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Thousands Gather for Annual Holi Festival

by Caleb Warnock, DAILY HERALD

Posted April 1, 2007


Three thousand people descended on rural Spanish Fork on Saturday afternoon for dancing, a vegetarian buffet, bonfire and ritual witch burning capped with a colored powder fight, chanting, singing and moshing.

The annual Holi festival of colors at the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork is growing exponentially. The event drew a thousand people more than last year. Some people had to park more than a half-mile away and walk to the temple because so many cars were lined up.

Holi celebrates the ancient story of Holika, a demoness who, immune to fire, burned scores of children before trying to burn a child named Prahlad. When Prahlad prayed to Lord Vishnu, Holika was burned instead. The festival commemorates that victory, according to organizers.

The height of Saturday's festival came when a 10-foot bonfire was lit to burn the papier-mâché Holika. At that signal, all three thousand guests open bags of brightly colored power to throw at each other. A cloud of powder filled the air and the crowd, temple and bonfire disappeared in a fog of green, blue, orange, red and yellow. A live band played as color-coated festival goers moshed and body surfed around the fire.

Organizers sold 5,000 bags of the powder for $1 each this year, 2,000 more bags than last year. Caru Das, temple priest and festival organizer, said the temple could have sold 10,000 bags but ran out of time and energy to make more. The powder was sold out well before the ritual began and hundreds of people went without powder.

Rachel Christensen, a BYU sophomore from Kuna, Idaho , said this was her second year at the festival. She came with a group of ten friends, all of whom were quickly covered with colored powder.

"I love the dancing and the entertainment and the people here," she said. "And why not get dirty once in a while?"

Das has called the festival "a symbol of the warmth of spring banishing winter."

Before the bonfire was lit, festival-goers crowded into the top floor of the temple to witness religious ceremonies and receive a blessing and red dot on their forehead. Beginning at 4 p.m. dozens of people were in line at all times for the vegetarian buffet, which finally ran out of food just before 9 p.m.


Fifteen members of the Journey Impact Ranch, a work program for Utah juveniles in trouble with the law, helped keep the buffet flowing for hours. Their supervisor, Lucas Kane, said the program has brought youth to volunteer at the temple at least once a week for the past three years as a way of helping the teens work off court-ordered community service.

"This gives them an opportunity to see new things while they work here, and work with animals," Kane said, noting the youth also help care for the temple's herd of llamas.

The Krishna Temple, 8628 S. State Street, Spanish Fork, is open daily for free tours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For information on Holi or future festivals, Krishna radio, the gift shop or vegetarian restaurant, visit www.utahkrishnas.com or call 798-3559.

Caleb Warnock can be reached at 443-3263 or cwarnock@heraldextra.com.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page B1.

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