Festival of India, which puts on twenty Ratha Yatra festivals annually across the US and Canada, has never held back on gifts with which to thank its donors. Patrons new to Krishna consciousness receive an ISKCON Television video of talks by Srila Prabhupada explaining Vaishnava philosophy. Others receive a Bhagavad-gita, other books by Srila Prabhupada, or various audio CDs or videos, according to their level of familiarity with Krishna consciousness.
But since April 2010, the organization has begun offering a new gift to donors which adds just that much more of a personal touch: a beautiful, wonderfully detailed bust of ISKCON’s founder.
The golden bust is made with long-lasting polyester resin and is based on the original murti (likeness) made in 1975 by celebrated sculptor and Prabhupada disciple Locana Dasa for the Los Angeles “First American Transcendental Exhibition” (FATE), an elaborate multimedia diorama museum.
The murti was later duplicated for worship in ISKCON temples all over the world, and was endorsed by Srila Prabhupada himself. “Regarding my head for the statue, that will appear in the museum, all of them, they are perfectly done,” he wrote in a November 1975 letter. “Locana has done very, very well. Yes, it is good if you prepare a mold so that these life-sized murtis can be available.”
To create the bust, Chinese designer Gaudiya Dasa copied and scaled down Locana’s original sculpture, and added a plaque which reads: “His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Author of over 70 books and the greatest exponent of Krishna consciousness in the world.”
“I have about 1,000 left,” says Festival of India director Madhuha Dasa. “Many of our donors have received them, while several temple presidents have also purchased cases of them to give to their own donors. It’s just a very nice gift to give people. Every member or friend of ISKCON would feel proud to have one of these in their personal library, home office, or workplace.”
One Festival of India donor, in fact, was so proud of the gift that he had it placed in the library at the University of Maryland, in College Park.
The busts are also being distributed in China, and large quantities are being shipped to India, where they are expected to prove extremely popular.
The likenesses of Srila Prabhupada should be an excellent incentive for people to donate to Festival of India, although as one of the largest outreach programs in North America the project speaks for itself.
“Festival of India is a showcase for ISKCON,” Madhuha says. “Our exhibits are designed to introduce people to the deep and rich Vedic culture of India as taught by Srila Prabhupada through his books, lectures and conversations. Our recent Toronto festival was attended by 40,000 people, at least ten or fifteen thousand of whom had their very first exposure to Krishna consciousness. They heard kirtan, tasted sancitified prasadam food, read exhibits, heard spiritual seminars and discourses, and saw Krishna’s form as Lord Jagannath personally.”
Madhuha, however, says that creating a donation incentive for this worthy program is not his biggest motive in creating his Prabhupada busts.
“Our biggest motive is to promote Srila Prabhupada and his ISKCON society,” he explains. “For example, we like to eat delicious prasadam, but we like to distribute prasadam to others even more. In the same way, Srila Prabhupada is very dear to us—and now we have a way to help Prabhupada become dear to many others.”
To order Srila Prabhupada busts, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Prabhupada Bust” in the subject line.
To find out more about Festival of India, please visit festivalofindia.org.