Last week on Radhastami devotees around the world offered worship and service to Srimati Radharani – Lord Krishna’s eternal consort and the feminine aspect of the Absolute Truth – in different ways, hoping to receive Her mercy.
One creative offering, presented to Sri-Sri Radha Gokulananda at the UK’s Bhaktivedanta Manor by a team of dedicated and extraordinarily artistic devotees, was a series of eight cakes depicting Srimati Radharani’s glories and Her pastimes with Lord Krishna.
Joining team organizer Anuradha Dasi were her daughter Vraja Mohini, Sudevi Sundari Dasi, who is known for painting the Mangala Arati sweets at the Manor; Vraja Vilasini Dasi, Shyama Priya Dasi, Radhika Kumari Dasi, Ati Sundari Dasi, and Divya Radhika Dasi.
Anuradha learned cake-decorating by helping out temple devotees when she first joined the ashram at Bhaktivedanta Manor in 1988, then refined her skills during a three-year part-time college course in Creative Sugar Decorative Crafts.
“I remember the first cake I helped decorate was for Radhastami,” she says. “I was so intrigued to find that I could use my art to create something solely for the Lord’s pleasure. It’s so personal. Just like if you’re making a cake for someone’s birthday, you’d use the flavors and colors they like – so in the same way I try to make what the Lord likes to please Him.”
A closer look at the cakes offered to Sri-Sri Radha Gokulananda this Radhastami
Anuradha and her team have been making elaborate cakes for Radhastami and other festivals for the past fifteen years. This year, the eight Radhastami cakes – made from traditional English fruitcake covered with marzipan and fondant – were baked by co-head pujari Gadadhara Das, who is Anuradha’s husband, along with Svayam Jyoti Das. The cakes were then handed over to Anuradha’s team of six to decorate.
An incredible amount of effort went into making an offering of the highest standard possible, with the team taking twenty to thirty hours over two full days of work to do the decorating alone. Decorations were sometimes remade until the artists felt they were good enough to be offered to Srimati Radharani, and each team member contributed ideas towards the design of all the cakes.
“The most challenging part of the whole service is probably having to sit for many, many hours – I think we’ve stretched to about eight hours at a time,” says Anuradha. She explains that this is due to the strict standard of deity worship – all team members are second-initiated, and avoid eating, drinking or going to the bathroom during the service without showering afterwards, in order to maintain brahminical levels of cleanliness.
The resulting cakes were stunning offerings of devotion. One depicted the Sriji Mandir, the majestic palace temple situated on a hill overlooking Varshana where Srimati Radharani grew up. Made with marzipan and fondant, the decorations feature the palace’s instantly recognizable black-and-white floor tiles, the steps leading up to it, and the greenery surrounding it.
The second cake depicted Lord Krishna’s flute, peacock feathers, and butter pots.
The third was a flower garland cake with a pearl necklace, decorated with handmade fondant flowers that took three hours to create. Anuradha’s daughter Vraja Mohini took time in the evenings after her day job as a pediatric physiotherapist to fashion the flowers, while Ati Sundari put the cake together.
The fourth cake depicted Radha and Krishna riding in a boat with the gopis. The background scenery was painted by Vraja Vilasini Dasi using vegan edible food colors, while sweet pearls decorated the boat. In the boat was a printed image of Lord Krishna, Srimati Radharani and the gopis.
The fifth cake featured Radharani’s lotus feet with their many auspicious markings.
The sixth was decorated with marzipan kirtan instruments – according to the Brahma-samhita, playing musical instruments is among the 64 arts Radharani is expert in.
The seventh cake depicted Srimati Radharani sitting on a royal throne, surrounded by a miniature fruit basket, arati tray, and water pot, all made of marzipan.
The final cake depicted Srimati Radharani sleeping. According to the Puranas, when She first appeared, Krishna’s eternal consort seemed to be blind, until Krishna pulled himself up at Her cradle to look in, and Her eyes opened wide to see Him.
Anuradha also made a cake, depicting baby Radha and Krishna, for her Guru Maharaja Sivarama Swami’s deities of Sri Sri Radha Damodar.
As is respectful and appropriate, all of the forms of Radha and Krishna on the cakes were made of materials such as clay and were not edible; the images of Radharani’s feet and Radha, Krishna and the gopis in their boat were also not edible and were printed on paper.
“For me, this service is a wonderful opportunity to offer something in a different medium,” Anuradha says. “I love creating something with quality and detail. Our mood is to be able to please Srimati Radharani by making beautiful cakes for Her. Because ultimately, everything we do is for the pleasure of Sri-Sri Radha Gokulananda.”
Jan 23, 2022
Anandini Tikunov (8th-grade student)
Jan 22, 2022
Sunanda Das, tovp.org