Deities were carved in Jaipur by the Pandays, a renowned family of sculptors. One day a member of the Brila family (India's wealthiest family) came and fell in love with the Deities. He offered to pay 100,000 rupees for Them, which at that time was about $12,000 much more than ISKCON was to pay. The Pandays refused to sell the Deities, however, explaining that they had carved Them for ISKCON and would never be able to duplicate Them.
One of the sculptors told the devotees that the marble was different from any he had worked with before.
"When we carve," he said, "a beautiful ringing sound comes out of the Deities."
When the sculptors were doing the final polishing, a white line appeared around Madhava's body, like the sacred thread worn by brahmanas. Then two lines appeared on His forehead, like tilaka.
The Deities were installed in 1980 during the Gaura Purnima festival. Radhapada then sponsored the carving of the eight gopis. Four were installed in 1986, and four in 1992.
Serve Sri Sri Radha-Madhava
THE VEDIC SCRIPTURES tell us that whenever we visit a temple we should offer something to the Deities. Anyone who presents a gift to the Lord in a holy place like Mayapur is sure to get special mercy. So if you're planning a pilgrimage to Mayapur, or know of someone who is, here are some gifts suggested by the devotees serving the Deities there: ghee, nuts, honey, saffron, dried fruits, and beads. The beads can be glass or crystal, any color, 4-7 mm (for small Deities), 10-15 mm (for the gopis) and 15-40 mm (for big Radha-Madhava), as well as pearls in gold, silver, and white in those sizes.
The servants of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava have set up a service fund to ensure the perpetual care of the Deities. The fund's principal will grow while the interest pays for food offerings and aratis. Donors who give Rs. 2,000 to the fund will have an offering and an arati performed in their name (or in another name of their choice) once a year for twenty years. Donors will also be sent prasadam from the offerings. Contact Pankajanghri Dasa, c/o ISKCON Mayapur, P. O. Box 10279, Ballyganj, Calcutta 700 019, India; e-mail: email@example.com.
Srila Prabhupada and Radha-Madhava
ONCE I WAS STANDING in the Deity room near Srila Prabhupada while he was viewing the Deities, and he said, "They're dancing."
Another time he said, "You see how Radharani is standing like this " (imitating Her outstretched hand) "holding something out to Krsna? Sometimes Radharani is holding her hand up like this [in blessing pose]. When She's like that, Krsna can leave Her. But when She's offering something to Him, He can never leave."
Once a devotee asked, "Srila Prabhupada, we're sitting in these rice fields, and you've asked us to build a city. Where is all the money going to come from?"
Srila Prabhupada laughed. "You are always worried about where the money will come from. Here we have Radha-Madhava. 'Madhava' means the husband of the goddess of fortune. You just worship Radha-Madhava nicely, and everything will come by Their mercy. You don't have to worry about money."