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 Choate

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.

  • vridhabhavya

    Hi Mdm,as I read so much comment opposite you,I should tell that the real thing is how we are from our heart,how we think that’s the main term that Hindu scripture teach everyone
    don’t worry about what other people mention follow your heart

  • Guest

    “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship!” – Christians
    “It’s not a religion, it’s a way of life!” – Hindus
    “It’s not a religion, it’s a spiritual movement!” – Mick Hartigan

    And yet if someone wanted to discriminate against you by not renting you an apartment or saying your movement is banned from praying in this place or that, you’d go running to the ACLU crying freedom of religion, wouldn’t you?

    And your ‘spiritual movement’ either is completely worthless or it does no good for you personally since you haven’t learned not to insult strangers yet. Ah well, it’s nothing I didn’t expect.