I first started making garlands twenty years ago when I was a new bhaktin (aspiring devotee). I think I was traumatized by the experience. Not that it isn't a pleasure to make garlands for the Lord in His deity form. It wasn't that I couldn't make a nice garland either. It just would always take me much longer to make a garland than it would for anyone else, and I would always make mistakes. And I never felt satisfied that my service was actually suitable to offer. Eventually, I realized that it was a service better suited to others.
Like the ladies of the Radha-Gopinatha temple in Chowpatty. Are these ever amazing garlands! featuring a luscious swirling stripe wrapping around a thick and fragrant rope of rose petals. Or lotus kernels. Or jasmine buds. There's even a flower I've never heard of, Aboli. And fruit. They use lovely cherry-like fruit pendants. You can look, but you can't bite!
They appear incredibly complicated, seemingly impossible for the average person to replicate. But wait! Over at the Vaisnavi Sanga blog there is a sweet little tutorial that can help anyone to achieve the same gorgeous effect. Scroll down the page for photos and step-by-step instructions. I haven't tried it yet, but who knows? With this tutorial maybe I'll turn into a garland-walla after all. More than the technical skill, I'm really struck by the devotion these lovely ornaments embody. This level of refinement, the mediation involved in making exquisite art that will last a few days at most, is something that can only come from a deep and lofty spiritual culture.