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March 19, 1971 : Bombay

Yamuna: I remember a conversation with Srila Prabhupada on March 19, 1971. I had been becoming increasingly concerned that I never found women engaging in direct seva of the archa vigraha [Deities] in India. Srila Prabhupada was having me prepare all of the Deity preparations for the pandal program. One set of Deities was to be installed in Bombay, one pair went to the Calcutta temple, and one pair of Deities was to be sent to our Los Angeles temple.

So although very engaged, I was a little worried, and I asked, "Srila Prabhupada, I have never seen any female pujaris in India. Is it bona fide for women to be serving the Deities directly?" Srila Prabhupada answered, "We make no distinction between male and female." I said, "Yes, Srila Prabhupada, but why is this so in India?" "That is the etiquette," he replied. I pressed on, "Srila Prabhupada, what is our policy?" After some time Srila Prabhupada said, "We can follow the etiquette. Otherwise they will not accept our Deity worship. Therefore I have called for Nanda Kumara."

So from then on, in all of the pandals and programs, Nanda Kumara or Devananda Swami performed the outward Deity worship.

Reference: Yamuna Devi - A Life of Unalloyed Devotion