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Monday, May 27, 2024

Love Thy Neighbor festival educates 400 people about Krishna faith

ALACHUA - The scent of incense wafted through the air of the ornately decorated temple.

Men, women and children removed their shoes before they entered and kneeled to pray before a representation of Krishna, which was adorned with a fresh flower garland.

About 400 people gathered at the Alachua Krishna Temple for the third annual Love Thy Neighbor Festival on Sunday.

Maha Maya, an Alachua Krishna, created and organized the event to encourage local neighbors to learn more about the Krishna faith.

"We are all here on this planet together, and the curiosity of our neighbors can be relieved when they come here and see what we are all about," Maya said.

Krishna is a monotheistic religion that comes from an Indian tradition, said Maya, a Krishna of 34 years.

Over a dozen Gainesville Krishna attended the event, which included a service, traditional Indian dancing, chanting and praying, as well as a feast.

SFCC student Jude Bailey, dressed in a white tunic and pants, twisted his hands, which held a strand of 108 wooden beads. The beads are meant to channel Krishna.

Bailey, 19, became a follower of the Krishna faith eight months ago and now lives in the preaching center of the Gainesville Krishna house.

Bailey got involved with the Gainesville Krishna while volunteering to serve the vegetarian Krishna lunch, which is served on the Plaza of the Americas on weekdays.

Originally captivated by the compassion and kindness of the Gainesville Krishna, Bailey said she slowly learned the philosophies of the faith.

"It is important to support the Love Thy Neighbor Festival because of the compassion we can show our neighbors. This event is about sharing with those around us," Bailey said.

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The soft tones of traditional music and prayers floated over the grounds while men and women slowly crowded into the temple for the evening service.

A middle-aged man dressed in white led the service songs and played hand chimes.

Next to him was a drummer, rhythmically beating on the stretched skin of his instrument, keeping the beat of the worshippers' chants.

The crowd swayed to the melody of the chant while a man on stage waved three sticks of incense in continual circles.

"Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna," chanted the crowd.

The rapid Hare Krishna prayer is meant to help the worshipper achieve spiritual understanding by fixing the mind on the holy name, Krishna, Bailey said.

Clapping began as the hand chimes and drums sped up, and the members of the crowd raised their voices and their arms until the sounds of the instruments subsided into silence.

When the temple service concluded, people slowly wandered out onto the grounds to eat and then watch traditional Indian dancing.

"I wanted to create this event to impact our community, and I believe we have with this festival," Maya said.

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