(Dr. Giriraj Nangia): In Vrindavan these days, it has become common to see people carrying a small basket, sometimes covered, sometimes uncovered. The basket (tokri) usually contains a Deity, occasionally Gaur Nitai or Shri Jagannath, but more often, Bal Gopal.
The practice of carrying around baskets may seem strange to the uninitiated. It may strike some as an expression of Bhakti, but, those acquainted with the shastric instructions on Deity worship are likely to condemn the practice, as it goes against the established maryada (morality) and sishtachar (code of conduct).
As a Brajwasi it saddens me to see these kinds of practices, which show people’s lack of knowledge and attention to scriptural injunctions, so, I posted a video on my You Tube channel explaining why people might want to think again before carrying their Deities around in public places.
What prompted me to post the video was an incident that occurred when I came home to find two people sitting at the entrance of the apartment next door. I asked what they were doing. The reply was that they were waiting to be let into their friend’s house. So I did not leave them sitting outside, I asked them to come and sit in my house while they waited.
They had two baskets with them. I saw that there was a Gopal in each basket, both without adornment, so I asked, What happened to their clothes?
The reply came, “It is hot, no?”
So I put their clothes back on and put Them on my altar. I worshipped Them with lamp, fan and other paraphernalia. Then I made some enquiries about the Bhav with which they had brought the Deities with them.
They couldn’t give any answer, so I didn’t disturb them. They were unaware of the scriptural injunctions and their faith could have been destroyed. Anyway, I thought, they won’t appreciate being given a lecture; they don’t know me or anything about me. They will just think I have invited them in to preach to them. But what I wanted to tell them is:
This practice of carrying Thakurji around in a basket is completely wrong because Deities are a form of God and there is a code of conduct in dealing with Them; rules for how They should be served and offences caused (seva apradha) if these rules are not followed.
It is an offence to take Deities here and there, especially when you can’t prepare Their Bhog offerings in the proper manner. If Deities are moved from one room of Their own house to another room, They require abhishek with milk after being taken off the old asan (sitting place), before being placed in the new room.
If Deities are taken to another house then abhishek must be done with five nectars, including cow urine, before They can be installed in the new house.
These days, people are treating Thakurji like a toy. They say, ‘we are going for a picnic, so Thakurji would enjoy a picnic. So they take Deities to a place where dogs leave faeces and urine. They think that Thakurji likes to play cricket and other games.
This is their Bhav and we can’t criticize someone’s Bhav. People are not informed about the proper procedures of worship, and, if they didn’t ask, it may be wrong to try to force our knowledge on them. But, if someone asks, then they must be told that this is inappropriate. It is an insult to Thakurji.
If someone says that they have locked up their house and couldn’t leave Thakurji, then tell them to keep their Deities in the place where they are staying and pay attention to Their seva. If you are concerned about your Thakurji when you have come to enjoy lassi and gol guppa on the streets of Vrindavan, then make the proper arrangements for Their pooja and aarti.
I even saw someone kissing their Deity. If our lips touch our hand then we wash our hands before touching Thakurji, so, what is the meaning of putting lips on Thakurji? No Shastra gives permission to do this, it is 100% seva apradha (offensive). Due to ignorance, Bhakti has become a form of entertainment, an avenue for enjoyment.
One day, the person who does these things will understand. Those who bring Thakurji on tour, at least they have some kind of attachment. Those who are determined to do this will do it, but, devotional service has the power to slowly bring a person onto the right path. After being told many times by Sadhus and others, they will learn eventually, but the fact remains that this practice is completely wrong and offensive.