Third Diwali at Utah Governor’s Mansion
By Caru Das
Last Friday evening Caru and Vaibavi attended the third annual Diwali dinner in the Governor’s Mansion downtown Salt Lake City. The Governor first spoke at the podium of his recent trip to India with 31 business representatives from Utah, mentioned how much he enjoyed the trip, was nostalgic about it, and how the cooking smells (only vegetarian food was served during the dinner) of the evening took him mentally back there. He’d wanted to show off his 2 year old adopted daughter from India, Asha Bharati, but it was past her bed time.
Similarly to last year, Satish, the priest from Ganesh temple, and Caru Das collaborated on the puja. Satish chanted Divya sthuti and sankalpa. Caru gave a short talk in English on the importance of the event, a prelude to the worship of Lakshmi, who is Sita in another form. Below are the guidelines for his talk:
“…At Diwali time we celebrate the superior power of light. As light very easily banishes darkness, though he was a big and powerful demon, Rama easily vanquished Ravana. No one in the history of the world was more righteous than Lord Rama. He was the perfect husband to Sita, the perfect brother to Lakshman, the perfect son of Dasratha, and the perfect ruler of his citizens. Rather than cut corners and seek for cheap short cuts, Rama cheerfully bore all the hardships of 14 years exile. Then, when finally he triumphed, he triumphed in such a grand way that we celebrate it tens of thousands of years later…
Sorrow and suffering, trial and endurance, are a part of the Indian ideal of a Perfect Life of righteousness. Rama suffers for fourteen years in exile, and is chastened by privations and misfortunes, before he ascends the throne of his father. In a humble way this course of training was passed through by every pious Indian of the ancient times.
And if trial and endurance are a part of a Hindu’s ideal of a man’s life, devotion and self abnegation are still more essentially a part of his ideal of a woman’s life. Sita holds a place in the hearts of women in India which no other creation of a poet’s imagination holds among any other nation on earth. There is not an Indian woman whose earliest and tenderest recollections do not cling round the story of Sita’s sufferings and Sita’s faithfulness, told in the nursery, taught in the family circle, remembered and cherished through Iife. Sita’s adventures in a desolate forest and in a hostile prison only represent in an exaggerated form the humbler trials of a woman’s Iife; and Sita’s endurance and faithfulness teach us the importance of devotion to duty in all trials and troubles of life.
Rama and Sita are the ideals of a Perfect Man and a Perfect Woman; their truth under trials and temptations, their endurance under privations, and their devotion to duty under all vicissitudes of fortune, form the ideal of a Perfect Life. In this respect the Ramayana gives us a true picture of faith and righteous life.”
Afterwards Satish supervised Mary Kaye (First Lady), Kalpana Patel, and Surekha Joshi for the offering of Shoda Sadupachara, 16 items of worship to Lakshmi. Caru translated the Sri Suktam aloud for all the dinner guests while Satish was chanting it in Sanskrit. Finally, garlands were removed from the portable altar and placed around the necks of Governor Huntsman and Mary Kaye.
The function was held upstairs in the ballroom and dining room, and perhaps 100 people from both the Indian and Western communities attended. During Governor Huntsman’s remarks, he praised Dinesh Patel as the ongoing sponsor of the event.
Though he was a sponsor and driving force, Dinesh was traveling and unable to attend the first Diwali in the Governors Mansion which was held in 2005, in the downstairs lobby. At that time thirty or forty people, including the ambassador from India Ronan Sen and his wife Kalpana, crowded into the restricted area and made do with an improvised puja performed by Caru Das. The Governor had to be called in from the kitchen where it was said he was helping to make the gulab jamons.
After that humble beginning the event took on greater proportions last year, and this year it had all the feel of an established tradition.