Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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The Mayapur Academy Cultivates Young Devotees in Deity Worship
By Kulavati Krishnapriya Devi Dasi, ISKCON News Staff Writer   |  Apr 26, 2024

Recently, the Mayapur Academy held its second deity worship course for children in Sri Mayapur Dham. The initiative aims to facilitate a personal relationship between Krsna and the children in a devotionally inspiring and authentic way. 

During the course, devotee children immersed themselves in an absorbing curriculum, learning acamana rituals, bhoga offerings, the art of bathing and adorning the deities, polishing paraphernalia, crafting ghee wicks, and blowing conch shells.

Mayapur Academy, an initiative of ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry and ISKCON Mayapur, has been offering deity worship courses for adults since 2007. Still, for children, it all started in 2019 when a group of parents who were visiting Mayapur wanted their youngsters to learn deity worship. Eventually, a course specifically for children was designed and implemented.

“Deity worship is a positive engagement for children, and we wanted to present it in a way that is relatable, inspiring, and absorbing for kids. In contrast to limiting this to a set of rules, we are very particular that we present it in an encouraging way,” said Ananda Lila Devi Dasi, who currently leads the Mayapur Academy. 

She continued, “The main inspiration is the children themselves. Many have such a sincere desire and strong spark of Krishna consciousness that they inspire us to render service in our capacity. There are examples in our tradition, like Srila Jiva Goswami, Srila Prabhupada, and Parikshit Maharaja, who had that devotional training of worshiping deities since childhood.”

The Mayapur Academy has a proficient team, with each member contributing their expertise. Hariballabhi Devi Dasi spearheaded the course, while Bimla Prasad Das meticulously crafted the curriculum, lesson plans, and colorful presentations collaboratively with Ananda Lila Devi Dasi. Hamsa Avatar Das takes care of all the logistics and managerial aspects. The entire course is under the guidance of ISKCON’s Deity Worship Minister Nrsimha Kavaca Das, who serves as a constant source of inspiration, provides valuable feedback, and shares his realizations of more than three decades. 

Future endeavors will include curriculum refinement, global partnerships, innovative pedagogical approaches, and bolstering child protection mechanisms. Hamsa Avatar Das said, “We plan to organize these on-site courses twice a year during kids’ holidays. We are exploring options to develop it online as well. We want to introduce more skills-based courses for kids as well, like basic deity dress sewing, jewelry making, garland making, and more. We plan to use effective and engaging teaching aids and technology. Our plan is also to develop this into more languages. Our main focus is always ensuring the safety of each child. Child protection policies have been implemented, and we plan to do more in this area before any further expansion is possible.”

Elaborating on long-term aspirations, Hamsa Avatar Das shared, “Mayapur Academy has plans to build an entire university as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada, and courses for children are an integral part of the same. We also plan to collaborate with temples and worldwide communities for our services, offerings, and services so that the precious kids can have an inspiring environment in which to serve Krishna through multiple facets of deity worship.”

The course has received commendable feedback. Participant response was overwhelmingly positive, with 17 applications received and seven children ultimately participating. Encouraged by this reception, all attendees expressed eagerness for future sessions.

One of the parents, Radha Keshavi Devi Dasi, who has been living in Sridham Mayapur for 14 years, had enrolled her nine-year-old son, Varamdev, in the course. She was amazed to see the curriculum of the course and said, “It’s amazing; it’s like a dream come true for me and my son because now I can see how this course has changed his consciousness. It has been ten days since the course finished, but I can still feel the vibes; I can still see the impact that Hariballabhi Mataji and Ananda Lila Mataji have left on his brain, on his mind, on his consciousness. He is continuously talking about Deities, about how he can do the Abhishek and how he can cook. He is now able to arrange the flowers and make turbans for the deities.”

She expressed her deepest gratitude by saying, “The best part is when we went to one shop. My son said, looking at a T-shirt, that the fabric was best for making turbans for the deities. Everywhere, you can see Krishna because he was not just looking at a t-shirt; he was looking at the fabric with which he could make a turban for our Deities. Hariballabhi Mataji, Ananda Lila Mataji, all credit goes to you. Thank you so much for changing my naughty child into a small pujari.”

One of the students enrolled, Vrindavani, said, “I have just finished my deity worship course in Mayapur Academy. I have learned archman, bhoga offering, abhishek snan, and dressing up Gaur Nitai. I loved making a cute turban for Gaur Nitai. I am glad to take part in this class.”

Hamsa Avatar Das concluded by emphasizing the profound potency of deity worship in engaging children devotionally, “Deity worship is a very wonderful way of absorbing the mind and senses of kids in a devotionally potent way. Our idea is that parents and leaders come and themselves learn the sacred service of deity worship. They will themselves embody those principles or at least appreciate the principles. One thing that we definitely don’t want is to present the deity worship to kids in a way that looks complicated and frightening and artificially enforces rules and regulations which may take them away from deities.”

For those interested in upcoming courses, please visit the Mayapur Academy website or profile. You may also stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.