People from all over Utah, across state lines, even international borders, came to Spanish Fork, Utah on Saturday, Mar. 27. Situated on the edge of Spanish Fork, beside open land spotted with cattle, sitting atop a steep, rolling green hill was the Krishna Temple. Elevated on a 15 acre plot, standing 50 feet high with a 25′ diameter main dome, 12 surrounding domes, 108 arches and columns, sculptures and murals, the temple is a sight to see. It’s especially impressive when carpeting the surrounding grounds, the upper tier of the temple, every staircase, all around the fountain, flooding the amphitheater, spilling into the parking lot with some still marching there, were thousands of people, pouring in to gather round, toss powdered colors and celebrate Holi.
Holi, The Festival of Colors, is a traditional Indian holiday that marks the burning of an evil Hindu demoness named Holika thousands of years ago.
Spanish Fork houses the biggest Holi celebration in the U.S. where people from California, Nevada, Texas even the U.K. and China came to celebrate. Though it’s open to all and requires no admission fee, the chalk, your ammunition, is $5 for three packs. Food and souvenirs are also not free. However, nothing is pricey and the memories are priceless.
People of all nationalities, creeds and religions came to join the festival. There were two celebrations, one at noon and one at 4:00 p.m. with the temple boasting dance, mantra, cuisine, music and a bonfire. With a crowd of over 10,000 last year, the national following, especially among young college students, festival coordinators and church members wanted to kick things up a notch. They decided to upgrade everything, provide more parking and especially more colors. For, Holi, The Festival of Colors is like the name sounds, a festival of lots and lots of colors.
This year, the number of excited, eager Holi goers doubled, with a crowd of 20,000.
Event coordinator and temple priest, Caru Das, said everything went better than planned. Spreading the event into two was very effective as well as providing more parking which cut down on traffic. Though, understandably, there was quite a bit of congestion.
During some points of the festival, there was some very real congestion that had nothing to do with traffic. Even if you try to avoid it, it’s almost impossible not to get some chalk in your sinuses. At times, it was impossible to see through the haze of chalk being tossed into the air. Other times, out of nowhere, you’d be pelted by a flash of bright blue or magenta. Sometimes, you’d wade through the crowd and come out painted without ever knowing how or what hit you. No one comes out unscathed. People with the cleanest shirts are attacked with the most ferocity.
“Thank you for forcing me to come; I’m having a blast,” Kevin Fivas said to his friend while taking a break from the action.
As Fivas’ friend Dustin Ominski of Magna said, it was a beautiful day, no one was at work. He didn’t think anyone had room to complain.
On one of the outdoor stages, a band played away, shredding guitars, beat on the drum set and chanted mantras while the crowd of thousands followed. Unlike hymns, mantras are just the names of Gods. However, like saying “Our Father who art in Heaven,” repeating a name, like Hare Krishna derives power in just vocalizing it. Saying the name makes for a more intense experience. The crowd called the names in order by heart, jumping up and down to the beat, dancing and even hosting people up to surf along the crowd.
Not one person left without feeling energized, happy and covered head to toe in colors.
Faces were blotted out to become indistinguishable painted masks. Most people wore their splotches of rainbow streaks proudly like battle scars and badges of honor. Most clothes turned the same non-descript russet orange/brown/red mix from the constant assault of powder. Hair was turned tie-dye and people blew out purple into tissues. Getting pegged in the face is almost impossible. Just breathing meant bringing in a rush of dust and powder, sometimes clogging the sinuses and temporarily blinding people.
However, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t vow they’d recommend this to anyone and everyone. Everyone pledged to come again next year and be ready, armed and waiting.
With the friendly atmosphere, the playful attitude, the delicious smell of samosas and food, the thrumming drums, chanting and bright, vivid colors, Holi is not an event to miss.
“We all arrive different people,” Ominski admitted with a smile, “but we leave the same. We’re all colored up and ugly.”
For more information on Holi as well as other events hosted at the Krishna Temple, visit utahkrishnas.org.