Mid Day, Mumbai: In India, religion dominates people's lives to a great extent that at times, it dictates people's professions too. However, there are a few times when devotion is not constrained by religion. Abdul Rashid is such an example. The 58-year-old designer is the man behind the beautiful clothes and decorations of the idols of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha at the ISKCON temple at Juhu.
The decoration of the idols at the temple is the result of the creativity of Rashid, who is a devout Muslim. Speaking of the adornments, Rashid told MiD DAY that he has changed the designs on the Diaets for Holi. "Lord Krishna, Radhaji and all the other idols at the temple will be dressed in a pink outfit for this year's Rang Panchami. The outfits for all the deities are made up of pure silk and have silver zari work with gems embedded in them."
Rashid began designing the clothes for the deities at the ISKCON temple after he moved from Balia, Uttar Pradesh back in 1966. "Initially, when I moved here, I took up various jobs such as painting, plumbing. Finally, in 1976, I joined a stitching class and that's when I realised I had found my passion in life," he said.
He found a break in life when a few volunteers from the ISKCON temple visited his class and happened to look over his designs. Impressed with his designs, the volunteers asked him to work at the temple for the next 15 days, stitching garments for the deities.
He says that his 15 days at the temple changed his life completely. "During my initial days, I met Swami Prabhupada, who told me to stay back at the temple and continue to design clothes for the deities. He said that this was my life's calling and ever since then I have never looked back."
Rashid now heads a team of 20 members, and is the main dress designer for the deities. Rashid's colourful and magnificent designs not only grace the deities in India but also in the ISKCON temples in America, UK and Australia. His designs have also been showered with praise from devotees all over the world.
Mukund Madhav Das, in-charge of the Bhisma department said, "Rashid's designs are appreciated by all the visitors at the temple. The evidence of his exemplary work is that he has continued as the main dress designer at the temple for so many years now." When asked about the adulation heaped on him, a modest Rashid simply said, "I am glad that devotees at the temple love my work."
Rashid believes that his religion is of no significance to his work. In fact, Rashid is the perfect example of communal harmony. He said, "God, the source of energy in this world, is one. It only has different manifestations -- be it Allah or Bhagwan. I have never given any thought that I am a Muslim designing for Hindu deities. The temple authorities have treated me as their own." He added, "Ever since, I began working at ISKCON, which is 36 years ago, I have been a vegetarian."