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Hare Krishna Festival Draws 15,000March 30th, 2009

The annual Festival of Colors rocks the Spanish Fork Temple with record-sized, rainbow-colored crowds

by Jacob Hodgen

Have you ever imagined what it would look like if a Skittles factory spontaneously combusted?

Well I, for one, no longer have to wonder, and neither do the other 15,000 celebrants who attended the Festival of Colors at the Sri Sri Radha Hare Krishna Temple this last weekend.

Panorama
The Festival of Colors: Click to view the full size panorama

The gods were smiling upon Spanish Fork on Saturday, as a combination of surprisingly great weather and an enormous surplus of college students turned out in record numbers for what is now one of the most popular annual events in the state. The Festival of Colors is a traditional Hare Krishna celebration that marks the passage of winter to spring.

Though sacred in its design, this ceremony owes much of its popularity to the fact that it involves many of the elements of a rock concert.

Giant bonfire? . . .Check.
Caru Das, the temple director, tells the energetic crowd the story of the demoness Holika, who wore a magical shawl that made her resistant to flame. She was in the habit of killing children from local villages by carrying them into fires. One day she attempted to burn a young boy named Prahlad, but as she carried him to his doom, he began repeatedly chanting the sacred mantra "Hare Krishna." The boy was spared and the demoness was killed instead. During the Festival of Colors, an effigy of Hollika is burned in remebrance of the event.

Click to view a clip of the color "bomb" and a slide show

Rock band? . . .Check.
You may have seen Hare Krishnas at the airport, and their instrumentation is often limited to the tambourine. However, here the traditional Hindi chants are supplemented by the twin electric guitar-toting group Mantra Rock. Really.

Things for the crowd to toss on each other? . . .Check.
For two dollars apiece, temple guests could purchase a small bag of colored flour shipped from India. Many of the bags were scented with various fragrances and incense. Carus Das reported that 25,000 bags had been prepared for the festival, all of which were sold out within a few hours of opening. The festival goers all gather near the bonfire, and then, on the count of ten, the flour is spontaneously hurled into the air and at anyone or anything nearby. Words cannot adequately articulate how amazingly beautiful this spectacle is. If the Greek god Bacchus was a devotee Hare Krishna, he would be proud.

Vendors selling food, T-shirts, and incense? . . .Check.
The temple has a gift shop where you can buy all sorts of clothes and religious goods. The devotees also serve a full course vegan meal made from exotic Indian ingredients.

Mosh pit with crowdsurfing? . . .Check.
It's hard to tell if this was exactly what the festival organizers had in mind, but a large mosh pit erupted within seconds of the main color-throwing event. The crowd was packed so tightly it was only a matter of time before a few brave souls began to surf atop the rainbow-colored masses.

Festival of Colors

While the festival seemed to go off without a hitch, unfortunately, the city of Spanish Fork was ill-prepared for the massive turnout. With parking for only a few hundred cars available on site, the entire city was consumed with tourists, and traffic was reduced to a crawl across the valley extending out onto the freeway for miles. Many people abandoned their cars up to three miles away to walk, and crowds were still pouring onto the temple grounds an hour after the event had finished.

The succes of the festival is a tribute to the amicable nature of Krishna community and the great lengths Caru Das has taken to go out and make friends and allies in the valley for the non-sectarian movement. However, for those who are interested in the faith, but do not feel quite up to competing with 15,000 muti-colored spring revelers, the temple still holds regular yoga and religion classes, which are much more peaceful in nature.

Read more about the temple in our previous story. Or visit The Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple Website

Reader Comments

Paige Wiren

The article, I think, has a good organizing principle, making the comparison between the festival and a concert, an angle that would/should appeal to a young adult reader demographic. I appreciate the use of not only a standard frame photo, but also the panorama. Embedded videos I can take or leave. And what I mean by that is that the added media content does not necessarily augment the piece. The opening line kinda bummed me out because I think the author meant to convey the image of a colorful explosion, and something that spontenously combusts simply bursts into flames and burns. I didn't want to imagine the festival being reduced to a spiritual heap of ashes. Thanks for asking my opinion

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