Krishna in jeans: Head priest sacked


Sharat Pradhan - 3.10 2019

The head priest of one of India's oldest and most widely acclaimed Krishna temple Banke Bihari Mandir at Vrindavan in Mathura has been fired for attiring Lord Krishna's deity in jeans and T- shirt and donning a mobile phone in place of his favourite 'bansuri' (flute).

The rotational term of Anand Kishore Goswami was cut short by an order of a local court, where other priests of his own clan moved a petition. In view of several other pending disputes relating to the income of the temple, the judiciary had already appointed the local civil Judge as the temple's official receiver.

While the court order was issued on Monday afternoon, it was brought into effect on Tuesday when Goswami was restrained by the administration and the police from unlocking the gates of the temple. However in the absence of any replacement for Goswami, routine prayers at the temple could not be performed.

Meanwhile a large number of devotees assembled around the temple sought the administration's intervention to ensure that the temple's daily prayers were not disrupted.

This led the administration to hastily ask another member of the Goswami clan to officiate as head priest and resume prayers. The Goswami family traditionally runs the temple and its members assume the head priest's role by rotation.

Earlier, Goswami had tendered an apology for his act, in the wake of mounting pressure from local priests, Hindu organisations as well as political parties, who literally rose up in arms against what they termed as "defiling" the image of Lord Krishna. But that did not seem to impress the angry crowds.

Goswami's act of dressing up Lord Krishna in the 21st century attire - Jeans and T-Shirt � and with a mobile phone on Saturday morning, would have gone unnoticed. But a few TV cameras captured the entire episode that lasted only about 10 - 15 minutes. And no sooner had the channels flashed the story, there was furore in Vrindavan, believed to have been the leelakshetra (playground) of Lord Krishna.

Protests were not only visible in Vrindavan, but also as far away as Varanasi, another ancient centre of Hindu pilgrimage. Shopkeepers kept their shutters down, not only in Vrindavan and Mathura, but loud protests were made in Varanasi as well. Saffron clad priests, supported by BJP activists set afire some jeans in both Vrindabvan and Varanasi

The protestors also carried placards emboldened with slogans like, Bhagwan ko Bhagwan rehno do (Let God remain God), Bhagwan ka yeh apmaan, nahin sahega Hindustan (Disrespect to God will not be tolerated by India) and Aastha ke saath mazak band karo (don't play with religious sentiments).

Not withstanding initial assertions of the chief priest that Krishna's 'new' attire should be viewed as just another 'avatar' (reincarnation) of Lord Krishna, the other priests were livid. "Dressing up Lord Krishna in jeans and T Shirt together with a mobile phone in hand was against the spirit of Sanatan Dharma; this is an attempt to desecrate Hindu religion," charged Dr Ram Narayan Dwivedi, general secretary of Uttar Pradesh Shashtrarth Samiti, a Varanasi based body of scholars and priests to discuss Hindu scriptures.

"This is a conspiracy," alleged a prominent Bharatiya Janata Party youth wing leader. "A mere apology by Goswami is not enough; he must be sacked", was the battlecry of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist in Mathura.

Significantly, priest Goswami saw nothing wrong in his act. "Who can deny that Lord Krishna has different forms. He is known for his 'leelas'. I don't think there was anything wrong in dressing him up in a denim outfit," the middle-aged Goswami was reported to have initially told the media in Vrindavan.

However, when he realised he would not be able to get away with the prank, he readily conceded and tendered an apology.