SPANISH FORK — Llamas are native to lands far from where Hinduism originated, but in these docile creatures, Charu Das sees an exemplary adherence to one of the main tenants of his faith: tolerance.
"There's only so much you can do about your environment," said Das, 61, who manages the Hare Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork. "We can't make it dark at noon, we can't make it light at midnight. ... Our response should not always be to control nature. It's better to learn to tolerate, just like animals."
For the thousands of other Utahns in attendance at at the Hare Krishna Temple on Saturday, the 14th annual Llama Fest was an opportunity to intermingle with the peaceable, stoic animals that help raise enough funds to build the temple. Several decades ago, Das said, they held fundraising events, selling llamas for as much as $6,000.
Since construction on the temple completed, the temple staff kept llamas around for people to enjoy, Das said. The annual Llama Fest is one of eight festivals held during the year at the Krishna Temple. While other events such as Festival of Lights and Festival of Colors hold religious meaning, Das said Llama Fest is just an opportunity for local residents to come out to the temple for a day of fun interacting with animals.
This year's Llama Fest featured a myriad of llama competitions, including show events, obstacle courses and races, but the event also spotlighted various groups performing music, chants and dances.
Llamas make excellent pack animals, Das said. They typically lease their llamas to 30 scout troops who take them on hikes over the summer. Unlike horses, they don't spook very easily and are typically peaceful and stoic.
"They can be on the verge of death, and they'll never complain," Das said.
While Llama Fest is admittedly a secular activity, Das said he does have an anterior motive — albeit quite innocuous.
"We want people to have an experience with animals and see they're living beings too," he said.