D Magazine of Dallas, Texas has published a ten-page feature article about the Dallas Radha Kalachandji temple in its September 2019 issue, exploring Deity worship in-depth, pujaris’ relationships with Krishna and what makes the Dallas ISKCON community special.
D Magazine is available at every grocery store in Dallas, and is one of the best-selling magazines per capita in the U.S. on local newsstands. Devotees are saying that its piece – entitled “The Wild Pursuit of Bliss” – exhibits a rare look at the deeper essence of Krishna consciousness, not often found in the media.
Reporter Eve Hill-Agnus began work on the article as far back as 2016, attending festivals, spending time with devotees, and shadowing pujaris as they dressed Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji. She even put on a sari so that she could observe what happens in the pujari room firsthand, and assist with services like organizing Deity jewelry herself.
“She was really good in the sense that she didn’t treat us like a zoo scene, just some spectacles to look at,” says ISKCON Dallas congregational director Nityananda Chandra Das, who is interviewed in the article. “Instead, she really dove in, and saw it more from an insider’s point of view.”
“East Dallas’ Kalachandji temple has treasures that go far beyond dal and pappadam,” Hill-Agnus’ byline reads. And the story starts out by wondering how many visitors have gone beyond the gift shop or restaurant to explore those treasures.
“Have their eyes been drawn to and dazzled by the resplendent deities, representations of Krishna and his female counterpart, Radharani, filling an alcove embellished with fresh flowers at the far end of the sanctuary?” Hill-Agnus writes. “Do they know that Kalachandji, the name of this particular rendering of Krishna, is the reason the complex is called what it is? Can they even fathom what extravagant care goes into tending the statues? Most likely not. I didn’t.”
From there, the author recounts how Prabhupada started ISKCON, and describes the beautiful Dallas temple, the elaborate festivals, the significance of the Deities, the different pujari services, the meaning behind them, and the people who carry them out.
Her interviews with head pujari Chandravali Dasi, her granddaughter Indulekha (who is 23), and Manjuali Dasi, wife of Dallas temple president Nityananda Das, are extremely thoughtful and revealing.
One section reads: “ ‘It’s not like dolls,’ Manjuali says. The acts of beautification are done to please the deity, to draw the eye to the immensity of divine beauty, not for one’s own pleasure or play. ‘It’s like getting the queen dressed. Would you take that lightly?’ she asks.”
Manjuali is further quoted as saying, “When you dress the deity, it allows you to concentrate on the Lord 100 percent, not just for the two hours that you’re on the altar.”
The author describes the incredible array of opulent jewelry and outfits for the Deities with obvious amazement, and goes into a lot of detail about the different styles of Deity dressing that different devotees have, bringing across how personal our relationship with the Lord can be.
She also spends time with community members like Nityananda Chandra Das, his wife Krishna Mangala, and their children, describing their outreach efforts such as weekly Darshan Room meetings.
The article opens with a full photo spread of Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji, and includes bright and colorful pictures of Srila Prabhupada, the Deities in different outfits, the pujaris, and the temple room.
The response to the story has been extremely positive, with staff at the local grocery store commenting on it to devotees, and the author getting calls from appreciative readers. The photo of Nityananda Chandra and his family, in particular, helped readers relate to the Hare Krishnas. “Man, that’s the coolest family in Dallas,” one commented.
“The article is beautifully and lovingly written,” says Nityananda Chandra. “Usually media publicity we get is related to the restaurant. But to have something so intimate and so focused on Krishna and spiritual life, is very nice.”
An online version of the article is available to read here:
Buy the print issue here: https://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/2019/september/