Ganesha, Krishna Are the New Gods of Chocolate

India West , News Feature, Lisa Tsering Posted: Apr 01, 2005

To those who believe that eating chocolate is a religious experience, have I got a treat for you.

Chocolate Deities, a confectioner based in the Catskill Mountains of New York, offers handmade chocolates molded into the shape of Lord Krishna, Ganesha, Buddha, the Tibetan goddess Tara and many other gods and goddesses.
Some customers like to eat them, while others, according to company cofounder Jeanne Fleming, prefer to put the chocolates on their home altars or even melt them down for hot chocolate or sauces.

"In the case of [Krishna and Ganesh], Hindus asked me to make them ... and many of the folks who buy them are Hindus," she wrote in an email to India-West Mar. 25.

In the past, numerous protests have arisen over what some have termed the disrespectful or even blasphemous portrayal of Hindu deities on consumer items - regular India-West readers may recall our stories about protests over the Sittin' Pretty toilet seats decorated with images of Kali and Ganesha; American Eagle's flip-flop sandals with Ganesha sketches; Roberto Cavalli's bikini tops and bottoms decorated with Vishnu and Hanuman; Lost Coast Indica Pale Ale's microbrews with Ganesha on the labels; and lunchboxes painted with Kali and Shiva, to name a few.

But Fleming says her motivation behind her chocolate creations is far more respectful.

"Before we made these figures we thought about it carefully," she said. "We asked many people (including some conservative Hindus) if it would be all right. The conservatives felt no, but all others thought that the two deities we were asked to make would be all right: the Dancing Ganesh and the Govhardhana Krishna. Both are deities that have become part of a larger religious and spiritual movement that - in a more casual manner than [that observed by] conservative Hindus - are revered and enjoyed and honored in many different ways.

"We also chose to make incarnations of these deities that are less formally presented - that is Krishna as a young and playful child and Ganesha dancing. Both of the stories associated with them have to do with their own love of sweets! So, they would be attracted to chocolate."

Fleming, who says the idea of chocolate deities came to her in a meditation, explained that it was a Hindu friend of hers who suggested she go forward with it. She has spent a good deal of time in India and Bali, was even married at the Maha Kumbh in 1989, and has a son named Gopal.

The Krishna, Ganesha and Tara deities, said Fleming, are "deities that in India and Bali are made from either chocolate (as in India) or rice/sugar sculptures, or butter sculptures (as in Tibet). It is part of their tradition to be made in foodstuffs, and to be used as offerings that are then either cast in the sea, or eaten by the faithful as part of a ceremonial meal."

Other deities on the menu include the Norse trickster god Loki; Native American wolves, thunderbirds and bears; the African fertility goddess Akua'ba; the Chinese goddess Quan Yin; and symbols such as a Celtic cross, Mayan calendar, Om and many others.

"We are not expecting that all those who buy our chocolates will necessarily eat them," Fleming told India-West. "If you read our website carefully, we suggest that they can be used in ceremonial ways, as ritual objects, or spiritual objects for the kitchen. They are not like bikinis, or lunch boxes, or beer labels. They are not used 'for' something else, or in the service of something else. They are themselves what they are: objects of devotion, offerings, art, or to be eaten."

Chocolate Deities hand-crafts each mold, whether from an original design or a traditional statue that can be adapted to chocolate. Most of the deities are available in high quality milk, dark or white chocolate.

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