for Waikato Times on Sept. 11, 2010
Sruti Cari, who operates Hamilton’s Krishna House with her husband Muni.
The front room at Hamilton's Krishna House does not look particularly festive.
It's clean and tidy, but sparse with only a lounge suite, bookshelves, small stereo, a poster of the group's mantra and pictures of Indian-born Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on the wall.
Prabhupada, founder of modern Hare Krishna through formation of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), looks austere in the fading photographs, clad in orange and surrounded by flowers.
The waft of incense drifts through the house, owned by Hare Krishna priests Muni and Sruti Cari, who this week headed to Wellington to celebrate two of the most important dates on the faith's calendar: Thursday was what Krishnas jokingly describe as "Hare Christmas", the celebration of the "appearance" of Krishna, their God, approximately 5000 years ago in north India. Yesterday, Krishnas around the world observed the birth of Prabhupada in Calcutta in 1896.
Joining the Caris - Adam and Elizabeth Saunders, to use their birth names - is Abhay Charan (Alan Hodgson), who doesn't fit the stereotyped Hare Krishna image.
The Paeroa-born 56-year-old has a healthy head of hair, unlike Muni, who sports the familiar Krishna shaven head, with small tuft of hair or "Shikha" at the back.
Sruti, wearing a headscarf and dark robes, is a qualified computer engineer and Muni a qualified arborist, "but you wouldn't know it now," Muni says.
For his day job, as a fraud investigation manager for the Social Development Ministry, Charan wears a suit and tie. He's also a justice of the peace and registered marriage celebrant.
It will be a draining week for the three devotees, particularly Charan, considered the spiritual leader of Hamilton's 16 initiated Hare Krishna. Thursday's festivities at Hamilton's Radha Krishna temple on Maui St began at 7pm, and most devotees fast till then. A feast after midnight fed an estimated 300 attendees.
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