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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Festival of India 2008 Wrap Up

Tuesday, 16 September 2008 / Published in Caru Das, News / 3,505 views

By Caru Das

On the day of Spanish Fork temple’s 22nd annual Festival of India, there was some competition in the area.

BYU had a home football game with UCLA just five miles away which clogged traffic and earmarked 65,000 people (BYU won 59 – 0). Additionally there was booked at the BYU Performing Arts Center a rare concert of Indian music (Taal) which many students were obliged to attend who would have otherwise been at the India Fest.

Nevertheless, 3,000 attendees showed up and had the time of their lives. The festival execution was flawless with the help of many many volunteers: Upendra and Puja, Alanath, Sandhya, Gerald, Henriett, Ria, Jada, Lynn, Wendy, Matt, Andrea, the boys and counselors from Journey, Yogi, Ramesh, Harsh, John Thompson, Hanuman, Yasoda, Keshava, Avtar and Rakesh Singh, Suny Patel, Roshan, Kulwant, and Buchi Khandpur (who also drove up from Los Angeles with new screens for the deities and a new harmonium sent by Chiman), just to name a few.

Early on the lake stage there was an extended kirtan lead by Jai Krishna Das. After the kirtaneers finished their set, they went into the temple room and chanted, aided by Buchi Khandpur’s expert tabla playing, for another two hours. Amiya Vilas Swami went around the room getting dozens of willing people to stand up and dance. He himself was pouring sweat, a big smile on his face.

Outside on the Lake Stage, 8 year old Radhika Narasinghani danced Bharat Natyam, followed by Divya Narayanam who expertly performed Mohini Attam. Then Sashi Kalaskar played tuneful sitar with Ted Weiss on tablas.

By this time, 6:00 pm, the crowd was huge, and we adjourned to the main amphitheater at the bottom of the temple hill, where crowds sat on the lush green grass. Repeat attendees had blankets and sweaters for the post sunset chill. The daytime temperature was perfect, around 80 degrees, and after dark it was only slightly uncomfortable in short sleeves.

Under the lights of the larger stage four young ladies from Nandita Behera’s Odissi school in Los Angeles alternated with Rasa Lila’s Bharat Natyam for a total of six pieces total. The counterpoint, grace, prowess and devotion of these dances was awesome. Nobody left the temple grounds, while hundreds were still pouring in for the Ramayana.

Not one actor in the Ramayana performed for the first time. Sita and Rama (4 years) Lakshmana (three years), Manthara (10 years), Keikeyi (3 years), Suparnaka (12 years), Ravana and Dasaratha (4 years), Jatayau and Maricha (3 years), Bharat and Hanuman (14 years). Rajiv and Gita Sharma, Anand Rao, Divya Frazier, Ganga Shibonis, Vishnu Priya Shibonis, Richard Franklin, Zach Perry, and Jai Krishna Perry comprised the veteran cast.

It would be insufficient to say the pageant went well. It was far beyond that. Each actor brought to the stage not only the confidence from having performed their roles previously, but the added touches, gestures and innuendo which brought them to the level of genies and geniuses. They made magic for Krishna and Rama. The hour and 15 minute presentation was absolutely spell binding.

Costs of fireworks for burning Ravana have spiraled in recent years, and in order to get the fireworks which go high in the sky and make big bangs the technicians want even more money. Vai and Caru had almost decided not to spend the minimum $ 1,500 on fireworks this year, just to burn Ravana like the old days, maybe throw a few rocks for good measure.

At the last minute Ken Landis owner of Landis Fireworks said he would like to do the show and in lieu of full payment would trade for some llamas, peacocks and koi. Four of our llamas ended up going to his 40 acres, along with two peacocks and a number of koi fish from the lake. Sweetening the deal Ken said he would send his best technician. The resultant fireworks display lasted only a couple of minutes (what do you expect for $ 1,500 dollars), but it was spectacular. The llamas and peacocks will get credit in their next lives for enabling the impressive pyrotechnical display which brought the pageant to its fiery conclusion.

After the Ramayana there was a mantra rock kirtan again on the lake stage with Jai Krishna leading, Zack Perry on drums, Joel Bradford harmonica, Curt Gordon, lead guitar, and Troy Peery, on bass guitar. These musicians were HOT and hundreds of kids danced, chanted, danced, chanted, and asked for more, and finally when everybody’s total energy had been completely and blissfully expended for the satisfaction of the Lord, the event drew to a close around 10:30 pm. It was the best India Fest ever.

Comments received by e-mail
“We were lucky to witness the celebration of India Fest on Saturday and cannot express our happiness and elation about the entire show. The cultural programs were amongst the best that we have witnessed. Ramlila was certainly the star entertainer. Our entire family enjoyed watching it. The backdrop of the temple with the crowd sitting informally on the ground reminded us of our days in India attending the ‘jatra’ in our villages! It was really educational for my children. Thank you for letting us be a part of the celebration.”

Julie & Abhijit

“Thank you so much for the amazing festival yesterday! I can’t imagine being anywhere else and having so much fun….. I was totally captivated by the inner and outer beauty of those awesome dancers. I don’t recall ever being so awe struck by such goddess energy and the feeling multiplied when I was up on the stage at the end dancing next to Rasalila the only word I have is wow. God smiles upon his happy children and I know last night He was there dancing with us all…….thank you for creating that.”


For lots more photos of the event, here are two links.

NASN August 2008 - North American Sankirtan Newsletter
Can somebody put a stop to this before its too late?