By Kristin Kunz
The Festival of Lights, the largest festival in India, filled the Hare Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork on Saturday, Oct. 25, with many celebrators.
“The India Fest is the biggest event at this temple, but as far as traditional festivals are concerned, Diwali is India”s biggest festival, like what Christmas is to the Western world,” said Rajeeb Danank, a visitor from Orem.
The celebration is cultural, historical and religious. One small part of the celebration for the people of India is the beginning of a new financial year, Danank said.
Two festivals were combined into one evening. They celebrate two incarnations of god that occurred separately, but are celebrated right after each other, he said.
The festival started in an ancient time with the incarnation of the god, Ram. He killed demons in the forest during fourteen years of exile from the Capital where he lived, and later returned to join his family. The Festival of Lights began in order to welcome his return, Danank said.
“People light lamps in their homes,” he said.
Visitors at this year”s festival were given candles to bring to an altar, in celebration of Ram”s return.
When he comes back home, it is a moonless night, so all the people in the city want to light up the city so it is lighted,” said Neha Rungta, a BYU student majoring in computer science.
Rungta, who grew up in India but now lives with her family in Spanish Fork, said four days are traditionally celebrated.
The Anna Kut, or second day of Diwali celebrates the visit of the god Krishna who used his time to educate people how to worship and changed their form of worship. During his visit, Krishna lifted a hill in India called Govardhan, which still exists in India today. A hill of sweets was recreated Saturday to represent Govardhan and the sweets were later distributed, Danank said.
“Anna Kut commemorates the god?s pastime in lifting that particular hill,” he said.
Food, traditional dances, religious ceremonies, drama and folk dancing also made up the evenings celebrations.
Wood, incense and grains were put into a fire as an offering to god during one ceremony, Danank said.
A cow was brought into the temple for another ceremony involving children dipping their hands in red paint and marking the hide of the cow. This is done to honor the cow, an animal considered to be very useful and not something to be slaughtered. This was explained during the ceremony.
Dancers came from L.A. to perform. Their fingertips had red paint on them to accentuate the expressive hand gestures, said Alia Bartlett, a dancer from California.
“Some of the dances are pure dances that don”t have any meaning necessarily, where it is just rhythm, where some are completely 100 percent devotion to god or stories of god,” Bartlett said. “Usually they are a mix of some dances and some devotion.”