Chakra Announcements

Utah stages spectacular Gita Yajna

by Caru das

Posted December 18, 2003

Devotees at the Spanish Forks, Utah ISKCON temple subtitled this year's Gita Fest "The Projector Fest," as a new projector was employed almost continuously for the duration of the three-hour festival.

From the first half hour, as people were arriving, we showed Vrndavan, Land of Krishna. The image took up the whole 9 X 12-foot (3m X 4m) screen in sharp, vivid color.

Next, I introduced and explained the concept of Gita Yajna, a sacrifice whereby 108 offerings were placed on the fire, one for each of the 108 key verses in the Bhagavad-gita. I asked Shree Sharma, Yogi Shah, and Dinesh and Kalpana Patel to be the yajamanas.

Our process was for me to chant each of the verses from memory, then say svaha, while the yajamanas put the samagri (special blend of herbs) onto the fire. Simultaneously, each verse would appear in English on the big screen. Rajeev would use the remote control to move from one verse to the next, and then he would say the English.

Meanwhile, Jai Krishna was playing the harmonium and leading a kirtan with a half dozen devotees. Rajeev and I were microphoned so everyone could hear (and see) the verses, above the sound of the chanting. The effect was so powerful that during the half hour I don't think one person left the crowded temple room. Later, all the devotees and many guests said it was an incredibly powerful sacrifice.

Neither did anyone leave the temple room when we announced the comedy Scholar and the Boatman. We've done a different version of this comedy before. This time, however, we opted for Parivdha's production from England. It is shorter and has excellent sound effects. Siddhartha played the role of the Boatman and Jai Krishna played the Scholar.

I was working the slides from the rear of the screen and didn't see the actors. Yet it was easy to tell the audience loved the comedy as they laughed every time they were supposed to, and even some times when they weren't. At the punch line, when Siddhartha said -- actually, lip-synched -- "Oh, you don't know how to swim? Then you've wasted 100 per cent of your life," they roared.

As Nitya Trpta prabhu had suggested, we used the CD-ROM interactive program on the Bhagavad-gita for the next item. It is very well done. A good crowd of fifty or so watched it til the very end (about 50 minutes) while others gradually drifted downstairs to buy dinner or gifts in the store.

Lastly, Jai Krishna led one of the best arotik kirtans ever. He played the drum, chanted and danced so expertly that people were either dancing along right with him, or just looking on in amazement.

I saw Kalpana and Dinesh Patel with big smiles and Kalpana dancing with her hands raised in the air. Kalpana and Dinesh are by far our biggest sponsors, having given over $100,000. Dinesh is a friend of former Governor Mike Leavitt and Senator Orrin Hatch, and is connected to most of the powerful men in the State. On any given Saturday he and Kalpana have social invitations from several of these people, and yet they either pass them up in order to come to the temple, or go to the event later on in the evening.

The crowd was substantial and profits were good. It wasn't the size of crowd we're used to getting for some of our more popular events, but considering it was a festival the name of which most members of the public couldn't recognize or even pronounce, the results were very gratifying -- quality over quantity. Because of all the serious inquires and discussions sparked by the festival, devotees didn't get to bed until near midnight.