Upon returning to Hawaii, I went to the University of Hawaii Library and studied books on sculpture, materials, molds, etc. I had no idea how to make the Gour Nitai Deities.  I checked out many books and tried to figure how and where to begin.

I recalled that within the first few weeks of meeting Srila Prabhupada, some years before, I had carved and painted a small Lord Chaitanya Deity for him as a gift. The little 5” Deity was made of balsa wood, and when I gave it to him, he had told me to make a lotus base for the little figure to stand on. But, I thought, to carve large wooden Deities would be a very difficult task, and one physically difficult to accomplish. So I really had no idea where to begin.

Since Kartamashayi, my Child Krishna Deity, from India, was made of paper mache, I considered this may be the best idea. Paper mache is a very durable, moldable, wood product, and is used in India for making even fine bowls and vases, as well as Murtis.  So I decided to explore that route.

However, the original form would have to be molded from clay. And first we had to make a strong armature to support the clay. So, as a plan developed, somehow, by Krishna’s divine guidance, the work soon began. Goursundar constructed a metal armature secured to a wooden base, and I obtained a large amount of clay from a pottery-making supply store. Then I began to sculpt the Gour Nitai Form according to Srila Prabhupada’s descriptions.

I set up the construction studio in my own room upstairs at the McKinley Street Temple. Kusha soon joined me in the sculpting work. She was an expert artist and sculptor, and when she commented that “His Feet look like swim flippers!” I decided that she should also work with me side by side and fix Them! Her help was very valuable. I consider she was equally responsible for the finished work. Her enthusiasm and encouragement was very helpful, and she continues to be a strong support for many devotees even now.

Because we worked long hours, locked away in my room-cum-sculpture studio, we asked for some of the other devotees to come and read to us while we worked. Shakti Mati and Jayasri read Chaitanya-charitamrita, or Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, to us while Kusha and I both worked on the 4-foot figure. Balabhadra often posed for us with his arms upheld for long periods of time. In this way, we worked for well over a month.

When the sculpted clay form of Lord Chaitanya was complete, we needed to make a mold. However, once again, I was unsure just how to do this. So I walked over to the nearby University of Hawaii sculpture department to try to find out the best way to do it. I asked several instructors, and was told that a young man named Louis Goldstein, a senior/grad student, was the best mold-maker at the University.

So I set out searching for him, and I soon found Louis. He was a very quiet, intelligent, but somewhat atheistic young man – a curly-haired Jewish boy who had plans of going to Israel very soon after graduation. He made it known that he did not at all approve of what I was doing – making icons of God! Yet somehow, he agreed to help me make the mold. I always brought him sumptuous plates of delicious prasadam, as well as our famous coconut laddus.

With the help of Balabhadra and others, we carefully transported the big clay sculpture of Lord Chaitanya over to the University sculpture building. There, Louis began the mold making work. He was quite expert and experienced, so he very quickly made a plaster of paris mold that consisted of several pieces. He cleverly arranged it so as to avoid undercuts, thus making it easy for us to pack each piece with paper mache.

Meanwhile, our devotees who did “door to door” preaching (another daily program) began to ask homeowners for donations of old newspapers. Sometimes homeowners would give us fruits, or vegetables, or occasionally even buy a book – but now they could also simply give us old newspapers. No doubt many Hawaii residents contributed to our Deity project! And received blessings even unknowingly.

Gradually, Louis became more and more curious. He was an extremely intelligent young man, and seeing our sincerity and enthusiasm, he started asking more and more questions. We invited him to our nearby McKinley Street Temple, and he began to visit regularly. After some time, he began to relish our evening kirtans and read Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Time passed, Louis made our mold, and became a new devotee in the process. He was soon initiated and given the name “Vrishni das.”  Now, Lord Chaitanya had His very own Deity sculptor and mold-maker. Another example of Srila Prabhupada’s Magic!

By: Govinda Dasi

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare