on Nov. 29, 2007
Almost 100 people gathered in the ballroom at the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Salt Lake City to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. Caru Dasa of Spanish Fork temple in Utah joined dignitaries and friends to celebrate the festival with the Governor and his wife Mary Kaye. Talks and puja were followed by a vegetarian dinner.
The first Diwali festival at the mansion in 2005, attended by 40 people, was held in the downstairs lobby. At that time everyone crowded into a small area and made do with an improvised puja. From those humble beginnings the event has become an established tradition.
The Governor gave the first speech describing his recent trip to India with a group of business representatives from Utah and mentioning how much he enjoyed the trip. The smell of the vegetarian dinner being prepared made him feel nostalgic and took his mind back to India..
Caru Dasa spoke about the Diwali festival. "At Diwali we celebrate the superior power of light," he said. "As light very easily banishes darkness, though he was a big and powerful demon, Rama easily vanquished Ravana," Caru Dasa said. "No one in the history of the world was more righteous than Lord Rama, he triumphed in such a grand way that we celebrate it tens of thousands of years later."
Caru Dasa explained how Rama and his wife Sita are the ideal of a perfect man and a perfect woman. "Their truth under trials and temptations, their endurance under privations, and their devotion to duty under all vicissitudes of fortune, form the ideal of a Perfect Life," he said. "In this respect the Ramayana gives us a true picture of faith and righteous life.”
Caru Dasa and Satish, the priest from a Ganesha temple in Salt Lake City, collaborated to perform puja. "We set an altar in the upstairs dining room with Deities Ganesh and Lakshmi," Caru Dasa said. "I provided a commentary and Satish expertly chanted much of the Sanskrit," he said.
Afterwards Utah's First Lady, Mary Kaye participated in offering 16 items of worship to Lakshmi. Caru Dasa translated the Sri Suktam aloud for all the dinner guests while Satish was chanting it in Sanskrit. Finally, garlands were removed from the altar and placed around the necks of Governor Huntsman and Mary Kaye.
"I anointed the foreheads of Governor Huntsman and other guests and we performed the ceremonial lighting of the lamps." Caru said. "We did Shoda Sadupachara, or the 16 offerings to Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, who is none other than Sita, Rama's consort." "The ladies offered flowers a number of times to the chanting of 'Mantra Pushpam'."
The annual Diwali festival is sponsored by Dinesh Patel, a local businessman and Salt Lake City resident. Dinesh has also secured sponsorships from festivals celebrated at the Spanish Fork Temple, Sri Sri Radha Krishna.
Governor Huntsman and Mary Kaye have adopted a one and a half year old girl, an orphan from Gujurat, India. They have renamed her Asha (Hope) Bharati (India). They wanted to bring her to the celebration to show her off but it was past her bed time.