Anglicized Krishna in India: A Study on God-Posters in ISKCON
The International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a testimony to the emergence of new religious-cultural imagination for a virtuous landscape in Odisha. Calendar art and God-poster in ISKCON represents an alternative identity to its believers. The bourgeoning circulation of this new genre of calendar art stands in stark contrast with the existing calendar art and the God poster of religious theme in the Odia’s society. The art is introducing novelty to the popular imagination and the life-world of the onlookers and the believers. The ISKCON’s God poster enables the cultivation of ‘habituation’ among the followers of the utopian imagination. This article discusses the subtle blend of the new emerging genre of calendar art/God-poster in the religious visual piety with the existing religious-cultural imagination in Odisha. The article also presents the in-depth study of the devotees and their engagement with this new genre of calendar art and God-poster. Through the study, the article illustrates how the new calendar art is carving a niche for itself in creating the desired religious imagination. The discussion contributes to the sociology of religion and visual studies.
Keywords: visual culture, calendar art, God-poster, ISKCON, religious imagination
To see and to be seen by the image of the deity is an important religious activity in Hinduism. These images vary from idols to pocket-sized pictures to wallpapers on desktops of personal computers. The motifs of the pictures are creative reflections of the artists who draw inspiration from the myriad sacred literature in Hinduism. The deities depicted in the pictures bear bodily features similar to those of Indians. However, there is a visible difference in the depiction of the deities brought by the religious movement in India. This new depiction stands in contrast to the already existing depiction of the same. Some have observed such bodily differences in the depiction of the Hindu deities (Lutgendrof 1999). With the conspicuous presence of new religious movements in India, such as the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), there is a noticeable introduction of a new type of image of the central deity, Krishna, in the pictures. Therefore, this article firstly examines the difference of the bodily aspects of the two varieties of images in relation to ISKCON. Secondly, it discusses the process through which the older versions of the pictures are being replaced by the newer ones. Lastly, the article evaluates the implications of this change.
The article draws on studies of God-posters in India and borrows theoretical concepts from the Sociology of Religion to explain the process through which the newer depictions become an integral part of the onlookers. In addition, the theoretical framework justifies the implications of these changes.