Annual India Fest attracts thousands of Utahns

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This is where the caption goes. Photo by Taylor Hintz
The pageant climaxes with the burning of a 20-foot-tall wooden man, a 10-headed demon named Ravana.
(Photo by Taylor Hintz)

The Krishna Lotus Temple in Spanish Fork hosted its annual India Fest, a celebration of the Ramayana pageant with Indian food, music, singing and dancing Sept. 28.

The festival has attracted 2,000 to 3,000 spectators for the last several years and has been held annually for the last 27 years. Its centerpiece is the Ramayana pageant, a scriptural story of “good over evil” that culminates in the burning of a 20-foot-tall demon.

“We call it the original burning man,” said Charu Das, the festival coordinator. Rama, the pageant’s hero, shoots a flaming arrow at the demon, a 10-headed giant named Ravana, while the audience cheers on a spectacle of fireworks and flame that celebrate the demon’s demise.

The festival’s large turnout includes many non-Indians who come just to experience the Indian celebration.

“Even if every Indian in Salt Lake came, we would still be a minority at the festival,” Das said. Das mentioned that the festival is non-discriminatory and open to everyone, and many of the visitors are BYU students.

Many visitors came to the festival to enjoy more than the Ramayana pageant, the last hour of a four-hour-long celebration. Henna tattoos were a favorite among children, who asked for scorpions and flowers to temporarily adorn their hands and arms.

“Usually these last seven or eight years has been very very crowded,” said Priya Neema, a henna tattoo artist who regularly sets up a tattoo booth at the festival.

Charlotte Turner came from Lehi with her friend because an advertisement for the event said, “You can go to India” by going to the festival and spending only $3 for parking.

“We really like architecture,” Turner said, with a large camera strapped around her neck. “We love how ornate it is — most buildings are just cookie-cutter designs.” The all-white Lotus Temple has several hand-crafted and intricate domes and spires.

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