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


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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.