The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Krishna leela in jeans ruffles devotees

Lucknow, Sept. 17: Had he been born in this age, Krishna might have chosen to wear jeans, carried a mobile phone and put on sunglasses to protect his beautiful eyes from the harsh sun. Or he might have chosen to wear the dhoti, Gandhi style, and left his torso bare.

It’s debatable. But Jugal Kishore Goswami, the chief priest of Vrindavan’s most popular temple, did not think so. On Friday morning, he apparently dressed Krishna in jeans, placed a toy mobile phone in his hand and made him wear sunglasses.

For a priest of Banke Bihari (one of Krishna’s many names) temple — or of any temple — it was a courageous thing to do. And it has, predictably, raised the usual political dust.

Since morning today, the markets of Vrindavan have been closed as the BJP and its more militant Sangh colleague, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, called a bandh demanding the priest be dismissed.

Curiously, it was a Samajwadi Party leader, Ballav Bhai Kushwaha, who was the first to hit the streets, claiming to have seen Krishna in jeans.

“It is ‘leela’ (web of illusions) that the Lord creates. The denim dress has done Him no wrong,” Goswami, 43, told the media.

Vrindavan, the leelakhsetra (playground) of Krishna, hasn’t been impressed by this particular brand — nothing to do with Levi’s or Wrangler or Lee or Pepe — of leela. It’s agog with protests against “an attempt to defile the image of Krishna” by what is being called “the enemy within”.

Goswami’s feeble cries of defence are going unheeded. “You just go and see the deity now. The morning dress of the Lord Krishna has changed. Nothing is permanent in his looks.” Nothing, indeed. He might appear in any of his many avatars. One doesn’t quite know what the globalised 21st century avatar would be and what it would wear. Jeans certainly is the most ubiquitous clothing of this time, though not quite a favourite of the virulently swadeshi VHP and some in the BJP, who see it as a symbol of spurious foreign culture, along with colas and the Big Mac.

As a priest, Goswami could well claim to be a more devoted follower of Krishna than the protesters screaming for his scalp. And even in his position, he has felt it necessary to present Krishna wearing a modern look, if only for a morning.

Vijay Bahadur, a BJP leader, said from Vrindavan: “Hindus, already under attack from various forces, are aghast to discover an enemy within. Our fight will continue till the priest is sacked.”

He will be surprised to know that the priest has some support, too. A news channel running an SMS question asking viewers to express their opinion on the priest’s act has received responses from some devotees who see no wrong.

One devotee asks: “If the Lord himself is known for his many new appearances as the mythologies tell us, what is the sin if the chief priest tries something new on him' Krishna, we know, often cross-dressed too, did he not'”

Krishna did a lot of other things, too, like flirting with gopinis, other than, of course, taking his aunt, Radha, as lover, that the organisers of protests in Vrindavan would find hard to condone. The BJP took out a rally this morning burning not only the effigy of the chief priest, but also some jeans.

While the Lord may be having a good laugh at all this, it’s not known what Radha thinks of her lover clad in jeans.

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