I received a message on Facebook yesterday. It was from Shawn’s cousin Lalita, telling me they’d be in Daytona later that day for a special event. Karuna her youngest would be dancing in a performance.
Okay, honestly, here’ the first image that came to mind: Little Karuna in a sparkly, God awful jazz costume dancing with a group of ten- year-olds to some dreaded hip hop tune. “No way” I thought. “I’m not sitting through that.”
Then I remembered. Lali’s family are Krishna devotees…that’s right Hare Krishnas. There’d be no Snoop Dogg at Karuna’s dance recital.
Though I’m not religious myself–not in any way really–I love seeing Lali and her family in their natural habitat. Hare Krishna’s are a positive, gentle religion, full of Indian culture, passion and good food. Good food is the clincher for me!
In spite of all their airport ridden stereotypes, the Hare Krishna devotees have tapped into something quite wonderful. And though, yes, from the outside they might come off as religious nuts, getting to know them, in their own context, they’re not weird at all.
And so Shawn and I dragged the three kids forty five minutes to the heart of Memorial Day weekend, where sunburned asses and beer buzzed uhh…asses were the norm.
Lali wasn’t answering her texts so we wandered down the beach looking for a group of folk who really shouldn’t be hard to miss. Then we saw this…
There were drums and tambourines and people singing. It was hotter than hell (or the Hindu equivalent) but the group persisted, singing along in their praises of Krishna (yes, just like the stereotype!) The tune was catchy for sure.
And so we walked with the people down the beach as they pulled their cart, a mobile temple of sorts. The non-Krishna beach goers were staring and taking pictures and I’m pretty sure my teenager was wondering what on earth his parents were making him do. But not everyone was weirded out. Some onlookers were joining along and singing. I’m pretty sure three of the Budweiser soaked boys in swim trunks were not part of the original group.
We made our way to a bunch of tents where Shawn’s Uncle Tom (now known by most as Tamohara) and Lali were, prepping Karuna for the dance.
I sampled a whole bunch of mushy vegetarian stuff that actually was quite tasty!
We seated ourselves in the sand and waited for the dancers. From the sound system we heard the melodic tune of a woman’s voice coupled with the hum of sitars and tabla drums. The young girls gracefully moved their hands in a pantomime, telling a story of Krishna.
Karuna, in the oldest group, stomped her feet in a dance of devotion like an Indian warrior God, with experteise and grace.
Pip one of my twins was not happy with the crash course in Hari Krishna culture in the midst of the 90 degree heat. His sister on the other hand thought it was cool to see her older cousin up on stage. She’s the one on the far left.
After the dance Uncle Tamohara told us about the Jagannath Festival that we had inadvertently become a part of. In the tradition, a cart carrying the statue of Lord Jagannath (an incarnation of Krishna) is carried to the sea. The carts in India are huge, requiring hundreds of people to pull them. This cart took about thirty.
In India these carts were known for moving forward so relentlessly that it is said that devotees would be swept beneath their wheels, thus inspiring the English word juggernaut, meaning a merciless, unstoppable force. Luckily this cart was not so relentless.
After Karuna’s performance we said our goodbyes and headed out with the infectious tune of “Hari Krishna” still in our heads.
Though my teenager and my whiny little son might disagree I think it was worth braving the sun soaked crowds and ninety degree heat to be part of something so vastly different from our day to day life, besides it beats a hip hop dance recital any day.