Spanish Fork India Fest



Thousands of years ago in India a man named Rama was king. He was the most virtuous man in the land, the perfect symbol of mortality. His wife, Sita, was equally beautiful and virtuous.

They are part of the Ramayana, the story of good versus evil that is the highlight of the Festival of India today at the Hare Krishna temple in Spanish Fork.

The story says that one day an evil giant, Ravana, kidnapped Sita and took her to an island, now known as Sri Lanka. Rama, who had been exiled to the forest, could not send his army to save his wife. So he allied with the monkey nation who lived in the forest, who then made a bridge out of rocks that floated when the monkeys wrote Rama's name on them. Rama and the monkeys fought Ravana for 10 days before Ravana was killed.

"It's more than just entertainment," temple vice present Caru Das said. "It's an affair of the heart, really."

The festival is in its 19th year in Spanish Fork and will include plenty of activities to supplement the performance of the Ramayana. Classical Indian dance troupes will perform and several little dramas will prepare the audience for the main event. The New Age group Shantala will perform an Indian chanting call and response program. Indian food of all types will be available for the adventurous.

But the Ramayana is the main event. Das said the story has a connection to each person who sees it, particularly the end, when good triumphs over evil, and evil, in the form of an effigy of Ravana, is destroyed by flaming arrows and fireworks.

"One of the reasons it's so popular is that all of us are part Rama and part Ravana, and when people come together in the thousands all over the world, they celebrate the Rama part and try to get rid of the Ravana part in their own hearts," he said. "During the burning of Ravana, we always instruct people to imagine you're destroying those parts of Ravana that exist within our own hearts."

This story has been reproduced in art, architecture, music and literature thousands of times throughout Asia, where it is the most well-known, Das said. It is picking up in popularity elsewhere, though, and he is anticipating between 4,000 and 5,000 people at the temple Saturday, many of them returnees.

"A lot of people in the audience, they know the lines," he said. "They can say the lines right along with the actors."

The temple also will be accepting donations for Food for Life Global, an organization sending meals to Hurricane Katrina victims. They have received about $800 so far, and Das said the temple will match the amount of money received through today and donate it.


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