Chakra Announcements

Diwali At Governor's Mansion

by Caru Das

Posted November 10, 2005

Last night Utah history was made with the first Diwali celebration in the Governor's mansion.

Expertly organized by Bhaskar and Sanchaita and their company (Fat Pipe software) employees (Tannen and Ali) and with the indispensable support of Dr. Dinesh Patel, some of the luminaries who attended were: The ambassador of India Ronen Sen and his wife Kalpana, Governor Jon Huntsman and Mary Kay, Gary Herbert (Lieutenant Governor) John Price (former US Ambassador to Mauritius), Peter Corron (mayor of Salt Lake County), City Prosecutor Surjit Gil and his parents, Lalit and Bobby Kumar, Ranjan, Deepa and Isa Gupta, Dr. Subbarao and Satyavati, Arjun and Harrinder Bacchus, Ashok and Surekha Joshi, Joe and Panna Gott, and Kalpana Patel (Dinesh was sorely missed, being out of town). Sanchaita had lamented to me earlier on the phone the guest list could not have been bigger because of lack of space and security reasons.

The first Lady, Mary Kay, looked very elegant in a pink sari. She confided to Vaibhavi that she is thinking of wearing a sari at the Governor's Ball in the White House.

After some initial socializing in the lobby, Caru Das called everyone's attention to the improvised altar with Ganeshji and Lakshmi. (Governor Huntsman had to be fetched from the kitchen, where he was helping to cook the gulabjamans!) Caru explained the Ashta Lakshmi, the eight aspects of Lakshmi, goddess of fortune. There is Adi Lakshmi, who is primeval and resides eternally in Vaikuntha with Narayana. Dhanya Lakshmi gives health from nutritional food grains. Dhairya Lakshmi bestows courage and bravery. Gaja Lakshmi appeared from the ocean of milk, is associated with Ganesh and removes obstacles. Santan Lakshmi benedicts with the treasure of healthy children. Vijaya Lakshmi brings victory to all undertakings, including the victory over the lower self by the higher self. Dhana Laksmi gives money. Vidya Lakshmi blesses her devotees with knowledge and fine discrimination.

Caru mentioned that this last quality, of refined discretion, is inherited by most Indians from thousands of years of spiritual culture, and its acknowledgment on the part of Governor Huntsman accents his own highly evolved spirituality and augurs auspicity for the future of Utah.

Bhaskar welcomed everybody, wished all the bounties of fortune, and ceded to the Governor. Jon Huntsman said that perhaps not since Teddy Roosevelt has such a distinguished guest as Indian ambassador Sen visited the Mansion. He said that in all three of his own foreign postings (including Ambassador to Singapore) he has increasingly come to love Indian culture and cuisine. He even named some of his favorite Indian entrees. He mentioned how much he had enjoyed his visit to the temple in Spanish Fork. He concluded by asserting, to great applause, that though this is the first officially celebrated Diwali it will not by any means be the last.

Ambassador Sen explained that Diwali means "row of lights." As light dissipates darkness, it represents the triumph of good over evil. We must resist darkness and ignorance by allowing the light from within to brightly shine.

Since a costly fire in the mansion during the previous administration, open flames of any sort have been strictly prohibited. Caru asked Lalit Kumar, whom he considers wise and practical, how to go about doing a puja without being able to light a stick of incense or a deepa, lamp. Lalit said, "Ask forgiveness." Normally the prayascitta, or mantra of atonement, is spoken thus: Om mantra hinam kriya hinam bhakti hinam janaradhanam yat pujitam maya deva paripurnam tad astu me. It asks that the Lord forgive omissions, or "hinams" in the puja. Thus was added another line " *dupa hinam deepa hinam*" to also ask forgiveness for the omissions of incense and lamps.

An electric deepa purchased in Tirupati was plugged in by one of the female staff members to start the puja. While Caru Das rang the bell, and chanted Sri Sukta, one by one the principals, Governor Huntsman, Mary Kay, Ambassador Sen, his wife, Bhaskar, and Kalpana came forward to be anointed with tika on the forehead and to offer Laksmi a flower (pushpa) and akshata (red rice). Each was asked to make a wish for our betterment as individuals and as a nation.

To end the puja, fifty participants chanted responsively Shanti mantras for peace.

Afterwards, on the third floor, an elabroate vegetarian buffet was enjoyed by all amidst beautiful table decorations.

It was a memorable and historic evening. Thanks again to the organizers, Sanchaita and Bhaskar, Ali and Tannen, Dinesh and Kalpana Patel, to the Governor and first lady and Lieutenant Governor for hosting, and to all the distinguished guests.