Kartamashayi -- "The Boss"
by Jaya Govinda dasa
Govinda Dasi, the original Prabhupada disciple was in Vancouver the past summer and she mentioned that she has a Kartamashayi Deity. Immediately my ears perked up when I heard her say that because I also have one.
When I told her that I have one of the original ones that Srila Prabhupada chose, she was interested in seeing it. I explained to her how I managed to acquire Him.
In 1992, perhaps 1993, when I was operating the Hare Krishna Place Cafe in New Westminster, B.C., Radha Damodar Prabhu used to love coming there for lunch. He told me about his Kartamashayi Deity and asked me if I would like to have Him reside in the cafe. He said Prabhupada liked these Deities to be in preaching centers and restaurants. Naturally I graciously accepted such a wonderful offer. He then told me the history of how he acquired Him.
When he was a brahmacari, he was sent from Vancouver to Denver. There was a Kartamashayi Deity there at the time which he started to take care of. In the meantime he married and had two sons of which the first he named after the Deity Kartamashayi. When he and his family left Denver for California primarily for gurukula for his boys, the temple president of Denver asked if he would like to keep the Deity as he took such good care of Him and off they all went to California.
Radha Damodar told me that there were six of these Deities that Srila Prabhupada had personally choose and he named some of the temples where they were.
Later Radha Damodar and family moved to Vancouver and stayed for about a decade and of course he brought along his Kartamashayi Deity with them. Later when he and his family were moving to Alachua he asked me if I would like to keep the Deity which was still in the Hare Krishna Place as it was not practical for him to take him to Alachua. Of course I immediately accepted his generous offer.
Later on Nara Narayana Prabhu, the early disciple of Prabhupada visiting from Los
Angeles overheard me mention that I had an original Kartamashayi Deity. He was very curious to see it. He told me that he was the one who made them at Srila Prabhupada's request and that only a few were cast. I was a little skeptical at first because his story didn't quite fit with what Radha Damodar told me. Nonetheless I showed him my Kartamashayi.
When I showed Him to Nara Narayana, he immediately recognized Him as being one of the ones he made. He showed a certain design feature that only he, being the sculptor would notice. I was reassured that I had one of the original ones. I was quite excited to confirm and to clarify Radha Damodar's testament and I even had Nara Narayana put his signature on the inside of the Deity as He is hollow.
Now back to Govinda Dasi.
When I showed my Kartamashayi to her, she told me that the color had been changed which it had. He had been repainted a few times and I even had another devotee re-paint Him again as He was looking a little tarnished. Then the following day she came to my door and told me that she couldn't sleep very well the previous night. She was a little disturbed that Kartamashayi was not the right color. She then told me that Srila Prabhupada personally instructed her on how to paint Him with the proper color and some of the detailed features.
She then told me that she and Nara Narayana worked on making about a half dozen of these Deities in Los Angeles. He did the casting and she painted them. She was one of the first artists in ISKCON.
After hearing this interesting information, she then offered to re-paint my Kartmashayi which delighted me beyond no limits. We arranged to acquire the paint and other necessary materials to do the work. She did a wonderful job bringing Him back to His original and proper appearance. I couldn't resist having her put her signature on the back of His base.
She then told me about the story of Kartamashayi and how They manifested. The original Deity of Kartamashayi used for the cast was that one from that Montreal Deity in the picture. Govinda Dasi spent a lot of time in Montreal with Srila Prabhupada. Gopal Krishna Goswami also told us that if he or anyone wanted to see Srila Prabhupada at that time, they had to go through Govinda Dasi. She was Prabhupada's secretary. It was at this time that she witnessed that Srila Prabhupada used to talk to that Deity in a very personal way. Sometimes he would talk to Him and he would laugh and display other emotions. Something very intimate seemed to be taking place between Kartamashayi and Prabhupada. She had no idea but some very intimate exchanges were taking place.
Anyway at some point Srila Prabhupada asked her to go to Hawaii to help her husband who was already there trying to open a center. Naturally she was very attached to being with Srila Prabhupada and didn't want to leave him. Finally she negotiated a condition to Srila Prabhupada. She would reluctantly leave Srila Prabhupada and go to Hawaii if she could take Kartamashayi with her. Prabhupada agreed!
When she was on her way to Hawaii she stopped in Los Angles and it was then that Prabhupada asked Nara Narayana to cast some Kartamashayi Deities for the few different temples in ISKCON by using the one Govinda Dasi had with her. So he did and Govinda Dasi painted Them according to Prabhupada's personal directions.
She told me that when she saw all the fresh new Kartamashayi Deities lined up and the original one beside them she felt that the original one looked a little faded and she was thinking perhaps she should take one of the shiny brand new ones with her instead, but then she thought, "no.. this one was Srila Prabhupada's."
To this day she still has Him with her in Hawaii and I have one of His original expansions.
The attached picture is from last Radhastami. Kartamashayi is standing in the Lord's Lotus Pond while Radha Madana Gopal circumambulate Him on their Swan boat. Each year I place Kartamashayi on the top of His Janmastami Cake for thousands overseeing the Janmastami festival. After all His name which suits His pose means "the boss."
Your servant in Lord Krishna’s service,
Jaya Govinda dasa