Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Temple On a Hill

Utah temple was featured in the current March issue of Back to Godhead magazine. This is the text version, in addition to which one could purchase copies of the magazine with lots of images at the temple for $ 2.00

Two dedicated disciples of Srila Prabhupada have brought Krishna consciousness to the heart of Mormon country in grand style.

According to folklore, Bishop John Coyle, a popular Mormon leader, publicly prophesied in 1947 that a great temple would be built on a certain hill in Spanish Fork, Utah. He probably had something different in mind from what stands there today: a majestic Rajasthani-style temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. In 1982 two of Srila Prabhupada’s enthusiastic and innovative disciples, Charu Dasa and his wife, Vaibhavi Devi Dasi, arrived in Spanish Fork to start a Hare Krishna center. One result of their dedicated efforts is that the temple they built on a hill now draws approximately fifty thousand visitors a year.

The temple lies in a scenic valley surrounded by a gorgeous mountain range. Hand-carved lotuses designed by Vaibhavi adorn the ceiling of the immaculate temple room. Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, and Gaura-Nitai are the beautiful presiding deities. What was once a single two-story log house, which served as the temple and residence, has evolved into a fifty-foot-high palace that hosts spiritual retreats, yoga classes, and lively Sunday feasts. The pioneering spirit in the hearts of Charu and Vaibhavi found a perfect setting in a place that even today is home to cowboys and missionaries.

Of course, it didn’t manifest in a day. For several years Charu and Vaibhavi employed their energies in raising funds for the temple.

“We jokingly call this ‘The Temple that Cookies Built,’” remarked Sri Hanuman Dasa, a resident devotee from Utah who has served the temple for two years as a preacher and yoga teacher. Besides fifteen years of diligent prasadam distribution—Charu remembers selling cookies wearing electric gloves in the middle of nearby Arizona’s sub-zero winters—training and selling llamas in the 1980s provided substantial revenue for building the temple. Taking early advantage of a national fad for keeping llamas as pets and using them as packers on camping expeditions, Charu and Vaibhavi became trendsetters in the llama trade.

“At one point we needed $8,000 to finish part of the construction,” Vaibhavi recalled. “We had a lovely llama named Syamine (she had a bluish-black hue like Lord Krishna’s). A man looking for a llama to give his daughter walked in, saw Syamine and asked, ‘How much?’

“‘$8,000,’ we said.

“He wrote a check on the spot.”

The temple conducts daily tours for a steady stream of visitors, including the nearly three thousand students who come on three-hour field trips each year. The beauty and sanctity of the temple and the grounds never fail to impress. A popular gift shop, a prasadam buffet, and a menagerie of exotic animals (including forty llamas, twelve peacocks, three cows, and five parrots) charm the guests. Comments from the guest book reveal enthusiastic appreciation: “I love this place,” “Stunning,” and “Absolutely beautiful” are samples.

A small but dedicated group of full-time devotees assist in the maintenance, while local volunteers, mainly teenage boys and girls from troubled backgrounds, account for the rest of the labor. Besides training and organizing the volunteers, Vaibhavi also leads them in kirtana and an evening Bhagavad-gita discussion.

The Temple Focus

Although the temple has much to offer as a tourist attraction (it is listed in Amazing and Unusual Places in the US as a “must-see”), preaching and outreach are the focus of the activities. The temple sponsors eight major festivals a year, the most popular being the Festival of Colors (Holi). Over fifteen thousand people flock to Spanish Fork in March to splash in fifty thousand bags of colored powder shipped from India. The major Utah newspapers always cover the event, as well as the India Fest, Llama Festival, and Diwali. Some professors at Brigham Young University award students extra credit for attending the festivals.

Utah’s political leaders widely acknowledge and respect the temple. Both present governor Gary Herbert and the previous governor, Jon Huntsman, have visited the temple and received copies of Srila Prabhupada’s books. For six years running, the governor’s mansion has hosted a Diwali celebration, complete with puja, a talk given by Charu, and a vegetarian feast.

Charu and Vaibhavi were experienced devotees from the early 1970s and helped manage centers in Australia and Berkeley, California. Charu was a leading book distributor in the 1970s with aspirations to start a center.

“I distributed books for ten years, and I dreamed of opening a center where people would come and be attracted to Krishna consciousness. I wanted as far as possible to replicate the spiritual world, where people would walk through the door and say, ‘Tell me all about it.’”

Under their leadership, the temple is steadily building a spiritual community of sincere and committed members from the local area. Charu is frequently called upon to speak at interfaith gatherings and serves as a priest for various functions such as weddings and name-giving ceremonies. He has cultivated positive connections with the Hindu congregation in Salt Lake City (about fifty miles away) and is regularly invited to lecture in the homes of prominent families. The temple also enjoys favorable relations with the Mormon church. In 1999 The LDS Foundation, a charitable organization sponsored by the church, approved a $25,000 grant to cover the cost of building a dome for the temple, making the Hare Krishnas the first non-Christian group to receive a contribution.

Building a World Congregation

Charu is keen to use technology to reach the congregation. The couple broadcasted Krishna music and live spiritual radio programs out of Los Angeles in the late 70s and continued to run a local radio station when they came to Utah. Switching to the Internet six years ago, KHQN is a popular web radio station and reaches an international audience. is one of the most frequented websites related to Krishna consciousness, attracting a thousand visitors a day. Using Skype, Twitter, and other web communication tools, Charu has a long-term strategy to expand the temple’s influence and accessibility beyond Spanish Fork to reach worldwide congregational members who will call the Utah Krishna temple home.

Charu’s approach to speaking the Krishna conscious philosophy is practical and down-to-earth: He uses PowerPoint presentations to persuade the audience of the applicability of Krishna’s teaching to daily life and its problems.

“Srila Prabhupada stressed that Krishna consciousness is natural and innate, and I’ve always been convinced we’ve got a wonderful product to offer,” said Charu. “Anyone who’s focused can do what we’ve done; it hasn’t been difficult. The successes are the fruit of not being distracted.”

Charu and Vaibhavi speak fondly of the “miracles” that they’ve seen Krishna perform in reciprocation with their determined efforts to carry on the sankirtana mission.

“We’ve never had our own bank account, and nothing belongs to us. Krishna maintains those who preach,” Charu remarked. “Devotees can go to a college town, set up a storefront with an apartment overhead, and hold programs in the evenings. Preaching is so satisfying. We’ve simply tried to be resolute in Krishna consciousness, as Krishna prescribes in the Bhagavad-gita.

Devotees who follow the example of this dedicated couple can be assured of receiving blessings, seeing miracles, and savoring the taste that comes with satisfying Srila Prabhupada and the previous acharyas.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nobody Knows How to Bring in Spring like..

This is a great video clip of the Holi fest, followed by one or two others.
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With flying colors at Holi celebration

buy this photo A young salesman takes advantage of unprepared festival goers as he sells surgical masks before the colors fly during the Festival of Colors in Spanish Fork Saturday, March 27, 2010. MARK JOHNSTON/Daily Herald

  • With flying colors at Holi celebration
  • With flying colors at Holi celebration
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Festivalgoers throw bags of colored chalk at the Festival of Colors at the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork on Saturday. "It seems to double every year," said Vai Warden, a manager at the Krishna Temple, once the festival was winding down. But she, like many others, was happy about the good behavior of visitors at the temple Saturday afternoon. "No crime, no vandalism, just a lot of mess at the end of the day. But we have volunteers to help clean up and it's amazing that you get back to normal in a few days," she said. Bags of the colored chalk, all made of organic, edible maize, littered the temple grounds as groups of brightly colored attendees made their way home at the end of the day. All of the 50,000 bags of color ordered by the temple were sold out for the two festivals that occurred at noon and 4 p.m. with hopes of thinning out the crowds. But of the thousands of attendees arriving for the first throwing of colors, many stuck around for the following party that was joined by plenty more cleanly dressed arrivals. "The crowd is so good. Everybody is here to blow off some steam after being cooped up in winter for so long," said band leader Jai Krishna Das, who led the chanting crowd from the stage. In that crowd, Matt Hogue, of Sandy, who has been on his own search for peace found the festival sparked an inner light. "I would recommend it to anyone, to come and listen to a little bit of music and try and find some peace," he said.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thousands celebrate Hari Krishna Color Festival

SPANISH FORK - Thousands of Utahns and visitors gathered to the Lotus Krishna Temple to celebrate the coming of Spring. People who attended the Holy Festival of Colors threw colored powder up in the air to welcome the new season. The festival celebrates the triumph of good over bad with music, chanting and dancing.

"It's a festival of love where people can come and love each other face to face and that's why it's so popular," said festival coordinator Charu Das.

The celebration gets bigger and bigger every year and this year was prepared for more parking and colors.

FOX 13's Candice Gale reports.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chalk will fly

Published: Friday, March 26, 2010 5:58 p.m. MDT

SPANISH FORK — Once a year the air in Spanish Fork fills with a cloud of colorful chalk, part of a celebration to welcome the spring. But the event has become so popular that this year the chalk will fly twice.

Last year an estimated 10,000 attended the Festival of Colors, making it the most popular event at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple. This year temple workers expect even more attendees. "Everyone who came last year will bring four or five friends," said Charu Das, the festival coordinator.

In preparation for the large crowds, the festival has been divided into two separate shows. On Saturday the festivities will take place at noon and again at 4 p.m. Both presentations will include a bonfire and throwing of chalk.

Five thousand years ago Krishna started the festival with his devotees as a way to welcome the spring. "It represents the beauty, colorfulness and fragrance of spring," said Das. Instead of flower petals, chalk is imported from India. The chalk is made out of cornstarch and scented like sandalwood.

"Last year we had 25,000 bags and sold out," said Das. "This year we have more than 50,000." Volunteers have been working for weeks to bag the chalk and prepare the temple for the event.

BYU student Carlie Bean is a volunteer at the temple, helping bag thousands of bags of chalk. "It's the biggest mess in the entire world," she said.

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Guests are encouraged to wear older clothing in case the dye stains. "It's supposed to wash out of your clothes, but my jeans are still stained," said Bean.

After an hour of music, dancing and entertainment, it is time to throw the chalk. The emcee counts down and the air fills with a thick cloud of colorful dust.

"It's really fun," said Meredith Merrill, a participant in last year's festival. "But it's sad because you run out of chalk so fast."

With so many people in attendance, the temple's parking lot fills quickly, and guests end up parking down the road and walking to the event. In order to ease the traffic and increase safety, festival workers have rented 2,000 extra parking stalls. Shuttles will run to the temple from the parking areas at Salem Hills High School, SF Sports Complex and the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds.

"We're encouraging everyone to park in the remote locations and use the shuttles," said Das. "We'd hate to have anyone injured on the way to this fun event."

The festival will take place on Saturday, March 27, at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, 311 W. 8500 South, Spanish Fork. For more information about the Festival of Colors, visit

Can you paint with all the Colors of the Wind?

BYU Daily Universe

Spring has more reasons to celebrate this year. There is more Indian powder. More music. More dance.

The largest Holi Festival of Colors celebration in the U.S. is anticipated to mushroom faster than the colored powder thrown in the air.

People will still resemble Skittle rainbows and find colored powder in every crease of their skin, but the Krishna Temple has a few new things to reveal.

Traditionally the Hindu and Buddhist holiday was celebrated with one celebration in Spanish Fork since its beginning 10 years ago. The celebration on March 27 will be twice as colorful with two celebrations, beginning at noon and 4 p.m., and an additional 25,000 bags of organic, colored powder imported from India.

“Last year was an ocean of people. This year it will be two oceans at two separate times,” said Caru Das, Holi Festival organizer. “The problem with one celebration was that it was so popular people took up to a couple hours to get to the festival from Provo and some arrived too late.”

It may be twice as colorful, but the parking will most definitely not be twice as sweet. With two shows and only 500 parking spots at the temple, event organizers and volunteers are attempting to alleviate the massive amount of traffic likely to clog Interstate 15 and Spanish Fork.

“Parking before has been difficult,” said Tyler Lloyd of Lindon, who has attended the past three years. “A lot of time it came down to being there early or getting lucky and finding a spot or else you end up way out in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately this year, there will be shuttles and other ways to get there to help overcome [the] parking issue.”

Event organizers have rented 2,000 parking spaces at the Spanish Fork Fairground and Sports Complex, in addition to parking at local Salem Hills and Landmark High Schools. Shuttle rides to and from the temple will be offered at these sites for $2 so event attendees can avoid the several mile walk which occurred in past years.

“We want to try to do everything we can that everyone has a reasonable commute time and place to park to get to the festival on time and enjoy it,” Das said.

In 2009, more than 10,000 people participated in the color throwing at the Holi Festival. More than 9,800 people have already RSVP’d on the festival’s Facebook event and 20,000 are expected to attend.

“I’ve seen lots of Indian movies this past year and I am absolutely fascinated by the culture, Holi being a big part of this fascination because of the colors and its focus on spring,” said sophomore Emily Walter from Virginia. “I didn’t get to go last year and this year I am determined to go!”
Musicians from across the country are being brought to Utah for this weekend’s celebration. With so many specialized musicians, festival organizers expect the chanting to be epic.
“This year we have a better band,” Das said. “There’s a saxophonist, trumpet, keyboard, bass guitar and three lead guitars. We are bringing in some lead singers in our movement from New York, California and India. The band should be very exciting this year. They’ll use modern rock instruments, but they chant the ancient Sanskrit.”

It is advised to arrive early to avoid the large amount of traffic anticipated. Color throwing will begin at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. after the drama and dance. For parking locations and instructions, visit

“Nowhere else in Utah can you get so many people together, have a huge color fight and end up with everyone having a great time,” Lloyd said.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kate's Escapades - Holi, Festival of Colors

Quick! When I say the words “Hare Krishna” what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you thought men with shaved heads and women with long wavy hair, chanting, wearing white robes, and selling flowers at the airport, you’d be echoing my first thoughts. (You’d also be aging yourself, but that’s entirely another subject for another day.) Read more...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Krishna temple hosts annual celebration of Holi

Provo Daily Herald March 20, 2010

buy this photo MARK JOHNSTON/Daily Herald Owen Busenbark, 3, of Provo, sits on his father Dawson's shoulders as they listen to a band play during the Festival of Colors at the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork Saturday, March 28, 2009.

It's a reliable sign of springtime in Utah Valley. Several thousand strangers come together to frolic and pelt each other with colored powders -- by the end of the day, participants often resemble the survivors of an explosion at a food coloring factory.

Holi, also called the Festival of Colors, has gotten so big at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork that, this year, they're holding it twice. You can show up on March 27 at either noon or 4 p.m. to participate in the most boisterous spring fling free-for-all in Utah County.

Pitching powders, which the temple provides at a cost of $2/bag, or $5 for three bags -- colored powders from outside sources are prohibited -- is only part of the fun during the festival. There will also be food, live music, dancing, a bonfire and the burning of an effigy of Holika, the Hindu demoness who gave the festival its name.

There are fees for food and the shuttle from parking areas at the Festival of Colors, but there's no charge for admission. Volunteers are needed to serve a variety of functions -- send an e-mail to if you'd like to help out. In exchange for pitching in for a couple of hours, you can have either a free meal or festival T-shirt.

If you go to Holi

When: March 27 at noon and 4 p.m..

Where: Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, 8628 S. State Road, Spanish Fork

Cost: Free and open to the public; plan to pay for food, festival shuttle from parking areas and colored powders

Info: (801) 798-3559,

Parking: Plan to park at Salem Hills High School, Spanish Fork Fairgrounds or Spanish Fork Sports Complex; check for information about access to parking areas.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Voice of America to Film Holi

The below is a follow up email to a phone conversation Caru had with a staff member at Voice of America in Washington, DC.

Dear Caru,

voaIt was good to talk with you this morning. As we discussed over the phone, Voice of America's Mandarin branch is planning on doing a 5-7 minute feature story on the March 27 Holi Fesitval. The story will also include background about Krishna.

A journalist will be coming to the Festival from Washington, DC and filming it. On the day after the festival, He is seeking to conduct interviews with leaders, musicians, and disciples who could add insight to the previous day's proceedings and to the Krishas in Utah, in general. Parts of these interviews will be included in the 5-7 minute feature story.

By way of background, the Voice of America is the US's non-commercial international network, currently broadcasting in 44 languages by radio, TV and Internet to a global audience of over 100 million abroad.

The Mandarin Chinese service (VOA's largest foreign language service) produces a weekly primetime feature program, "Cultural Odyssey," which airs by satellite TV and Internet to about 30 million viewers in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and Singapore. The 5-10 minute feature stories included in this Chinese-language program are often picked up by other services and aired in other languages, as well. Cultural Odyssey will be the show that broadcasts the feature on the Holi Festival.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The BAND for Holi

Chanting the Maha Mantra is the most important feature of the Holi Festival here in Spanish Fork. After the bonfire is lit, the Holika effigy begins to burn, and the colors go up, thousands of people are full of good cheer and excitement. Someone said, "The colors only last two minutes, but it's the best two minutes of your life!" Channeling al that energy is the service of Krishna's mantra rock band. Last year the festival goers danced for hours after the throwing of the colors, and this year we are going to do it twice.

Thus we've arranged for several of the very best kirtan leaders from North America to be on hand to lead the chanting.

There is our own Jai Krishna from Orem, who is a local veteran.

Just off an Indian tour where he played before 45,000 people in the Punjab, the famous lead guitarist & vocalist TK (Titiksava Karunika ) will fly in from San Diego. You can hear the samples of his many albums by visiting

Govinda Dhatta will fly in from Los Angeles. He is Los Angeles' most dynamic kirtan leader & for years led the kirtan in front of the main cart at the Los Angeles Rathayatra festival on Venice Beach. He picks up a little extra change by occasionally playing guitar for "The Fifth Dimensions" He kindly came last year and led explosive kirtans.

Nam Ras will fly in from New York. Nam Ras is new generation Indian descent, just graduated from University and working as a brahmachari at 26 Second Avenue. Caru saw him lead kirtan in North Carolina at a Pandava Sena retreat & resolved on the spot to bring him.

Gangamatri Das, another vocalist and musician who has an album to his credit, is flying in from Minneapolis.

Local musicians who have kindly agreed to form the band are, Curt Gordon, lead guitar, Troy Peery, bass guitar, Josh Francis, keyboards & trumpet, Zack Perry, drums, RB Graves percusssion, & Dan Nelson saxaphone. Jack Arnott of asssistance Audio is doing the sound.

Everyone is flying in early enough to rehearse the night before the festival at 7 pm in the log ashram building

Crowd__Temple_HoliThere is no doubt the chanting this year will be EPIC. If you are coming to the festival bring your dancing shoes and singing voices & PLAN TO LEAVE EVERY OUNCE OF ENERGY ON THE FIELD!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Salem City Opening Prayer

Last evening Caru was asked to give an invocation on "Peace" before the Salem City Council meeting. Normally these are pretty ill attended affairs, yet when he arrived at 6:45 pm there were lots of cars parked around the block and the council chambers were packed with perhaps 175 people. The issue was a proposed gym opening which would allow "Ultimate Combat" or "Mixed Martial Arts" training.

To start the meeting Mayor Green called Caru up to the podium where He gave a peace invocation. Then open mike comments were allowed for 1/2 hour on the topic. Most people were opposed to any sort of Ultimate Fighting Training, and spoke in favor of a Council Ordinance banning it. Some were in favor, saying that the training is so rigorous only good sports and athletes who are free of vices can stand up to the rigor. Opponents said that the athletes might be ideal in many ways, but the kind of spectators and onlookers may tend to the unsavory.

Salem is called "The City of Peace."