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Utah Governor Hosts ISKCON Leader for Diwali

By: for The Salt Lake Tribune on Nov. 9, 2008
Photo Credits: Scott Sommerdorf

Utah Governor's wife Mary Kay Huntsman holds young Asha Huntsman as the Lakshmi Puja ceremony for the Diwali festival is chanted in the Governor's Mansion, Friday 11/7/08. Priest Charu Dasa is at right.

The smells of paneer pakora and stuffed okra filled the Governor's Mansion on Friday night as Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. invited many from Utah's Indian community to celebrate Diwali with himself and his family.

Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is a celebration of the victory of good over evil in people, and is recognized by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists worldwide.

"In Hinduism, there is something beyond the physical body," Huntsman told the crowd of about 125 seated around tables in the mansion's ballroom. "Just as we celebrate the birth of the body, tonight, we celebrate the inner goodness of humanity."

This is the fourth year Huntsman has held a Diwali celebration in the mansion. Two years ago, the Huntsmans adopted a daughter, Asha, from India. He told the crowd gathered that he was proud to welcome the Indian community into the "house of the people."

"It's our diversity, which is increasingly being recognized by the rest of the world, here in Utah that adds to our state's strength," he said.

For Anima Varma, who lives in Ogden, the event was recognition of her cultural community.

"This sets a very good example for our community, and it helps young kids get interested in participating," she said. "It makes us feel, as minorities, that we belong in the community." she said.

 

Caru Das, a priest at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, chanted part of the ritual blessing for the goddess Lakshmi and translated religious verses into English. He also led the group in a chant of "Om shanti," which is meant to bring peace to the chanters.

The traditional open flame used in the ceremony wasn't allowed in the mansion, so a light was used in its place. After the light was plugged in, the guests ate an Indochinese mix of foods ranging from vegetable balls Manchurian to South Indian eggplant, catered by Royal India restaurant in Sandy.

"Diwali traditionally is celebrated over five days, but let's bring the goodness and friendship of those five days into just one night," Huntsman said.

 

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