Nava-vraja Mahima Artists & Artwork
H.G. Akrsna dasa - Artistic Director
H.G. Akrsna dasa has been a disciple of H.H. Sivarama Swami since 1998. They had worked together on various projects including the interior design of the Budapest Temple or the planning of the holy places in New Vraja Dhama Hungary.
Akrsna prabhu is an accomplished artist in Hungary with art playing a dominant role in his life since childhood. He attended the renowned Hungarian University of Art and Design and the Universidad Escola Superior de Disseny in Spain. Despite his young age his apparent talent had brought him numerous distinctions such as the very prestigious Zsolnay Prize.
In 2007 his guru Sivarama Swami requested Akrsna prabhu to give up his material activities and become a full time servant of Radhe-Shyama and the devotees. This is when Akrsna prabhu became the Artistic Director of ISKCON Hungary and also started work on Nava Vraja Mahima with a team under his leadership.
The Radhe-Shyama Art Studio includes Shyamalata devi dasi, Smrti Palika devi dasi and Bhakta Roland Magola. Over the years, different devotees took part in the production process, including a Russian team of artists.
Illustrating the grand book Nava Vraja Mahima is full time work. It requires the complete attention and energy of the team, which means they have not been accepting any other assignment since 2007 except for the occasional artistic repairs of the deities of Budapest and New Vraja Dhama (Dayal Nitai-Vijaya Gauranga and Radha-Syamasundara .)
It took a while for the team to overcome the initial difficulties of adjustment. The unique nature of the work also proved to be a challenge. Slowly, the unique artistic style had emerged and the artists and Sivarama Swami found that particular transcendental mood in which the drawings had developed.
The greatest challenge of all, recalls Akrisna prabhu, has been the total submission, the letting go of the artistic-self. While, on the other hand, they had to strictly comply with all the sastric instructions and the vision of Sivarama Maharaja to be able to portray Krishna. The artists made every effort towards authenticity when depicting the holy places. Sivarama Maharaja places great emphasis on that the places in pastimes, such as the town of Mathura or the palace in Nandagram are depicted in the most precise way according to sastra.
Devotees frequently ask the artists why the illustrations of Nava Vraja Mahima are black and white. The answer is that in the spiritual world every day a new colour is created for the pleasure of Radha and Krishna. All these countless colours make Vrindavan so beautifully colorful. The Writer and artists of Nava Vraja Mahima, therefore, don’t want to limit those who look at the pictures by the use of the poor three basic colors available in the material world. These drawings are indeed colorful. It’s up to you to see the colors.
Sivarama Maharaja is completely part of the illustration process of the book. He oversees even the smallest aspect of it. This is the routine:
1. Akrisna prabhu is reading the book. He chooses a theme to be portrayed. He recommends a composition.
2. A sketch is made. Maharaja looks at it and approves it after the necessary adjustments.
3. They finish the drawing. Maharaja looks at it again, and after adjustments he approves.
Some of the illustrations are approved immediately, but on many of them the team continues to work on for months sometimes for years before Maharaja is satisfied with it.
Akrisna prabhu writes: “Sivarama Swami is the toughest boss yet he is very merciful and caring. There have been tooth grinding, crying and stress, yet it is nothing compare to the transcendental taste we experience when working on Nava Vraja Mahima. We are meditating on the pastimes of Radhe Syama for 24 hrs a day. This has been my service for the past four years.”
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