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In the News:
Hare Krishna Wedding Ceremony Attracts Hundreds

by TIM HUSSIN, Alligator Contributing Writer

Posted October 25, 2005

WEDDING FEAST WELCOMED ALL TO WATCH AND PARTICIPATE IN KRISHNA TRADITION

Dousing the fire with purified butter, a priest chanted in Sanskrit as the oils fueled the celestial flame.

The fluid motion of the priest's arms implored the lord to watch over this most popular ceremony of the Hare Krishna religion - a wedding.

Friends and family, as well as devoted Krishna lunch patrons and two religion classes, helped celebrate the wedding of Andy Hunter and Meryl Strauss on Friday on the Plaza of the Americas.

A special feast in the wedding party's honor, including fried vegetables, cheesecake and a variety of other dishes, attracted 634 people to the cultural event.

After being legally married, Hunter, 24, a Hare Krishna follower, and Strauss, 20, president of Bhakti Yoga Club and UF student, participated in the ancient ceremony for the annual festival put on by the Hare Krishnas.

The bride and groom were showered with flower petals as they ascended steps leading to a stage covered with hanging garlands and white cloth. They took a seat behind an arrangement of bricks surrounded with fruit and incense - where the fire would be lit - to begin the ceremony.

"This ancient ceremony being performed here is a sacred act that is available for human beings," said Rtadhvaja Swami, director of the Hare Krishna Student Center.

The ceremony, based on 5,000 years of tradition, began with welcoming the Lord into brass pots and lighting the fire, inviting the presence of God to witness the rest of the wedding and ensure a long married life for the couple.

Vedasara Das, director of the Krishna lunch program at Georgia Tech and the priest who performed the wedding, spent 20 years of his youth at a school in western India to learn the philosophy and procedure of ceremonies in the Hare Krishna tradition.

Throughout the wedding, he sprinkled grains, black and white sesame seeds, barley and purified butter onto the fire.

"They signify auspicious grains that are accepted by the gods," Vedasara said.

Savyasaci Das, director of UF's Krishna lunch program, said the university was very cooperative during the five weeks it took to get the fire and festival approved by officials.

"It's not a barbecue or a bonfire," Savyasaci said. "It's a ceremonial fire in a contained area."

Savyasaci said the ceremony typically lasts for three days in India, but for timing purposes, they shortened it to lunchtime so it would be open to the university.

Chris Kovachev, a junior English major who attends Krishna lunch five days a week, said Hunter and Strauss' wedding in the plaza was a fitting way to celebrate their marriage.

"They spend so much time at the university that it's only fitting that they crown their relationship here," he said.

The Bhakti Yoga Club and the families of the bride and groom funded the wedding.

"That's what student clubs are for - to provide venues for students to have different cultural and ethnic experiences," Swami said. "Most of these students have never seen an ancient ceremony like this."

Mirna Amaya, a senior pre-med student, said the wedding was beautiful.

"For those of us that don't know much about the religion, I think it was a very nice cultural experience," she said.

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