BYU students Lauren Crowley and Kirsten Van Dam walked by llama pens at the 35th annual India Fest as “dub-mantra” music played in the background and hundreds of visitors roamed the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple grounds in Spanish Fork.
“It’s kinda cool that they have animals on the grounds,” Van Dam said. “I also just enjoy seeing that everyone’s supporting this event and that people are having fun.”
Van Dam’s observation of the event fit the festival’s main goal of bringing people together, regardless of their backgrounds, to enjoy a night experiencing the Indian culture.
“We wanted people to get exposure to the culture of India without taking a month off and flying to India,” Charu Das, the festival organizer, said.
The evening was full of performances by dance and music groups from all over the world, and the night ended with the telling of the Drama of Ramayana, which ends with the burning of a 20-foot high depiction of the story’s antagonist, Ravana.
As followers of the Bhakti tradition — which focuses on devotion — holding festivals and events is a large part of what they do at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Das explained.
“We do festivals and organize programs where people can learn more about not just the Indian culture, but we like to think of it as the culture of the soul,” he said. “We use the festival as a launching pad for celebrating the soul through dance, drama, cuisine, art, music, etc.”
While some visitors waited in line for food or sat on the grassy hill watching performers, many took the opportunity to explore the temple and learn about the beliefs and practices of those who worship there.
“I think the coolest part was when we went upstairs where they have their main worship services,” Jesús Vasquez, a BYU student from Mexico, said. “I think that sometimes we are so focused on one thing, what we believe or what we are surrounded with, so I think it’s important that we can experience something different.”
For many visitors like Van Dam and Vasquez, the India Fest was more than just a fun Saturday night — it was an opportunity to learn more about Indian culture.
“I think sometimes we think the world is one way, and we’re just in our own circle,” Van Dam said. “It’s nice to see different things that other cultures have to offer.”