The ginger-haired dhorio Maharaj
by Ramesh Kallidai
Posted January 23, 2003
"This story appeared in the Asian Voice UK's weekly column, 'Screaming Hot
Bhajiyas' by Ramesh Kallidai, and has been reproduced with their kind
screaming hot bhajiyas 14 jan 2002 - The dhorio Maharaj.doc
"Sometimes people wonder how a white English guy with red hair can become a
Hindu priest - a dhorio Maharaj," laughed Kripamoya Dasa, senior priest at
Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna temple in Watford. "Usually, before I
conduct a wedding ceremony, there are a few bemused expressions. But when I
start speaking in Sanskrit, and the audience sees the authentic Vedic
rituals, they realise that an Englishman can become a true Hindu too."
When I had entered his office earlier, Kripamoya had been bent over a
computer writing some story for a book. A polite greeting, an effervescent
smile and four strokes on his keyboard followed in quick succession. Later
he spread two cushions on the floor, and we sat cross-legged in true yogi
style for the rest of the meeting. A saffron robed monk strolled in
suddenly, studied me in earnest, and departed with a pleasant smile.
"You have to spare a thought for an Englishman who becomes a Hindu,"
Kripamoya continued. "Its something of an identity transplant - much bigger
than a heart transplant actually."
Some people may have felt intimidated after turning to a minority religion
in the 1970s - a time when Hinduism was considered a quaint immigrant
religion. But Kripamoya drew inspiration from other sources.
"When I visited India, I found that Krishna consciousness or Bhakti yoga was
not a watered down version, but an authentic, historic and original
tradition that every Hindu in India would recognise," remembered Kripamoya.
"In India, I felt that I had finally come home."
Kripamoya grew up in Cornwall where his earliest memory was an old
pre-Christian ceremony during which the Obby Oss, a frightening black-robed
figure accompanied by white-clad musicians proceeded through narrow streets,
with all the residents following them.
"Such annual events gave me the idea that singing in the streets wearing
unusual outfits was a normal thing to do," he explained. "It proved
reassuring to me when I joined the Hare Krishna devotees in later years!"
When he was nine, his mother asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.
"I told her I wanted to be a Buddhist monk with a shaved head and orange
robes," Kripamoya smiled. " She probably figured I was not going to become a
policeman like my father."
Another Hare Krishna monk suddenly entered the room, and did the
staring-smiling routine once again in clockwork precision before leaving.
Undeterred by the interruption, Kripamoya continued, "When I was 11, I saw
the devotees of Krishna on television, singing on Top of the Pops."
Later at a pop festival in Buxton, he was fascinated to see four devotees
singing the Hare Krishna mantra. In 1974, at the 'free festival' in Windsor
Great Park, he again met the devotees who invited him to come to
"That was the beginning of six years of travelling throughout Britain," he
said. "We slept in transits and woke up in the morning, always at 3.30 am.
It was usually so cold there would be icicles hanging from the van's metal
roof - on the inside! But the fellowship, the japa meditation, the great
outdoors, the heart-warming experiences when we met people thirsty for
spiritual knowledge made it all worthwhile. More than this was the direct
reciprocation from Krishna as we engaged in direct devotional service. And
even more than this, and best of all, was the feeling that we were pleasing
our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada."
Srila Prabhupada's visits to UK in 1975, 1976 and 1977 had left a deep
impression on young Kripamoya. "What struck me was his gravity. He was no
giggling maharishi twirling a rose," he sighed with great fondness.
"Prabhupada had a sense of urgency about him. It was as if there was
something vitally important he had to tell and there was no time."
Kripamoya spent three years in Africa, returned to Britain and married
Gurucarana Padma dasi in 1982, and later ran ISKCON's mail-order warehouse
in Watford. Now he is engaged in congregational preaching and priestly
services for the English and Indian communities across the UK.
"Are your wedding services different from the normal ones?" I asked.
Before he could answer, the door flew open without any warning. And yes,
another monk entered, dutifully studied us, and left with a pleasant smile.
"Marriage is a challenge," philosophised Kripmamoya, trying to ignore our
interruption, although I found the smiling monks a welcome distraction. "But
if there is spirituality in the home, life becomes easier. To that extent,
we discuss the spiritual basis of a successful marriage with each couple.
Certainly, the younger generation come up and tell me that my service in
Sanskrit and English gave them an understanding of the rituals for the first
He concluded by saying, "Hinduism has so much to give. Let us learn the
value of our culture and let us learn to share it too."
The door flew open suddenly for one last time. I looked up expecting another
smiling orange-robed monk. Instead I saw a lady devotee in a colourful sari,
who peeped inside, smiled, turned and left.
I could not help wondering if the Hare Krishna devotees had copyrighted a
patent for pleasant smiles. In any case, knocking before entering is not
really their forte.
For more information visit www.kripamoya.com
For the Bhajiya archives visit www.geocities.com/hotbhajiya