By Caru Das
Vaishnavanam Yatha Sambhu
Shiva Ratri is always a well attended event and this year was no exception. I estimate 600 people came and went during the three hour festivities. There was an mix of 30 per cent Indians and 70 per cent Westerners. I noticed not only Western college age kids, but maybe ten per cent of the audience older grandparents age, many of whom stayed the whole time.
Attendance was aided by a Saturday morning article in the Salt Lake Tribune, printed under “News Articles” on our web site.
Jai Krishna, Pragna and her friends did a great job on the chanting which varied between “Om Namo Shivaya” and “Hare Krishna.” Dinesh and Kalpana Patel attended, and kindly gave their annual donation of $ 2,000, which they have done for Shiva Ratri the last three years.
That donation alone made the festival a financial success, although there was lots of other good income from plates of hot prasadam, donations and gift store. The gift store did booming sales with all the merchandise recently brought from India. Sandhya said she sold 30 handbags alone. We do not have the final totals yet as we were busy with a marriage on Sunday. Alanath worked hard with Vaibhavi, Nikki and the boys from Journey in serving out the food all night.
The cultural program is always a favorite. Neda’s dance on Lord Shiva catching the Ganga on his head was beautiful. There are no real dance schools in Salt Lake City. Yugoslavian born Neda is quite a phenomenon because she has taught herself by watching and imitating videos.
The audience clapped very loudly after the drama entitled “Shiva and Parvati.” They really appreciated Jai Krishna as Shiva and Mikela as Parvati. Hayley played the role of Cupid, and Zach was Narada and Indra.
In the next drama, “Arjuna Fights Shiva” the crowd enjoyed the fight scene. I couldn’t see it from the audience’s viewpoint, because I was being “kicked” around by Jai Krishna (Shiva again) who has his own karate school. But people shouted with delight (especially at the KO) and afterwards commented we must have worked hours on the choreography (if they only knew).
I was particularly inspired in this drama by having recently visited "Arjuna’s Pennce" in Mahabalipuram. Arjuna worshipped the Shiva Linga to receive the awesome Pasupati weapon. Because Lord Shiva, after testing Arjuna, was so kind to give this benediction, Arjuna was able to defeat Duryodhone and the Kauravas in battle.
When it came time for the abhiskekam, I couldn’t identify even one newcomer (what to speak of regulars) who refrained from lining up before the Shiva lingam and respectfully pouring a conch full of milk. This took half an hour with the divine chanting a constant throughout. We brought Nandi the bull up the elevator into the temple room and faced him towards Lord Shiva. He was calm and perfectly behaved, methodically chewing his cud. He even, quite deliberately, benedicted us with a cow pie on the marble floor. Nandi represents the jiva soul who is praying to follow in the footsteps of Lord Shiva with devotion to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
After the abhishekam, the kirtan party continued while Dinesh and Kalpana offered 108 roses and carnations donated by Cary. Simultaneously we projected the 108 names of Lord Shiva with English translations on the 9 foot tall screen.
During the ensuing aratik, one Indian gentleman personally handed me a folded check, saying, “I am a visitor from Los Angeles and I have never seen anything there comparable to this wonderfully spirited celebration.”
Though the formalities ended by 8:30 pm guests remained in the temple until much later, cornering individual devotees and peppering them with questions. Some of us had to force ourselves off to bed, however, because we had to clean up and prepare for a big wedding the following morning at 10:30 am.