Krishna is a real person


“Little Krishna” – trailer of the three-part animation created by Big Animation and The India Heritage Foundation (promoted by ISKCON Bangalore)

Dear Pratyatosa Prabhu and associates, please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Re the Little Krishna animation series

I was present back in 1967, ’68 and ’69. Prabhupada was very disturbed when Rayarama das, head of the BTG publication, put a cartoon-like depiction of Krishna on the chariot on the cover of BTG. Prabhupada was emphatic, saying, “We cannot show Krishna in such a whimsical way.” Prabhupada was insistent, against all arguments; Krishna must be depicted in the western traditional style of art, like Rembrandt, Rubens, Vemeer, etc.

Prabhupada was also firmly outspoken about the use of stylized Indian ‘Kangra’ art showing Radha and Krishna in their peculiar way. He said this perpetuates the conception of Krishna as a mythical person. He did not want devotees to use this type of art to illustrate or show Krishna.

He was adamant that “Krishna is a real person, and anything that does not present Him as such is counter productive to our preaching work.”

Besides these points, Prabhupada also insisted that any drama, film, musical performance, or cooking depicting or serving Lord Krishna, Lord Chaitanya and Their devotees must be performed by actors and persons who are themselves devotees. The devotee and the Lord cannot be represented by a nondevotee, just as Bhagavad Gita has been known in western countries for hundreds of years, but not a single person has ever become a devotee of Krishna. Unless one is a friend and devotee of Krishna, he will not be able to represent Krishna and His devotees. If this is true in literature (Bhagavad gita As It Is), then it is also true in graphic art, music, cooking, speaking, etc. Everything directly representing devotional service to Krishna must be done by those who are actually devotees of Krishna.

Your humble servant,
Hansadutta das


A reply from Das devi dasi:

In fact, each video starts out with the explanation (apologetic) that these stories are fables. BIG MISTAKE. And devotees (Madhu Pandit and others) have put their names to it. What a shame.

Of course, without reference to the BHAKTIVEDANTA purports (or synopsis of them) they are only stories, open to any interpretation. Not only that, they don’t even stick to the story as told in the Bhagavatam. They add on things that Prabhupada didn’t write about in the KRSNA book, add scenes, change the story.

On the other hand, what about the comics that Jadurani drew for the old BTGs, depicting some stories from the Bhagavatam? I found that they were faithful representations of the story as told by Prabhupada. This style of comic is not at all cartoonish – it is really more in the category of graphic story. And animated film doesn’t have to be cartoonish. There are all kinds of genre – historical fiction, science fiction, horror, mystery, comedy, etc. I’ve seen some Japanese anime where the graphics are stunningly realistic – some of them are not only real works of art, but are genuinely affecting. I think the Bhagavatam could be presented in manga and even in anime and would be very inspirational if done carefully, with devotion and accurate representation of Prabhupada’s purports.

But definitely not in the cutesy, cartoonish style that has been used in “Little Krishna”. I couldn’t even watch through the first one. Bhakti was totally turned off (and she’s the anime freak here).

Update – Oct 22, 2010:
Since this post, a number of responses have been posted to the Prabhupadanuga group “istagosthi@googlegroups.com”, and I’m appending the following two messages.

submitted by july9th <july9th.1977@gmail.com> on Thu, Oct 21, 2010:

Srila Prabhupada approved of publishing Krishna consciousness stories
illustrated in comic-strip fashion.

“When I look through the back issues, the comic pictures of Vamanadeva, of the hunter, of the bridegroom party, such things are very instructive. I think that instead of engaging our pages in the matter of book reviews [of books] with which we do not agree, we should utilize these pages for such comic pictures.” (letter dated February 15, 1969)

Srila Prabhupada cautioned, however, that the illustrations should be
done in such a way that they are taken seriously.

In a letter to Satsvarupa (March 13, 1971), Srila Prabhupada gave an
example of the kind of cartoon that could be published:

“Yes, cartoons are very nice, and here is one example which may be used. There is a discussion between a man in Krishna consciousness and a man who is, for example, supporting the yoga system. He says, ‘This yoga system is so nice, it enables one to live for hundreds of years.’ Reply: ‘Of what value is that? The tree lives for thousands of years. So, long life has no credit unless there is Krishna consciousness.’ Then he says, ‘But the tree cannot breathe.’ Reply: ‘The bellows, nothing but a skin bag, is breathing and snoring with greater capacity than any person.’ ‘But the bellows cannot have sex pleasure and beget children,’ he says. Reply: ‘Yes, but the hogs have sex pleasure all they want and indiscriminately. Does it mean that the man is less important than the hog?’

“Living, breathing, and begetting: these make good comparisons and can be illustrated by cartoons. What is the use of living for hundreds of years? Living one moment with Krishna consciousness is far better than living for thousands of years without Krishna consciousness.” (’The Back To Godhead Handbook’ – Cartoons)


submitted by Jayalaksmana <jayalaksmana.dasa@googlemail.com> on Thu, Oct 21, 2010:

“My Dear Caruhasa das:
Please accept my blessings. I have received your letter undated and also seen the picture book. You should know it that Krsna is not a plaything. These things should strictly not be done. If you do this, then Krsna will become a fairy tale. Please drop this matter.” (SPL 74-07-20)

“My dear Caruhasa das,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated July 26th 1974 with the enclosed slides. I appreciate your interest in making the Krishna book film but it is not important for now. I therefore think that you could use your talent better if you work with Yadubara. In Hawaii I understand that he is making TV programs. So you can go and help with him. I do not care very much for these filmings because by presenting Krishna in this way it makes it something like fantasy. It is better to have people to read my Krishna books what I have written so that they can understand Krishna fully. I
think you can understand this.” (SPL 74-08-20)

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