Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deewali, Festival of Light 10/17/09

The Krishna Temple at 8628 S State St. in Spanish Fork invites everyone to come celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights, on Sat. October 17 from 6 pm. The event will include classical and folk dancing, live music, dramas, a ceremony of lights, huge vegetarian feast, and offering of respects to a live cow.
Diwali is a shortened version of “Deepawali” (Deepa=lamps, Wali=row: rows of lamps). Households in India put lamps in every window and temples brightly illuminate altars to bring in the best for the upcoming year. The date of the festival coincides with the return of the avatar of God, Sri Rama, to His ancestral kingdom after an exile of 14 years and many adventures. All the citizens welcomed Rama home by brightening up the entire city of Ayodhya and setting off fireworks.
The Festival of Lights occurs during the lull between fall harvests and the onset of the monsoons. Thus it is a time of thanksgiving, and that corollary festival is called Anna Kuta (literally meaning, “heaps of food”) Lord Krishna inaugurated this festival by inspiring the inhabitants of His village (Vrndavan) to worship the cows on this one day per year and to prepare a huge celebratory feast consisting of no less than 108 preparations.

Guests are encouraged to prepare vegetarian dishes at home (without onions or garlic) and bring them to the temple to augment the devotional offerings. Optionally, one could bring fruits, or flowers.

Observing the above traditions, the schedule of events for this dual celebration is as follows:

6:00 pm: Rathaytra around temple verandah, while Power Point Presentation inside temple by Caru Das on significance of the event.

6:30 pm: Govardhan puja: Krishna once lifted a mountain named Govardhan and used it as an umbrella to protect His devotees from a devastating rainfall sent by Indra the king of heaven. This pastime is commemorated by circumambulating a large hill made from a sweet called hallava, and decorated with other sweets, savories, plastic cows, jelly bean rocks, broccoli spear trees, green coconut grass etc. Below is a picture of the hill at our Krishna temple in Bombay .

7:00 pm: Classical Indian dance performance (Orissi) by Ankita Ray. Ankita Ray turns 14 on Oct 24th. She has been training in Orissi for the past 7 years. She started to learn Orissi in India when she was 7 years old and thereafter continued her training in Maryland when she moved to the US. With continuous guidance from Guru Jayantee Paine Ganguly of Konark Dance School in Maryland (Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra style of Orissi), Ankita has also trained with Orissi maestros like Sujata Mohapatra, Aruna Mohanty, Manoranjan and Minati Pradhan both in the US as well as in India. Ankita has performed extensively in Washington DC, Boston Massachusetts, Nashville TN, Hartford Connecticut and Baltimore MD.

She will perform an Orissi Pallavi. Pallavi literally means "blossoming of a flower". In this piece the dance will begin at a slow pace and will blossom into the rythmic intricacies typical of Orissi.

Orissi is different and beautiful because of its unique style where the dancer bends his/her body at 3 different positions--the head, bust and torso--called the Tribhangi. Orissi is expressed by extensive eye and hand movements (mudras) accompanied by lilting Orissi music typical to the eastern coastal state of India called Orissa. Orissi originated in the temples of Lord Jagannath (another form of Shri Krishna) where the dancer performed before the Lord . By the efforts of many stalwarts of the Orissi dance form, it now occupies an important classical dance status all over the world.

As you will notice an Indian dancer always begins by bowing down to take her blessings from mother earth. If you remember the sanskrit shloka about the Earth:

Samudre Vasane Devi
Parvata Sthana Mandale
Vishnu Patni Namastuvyam
Paada Sparsha Khamyashyame

O Mother Earth
You who has the oceans as her clothes
The mountains as her body
You who is the wife of Lord Krishna (Vishnu)
I bow to you
Please forgive me as my feet are going to touch you.

Ankita will perform Kirwani Pallavi. The duration is 15 mins.

Hindustanii Bhajans by Julie Acharya Ray, mother of Ankita Ray. She moved to SLC Utah in Aug this year with family from Maryland. She has trained in Classical Hindustani vocal under the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai for 8 years and has a Bachelor's in Music degree from India. She is a Ph.D in Chemistry and worked in the school of Pharmacy, Univ of MD at Baltimore prior to moving here. She enjoys music, painting and writing.

7:30 pm: The devotional comedy, "Dracula Gets A Gita." Zachary and Hailey Perry.

7:45 pm: Go Puja: Worship of a live cow with flower garlands and sweets. Indian culture is that instead of killing the cows for 700 lb.. of their meat, they are respected for producing an average of 90,000 lb. of nutritional wholesome milk in a lifetime. And because we all drink the milk of a cow in our infancy, the cow is regarded as a sort of mother.

8:00 pm. Anna Kuta & Arotik Ceremony: Lights in the temple room are turned down and the altar area is opened dramatically to the sounds of conch shells being blown and gongs sounding, to reveal a food extravaganza of many preparations offered to the Deities. The whole show is illuminated by flashing colored lights and dozens of votive candles.

8:30 pm: Ras Garba, Indian Folk Dancing (very easy for anybody to learn in minutes)

Throughout the evening: Huge vegetarian feast served downstairs while program goes on upstairs. $ 6.00 donation per plate. Samosa, pakora, rasgula, saag paneer, puri, sandesh, hallava, papadam, kher, matar paneer, alou gobi sabji, kofta, malpura, gulabjamun, and on and on. Bring a preparation if you can to augment the feast!

10 Reasons to Celebrate Diwali

The Festival of Lights is for All

Why do we celebrate Diwali? It’s not just the festive mood in the air that makes you happy, or just that it's a good time to enjoy before the advent of winter. There are 10 mythical and historical reasons why Diwali is a great time to celebrate. And there are good reasons not just for Hindus but also for all others to celebrate this great Festival of Lights.

1. Goddess Lakshmi’s Birthday: The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi incarnated on the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month during the churning of the ocean (samudra-manthan), hence the association of Diwali with Lakshmi.

2. Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi: On this very day (Diwali day), Lord Vishnu in his fifth incarnation as Vaman-avtaara rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali and this is another reason of worshipping Ma Larkshmi on Diwali.
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3. Krishna Killed Narakaasur: On the day preceding Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity. The celebration of this freedom went on for two days including the Diwali day as a victory festival.

4. The Return of the Pandavas: According to the great epic ‘Mahabharata’, it was ‘Kartik Amavashya’ when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice (gambling). The subjects who loved the Pandavas celebrated the day by lighting the earthen lamps.

5. The Victory of Rama: According to the epic ‘Ramayana’, it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Ram, Ma Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps and illuminated it like never before.

6. Coronation of Vikramaditya: One of the greatest Hindu King Vikramaditya was coroneted on the Diwali day, hence Diwali became a historical event as well.

7. Special Day for the Arya Samaj: It was the new moon day of Kartik (Diwali day) when Maharshi Dayananda, one of the greatest reformers of Hinduism and the founder of Arya Samaj attained his nirvana.

8. Special Day for the Jains: Mahavir Tirthankar, considered to be the founder of modern Jainism also attained his nirvana on Diwali day.

9. Special Day for the Sikhs: The third Sikh Guru Amar Das institutionalized Diwali as a Red-Letter Day when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Gurus blessings. In 1577, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid on Diwali. In 1619, the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind, who was held by the Mughal Emperor Jahengir, was released from the Gwalior fort along with 52 kings.

10. The Pope’s Diwali Speech: In 1999, Pope John Paul II performed a special Eucharist in an Indian church where the altar was decorated with Diwali lamps, the Pope had a ‘tilak’ marked on his forehead and his speech was bristled with references to the festival of light.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Festival of India Utah 2009

by Amrita Gopal Dasi

“I’m speechless! Such a beautiful festival!”

These are a sample of the comments recorded in the guestbook signed by hundreds of visitors to the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah. The Rajastani-style center—the only one of its kind in the state—held the annual Festival of India celebration on Saturday, September 12th. Welcoming a crowd of over three thousand, Caru dasa and Vaibhavi Devi Dasi (both disciples of Srila Prabhupada) along with one hundred local volunteers manifested the spirit of India: serve the people loads of prasadam, crank up the krsna-kirtana and encourage cheers and claps when Ravana’s giant body is scorched to bits by flaming arrows.

Situated in a gorgeous valley surrounded on all sides by picturesque mountains, the Krishna Temple is well-known as the “place to be” throughout the year, mainly because of the various festivals that are held here. This year’s Festival of India attracted all types: energetic college students, families spanning two or three generations, and many curious and open-minded Mormons. Utah has a strong link with the Mormon Church, and their theology and lifestyle shares some important elements with Krishna consciousness. Preaching was brisk and joyful, as the festival participants were eager to learn more about the cultural and spiritual origins of the festival. Distributing Bhagavad-gita to many of the philosophically-inclined visitors was easy, since the Mormons appreciate authoritative literature.

And what to speak of the chanting! Kesava-Acarya dasa, a renowned kirtaneer from New York, along with Sri Ram on mrdanga sweetly sang the Lord’s Holy Name to the backdrop of a brilliantly setting sun. Later on in the evening a group of local devotees got everybody dancing to rock-style kirtana. Inside the temple room different groups of chanters led the packed crowds in non-stop harinama. “I thought the roof was going to cave in at one point because of all the dancing,” said Vaibhavi Devi Dasi. In addition to the all-auspicious chanting, young dancers from Abhinaya Company in San Jose, California, charmed the crowd with several styles of traditional dance. On the main stage devotees performed scenes from the Ramayana. Plus rows of booths offering such services as henna and Indian dress created an otherworldly atmosphere enjoyed by all.

The festival’s finale was especially spectacular: a 20-foot effigy of Ravana disintegrated into fiery shards before the delighted crowd. A glittery fireworks display capped off the evening.

Mercy and fun were the words of the day…all for $3 a head!