Last Saturday’s Festival of India crowd shattered all records. Estimates of up to 5,000 people crowded in front of two different stages, the temple room, and the gift store. Throughout the evening there were two lines for prasadam meals, each extending 100 feet in length. Several henna artists had their hands full, and Madan Manohara, a palm reader on loan from Tucson temple, was in such demand his booth was open until 1 am.
We believe the extra large attendance was due to 1) good weather 2) increasing awareness and interest in The Ramayana 3) the added advertising potency of our web site, which attracts 1,000 – 1,500 visitors daily 4) the special attention we give to high school and university professors who teach in peripheral areas. About 70 of them received hand delivered packages with a cover letter, flyers for their students, color temple brochure with web site address, and a color festival poster, folded into quarters.
All artists gave excellent presentations: Shashi and Subash on sitar and tablas, dancers Radhika and Shatakshi from Boise, Raslila and Al from Los Angeles. Everybody was thronged with admirers after their perfomances.
The main group, Shreelata Suresh’s five students from San Francisco, relflected the consumate talent of their teacher with wonderful choreography, precision, and grace. The students’ names were Divya Ramakrishnan, Ambika Gopalan, Nisha Balaraman, Priyamvada Sohoni, and Sveta Shivram.
Their organiser and chaperone, Usha Balaram, sent us this nice -email.
Thank you so much for everything. We were so impressed with your
temple and hospitality, we have been talking about you all non-stop
for the last several hours to our family! Updated guru Shreelata as
We have also shared the CD you gave of photographs with family. They
enjoyed it very much and most pictures have come out nicely. We will
also show it to Shreelata this week when we see her.
Our regards to mataji Vaibhavi,
Jerry Gardner’s Buddhist oriented group, called Ra Kan (“dance for enlightenment“) came to our stage for the first time and mesmerized everybody with their Indonesian style presentation of Sita Svayambar, the story of Rama’s winning the hand of Sita by breaking Shiva’s bow.
We have a veteran cast for the Ramayana drama. Only newcomers this year were Ananda Rao as Lakshama and Vipin Goyal as Marica. Everyone else, Divya Drsti (Manthara), Ganga (Keikeyi) Jai Krishna (Hanuman and Bharata), Richard Franklin (Dasarath and Ravana), Vishnu Priya (Surpanakha), Rajiv and Gitanjali (Rama and Sita), and Zach Perry for Jatayu only needed one rehearsal to get up to speed and did the needful to help the newcomers.
The resultant rendition of the Ramayana was incredibly powerful. Applause came after each and every scene. Though many people were still pouring into the festival site even after the post sunset pageant had begun, nobody was leaving.
Aside from the reproduced drama of the play, some real life drama had occurred earlier in the evening when a brief but powerful mini burst of wind bent the angle iron onto which Ravana’s 25 foot high effigy was bolted and pitched him headfirst into the lake. Brandon Gilley took a photo which he comically captioned, “We decided to baptize Ravan before we burned him.” A whole crew of emergency volunteers, including Jai Ram, Jai Krishna, Brian, and Bharat cut away with hacksaws and grinders the metal debris, re erected Ravana (a few feet shorter but hardly less menacing) and secured him with ropes against future surprise zephyrs.
At 9:15 pm after the conclusion of the excellent pageant with the burning of Ravana, flaming arrows and fireworks, people turned to start heading for home. Just then the sounds of Joel Bradford’s (harmonica) Good Karma Blues Band (lead guitar (Curt Gordon), bass guitar, keyboards (Kirsten), drums (RB), Jai Krishna (vocals)) flared up on the Lake stage, and caused them to turn 180- degrees.
Never can we thank enough the many selfless volunteers who made this huge festival possible. We shall try to name those have not already been mentioned in this article. If inadvertently we leave any out, please forgive: Vaibhavi Devi (number one worker and planner), Chelsea and the boys from Journey, Hala Yudha and Kathy (who just turned up from Los Angeles mid week after a hiatus of 10 years and worked like demons (oops, devotees)) Alanatha and Sandhya, Yogi Shah (stands on the road for hours taking the admissions fees) Tota Gopinatha, Mekala, Henriett, Natu and Mina Patel, Pragna Shah, Steve, Gerald, Curtis, Emily, Roshan and Kulwant, Ram Ranjana, John Thompson, Sri Hari, Sundara Nityananda, Julio Frasier, Dhiru and Nirmala, Avtar and Rakesh Singh (cooked huge quantities of rice and channa), the girls from Discovery, and others (Krishna knows who you are).
Last but not least, we thank Scott Anderson of Zion’s Bank for donating $ 5,000.00 to the Festival of India, Dinesh Patel for inspiring Bank of America to donate $ 5,000.00, the Utah Arts Council for a Project Grant of $ 1,250.00, BIG O Tires for $201.00 and Bombay House for $ 251.00.
We thank Clark Thornton of Orem Alpha Graphics for printing our color posters and souvenir booklet at great rates. Roshan and Kulwant Khandpur donated many clothes for sale in the gift store, the elaborate costumes for Rama and Laksmana, and $ 301.00. We also thank all those festival goers who tendered to Yogi an admission fee, bought hot prasadam from the food booth and patronised the gift store. In our minds we have already spent the profits (and much more) for further beautifying the temple grounds and planning bigger and better festival events in the future.