Dressing Deities: a form of worship

In doing some research on new products to develop for my Etsy store, I came across the devotional behavior of dressing deities. Certainly I’ve seen Murtis in temples elaborately dressed, but not in people’s homes. And I’ve seen puja instructions call for dressing a deity, but usually in the form of draping a thread over them to represent clothing.

I discovered, particularly for people in ISKCON, there is a devotional practice of dressing naked murtis in amazing clothing and jewelry every day! They’ve got full wardrobes including crowns and beaded belts, necklaces and tiny bracelets.

I wanted to learn more. This is not a practice that I see myself doing (it’s not connected to my sect of Hinduism anyway) and I don’t think I’d be as devoted to it as would be required. I don’t want to take on doing too much to avoid burning out.

That said, it’s absolutely beautiful and I find it uplifting to see the work that people put into outfitting their deities.

Here you can see a set of plain Krishna and Radha statues waiting for wigs, clothes, and jewels: http://www.dollsofindia.com/product/brass-sculpture/radha-krishna-brass-DX82.html

Krishna.com sells a deity set complete with outfits, jewels, a flute for Krishna, and crowns: http://store.krishna.com/Detail.bok?no=8832&bar=_shp_home-wor






Here you can buy individual clothing elements: http://store.krishna.com/Search.bok?category=Worship:Altar:DeityClothes&bar=_shp_home-wor and here: http://www.dollsofindia.com/puja-items/deity-shringar/dress/







And here is jewelry: http://store.krishna.com/Search.bok?category=Worship:Altar:DeityJewelry&bar=_shp_home-wor

OR you can learn to make your own!

Prema-Rupa Devi Dasi has a few posts on sewing deity clothes, including a section on making tiny turbans: http://kishoriservant.wordpress.com/2008/11/13/how-to-make-deity-outfits-intro-and-part-1/

Vijay Teli has a post about how to store all these different outfits: http://arcanam.blogspot.com/2008/12/storing-deity-jewelery.html

He also has posts on how to create some incredible beautiful beaded pieces like necklaces and belts: http://arcanam.blogspot.com/2009/02/diy-deity-jewellery-necklaces-part-3.html

I might not be able to resist creating some of those tiny necklaces.

Interested to learn more, I joined a Facebook group for practictioners and asked for more information. In particular, I wondered how this dressing integrates in one’s every day life. I had questions like: do you leave the deities naked at night for sleeping? At what point does the clothing change happen? How is it decided what to dress them in? Do they get a bath first as part of a morning puja?

It seems to depend on the devotee. Some change the clothes everyday and others change once a week or at festival times. Most, I am told, put a curtain across the puja room at night and leave the deities dressed, but some put the murtis into a bed.

Here are some guidelines: http://newramanretipujaris.blogspot.com/2008/06/guidelines-for-deity-dressing.html and instructions for actually doing the dressing: http://www.deityworship.com/?page_id=55

Here is a blog written by a woman who does the dressing of deities at a worship center: http://seedofdevotion.blogspot.com/2013/10/worry-surgery.html

Here is an article warning against this practice turning into play instead of worship: http://prabhupadavision.com/2012/06/deities-as-dress-up-dolls/

What I’m working on for the store is creating lace wraps for deities for things like dressing Saraswati in yellow for Vasant Panchami. I do have a lovely peacock blue yarn, though, so I made one for Krishna and Radha too! In fact, here is a great example of a product that a Hindu in America or other cold climates may need:

A thick wool scarf for the deity


More shops:





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About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Ambaa

    I think I need more clarification. Are you referring to me and yourself with this “we”?

    If so, then no. That’s not okay.

    • mick hartigan

      I am referring to the whole Hare Krishna movement….you born-again Hindus have nothing to do with us…we are a spiritual movement not a mundane ,material religion

      • Ambaa

        Oh, I see. I’m still a little confused. So you are Hare Krishna? And are different from me as an Advaitan Hindu? Or you think I am Hare Krishna? These short comments aren’t giving me much to go on! :)

        • mick hartigan

          according to ‘hinduism’ you have to be born in India to be a Hindu….everyone else is a mleccha by birth which is why they won’t let you in to most temples if you’re white

          • Ambaa

            There are some who believe that. I wonder what they think of the generations of Balinese Hindus. Or the children of Indian Hindu parents here in America.

            How To Become a Hindu by Subramuniyaswami has a section about how this interpretation is not correct.

            People are allowed to have their opinions, of course, but thousands of people do believe that you don’t have to be Indian to be Hindu.

          • Rahul Anand

            Yes you don’t have to be an Indian to be Hindu. Mlechha means barbarian not someone who is not a hindu

          • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

            Some people believe non-Indians can’t be Hindu. Some people believe everyone’s Hindu. Some people believe in conversion, not just Subramuniyaswami and the particular type of Hare Krishnas who really just cut Jesus and the Bible and pasted Krishna and the Gita (not all of them are like this). Arya Samaj also accepts converts. That’s the interesting thing about Hindu thought is that it encompasses many different views.

          • mick hartigan

            hundreds of millions of Indians believe if you’re a good little white born-again ‘Hindu’ in your next life you’ll be born in India as the lowest caste

          • Ambaa

            And I believe that I was Indian in my last life. I’m not sure what sanskara I needed to karmically deal with to have a different birth this time, but I feel that my soul is Indian.

            No one has to agree with me or believe me, that’s just my belief.

          • mick hartigan

            Ambaa,you may have taken birth in India previously,but your soul has no ethnicity,it is not material therefore it is spiritual.The first aphorism of Vedanta is ‘aham brahmasmi’…I am spirit.And true spirituality also has no material designation…just as the dharma of salt is to be salty,our dharma is to serve…If a wheat thresher goes to heaven,what does it do there?It threshes wheat…

          • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

            Hundreds of millions of Christians and Muslims believe Hare Krishnas are going to hell to burn for all eternity. I don’t think numbers are what makes something true or not.

          • mick hartigan

            true …and your opinion doesn’t make things true or not

          • Ambaa

            Yep. And neither does yours. Or any of the other hundreds of millions of people with opinions. All opinions are just that, so I’ll keep living my life as authentically as I can. :)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen


            You handled that with great patience and kindness. Good for you. I would wielded the sword of ad hominem long ago on this one. :)


          • Ambaa

            :) He’s now been blocked and I deleted the last few comments he attempted. I’m so reluctant to let it come to that, but learning comment moderation is part of being a blogger!

          • mick hartigan

            there’s no such thing as ‘hindu’ thought,obviously

          • Rahul Anand

            Real name of Hinduism is ‘Sanatana Dharama’ ,Hindu means People living beyond river Sindhu or Indus and you don’t have to be born in India to be Hindu. Mleccha is general term used for barbarian, not the one who is not Hindu.

          • Sheshank Joshi

            Mleccha term is used for someone who doesn’t have good hygiene, health consiousness, caste system, and eat flesh raw and who completely lack knowledge.

            Lord krishna always says, not by birth, but by your actions you belong to a Varna. If you follow a good hygienic way of life, they are very much a Hindu

          • Sheshank Joshi

            Find out a saying which goes in Mahabharata like
            “janmana jayate Kshudraha”

            Everybody are Kshudra by their birth, be it born in India or anywhere else. Everybody who doesn’t have knowledge about birth, death cycle, temporariness of this world, permeance of paramatman or brahman, is considered as kshudra.

            If you observe clearly, Lord Krishna classified people according to Varnas. Varnas translates as colors. White light consists of all colors, similarly human kind consists of all kinds of people.

            I totally condemn your claim that birth is the basis on which you are classified. If you read any scripture, there are many people mentioned who are not of Indian Origin, and are still Hindus, by means of their practices. For Eg. Gandhari, Chinas, Gandharvas etc etc…

      • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

        It’s so cute when religious people insist they’re not religious, and then act even more religious to back it up

        • mick hartigan

          you’ve obviously never read Bhagavad Gita the main text of ‘hinduism’ ch.18 v.66…sarva dharma parityajya…’abandon all varieties of religion….you poor misguided air head

          • Ambaa

            Watch your tone. Lots of religious people follow the Gita.

          • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

            Seems you remember how to quote chapter and verse from the Christianity you think you abandoned. *applause*

            Keep it up with your legalistic religion, sweetheart, no matter what you call it. At least it brings you some peace and comfort in life and allows you to self-righteously insult people on the internet. Glad to see it makes you a better person.

          • Sheshank Joshi

            “Sarva Dharman Parityajya, Mamekam Sharanam Vraja
            Aham tva Sarva papebhyo, Mokshya ishyami Masuchaha.”

            As a person who studied and know sanskrit, I can say you are wrong. Dharma is not religion; Dharma means directed duties. It translates into something like :
            “Oh God ! I have renounced all my duties, I am alone and alone in this world with no worldly attached. I am a sinner of all kinds, now please cleanse me with these sins and thereby bad karma and grant me Moksha.”

            I absolutely Condemn this Hare Krishna movement. They simply don’t follow the very teachings of Bhagavad Gita.

            Anybody out there, who wanna follow or practice Hinduism (because Hinduism forbids conversion)- Sanathana Dharma – just read about RamaKrishna mission, Swami Vivekananda’s writings or Aarya Samaj.

      • Jason

        Get real, ISKCON is more of a religion than anything else on earth. There’s more rules, authoritarianism and regulations than old school Catholicism and Wahhabi Islam combined. And its about as spiritually deep as a rain puddle, people think if they can do 16 or 32 or 50 rounds it means they are special but they don’t have any profundity of spirituality to them. No original insight or spiritual development, they just parrot other people who themselves were also not spiritually realized.