Eyeball-deep in Mormon country is the very last place you might expect to find a temple dedicated to Hinduism’s most attractive blue poster boy. But just a few miles north of Provo, Utah—the nation’s true Mormon heartland—on top of a small hill in the town of Spanish Fork, lies the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple.
Nicknamed the Lotus Temple, the milky white structure is all turrets and Eastern curves against the backdrop of northern Utah’s rural farms and rugged mountains. But its incongruous presence isn’t what makes the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple famous; the temple is actually renowned for holding the largest annual Holi Festival in the Western Hemisphere. Every spring over 50,000 people flock to Spanish Fork to inhale copious amounts of coloured powder in the name of divine love and trendiness.
While the Festival of Colors™ comes only once a year, there are other reasons to diverge from a presumably intense northern Utah sightseeing itinerary and give the Lotus Temple a visit. After an action-packed morning of visiting salt lakes and “The Place”, there is no better place to dine than at Sri Sri Radha’s lunch buffet. For just $5, visitors can gain access to a small feast of home-cooked curries and soups, dessert, and a salad bar. The food is delicious, although more reminiscent of stuff served up by the Hari Krishnas than your local Indian takeaway. All of the dishes are, of course, vegetarian, and many of the veggies used are plucked straight from the temple’s gardens.
The gardens themselves resemble more of a city farm than the idyllic tropical paradises Radha and Krishna may have frequented, but here too the Lotus Temple pulls through with the exotic. The temple boasts a large family of llamas, which strut around all wooly and soft-looking while giving aloof, frosty glances to visitors (they didn’t seem to like us 🙁 ) They can apparently be wooed with bags of carrots and apples, and are available to be rented in pairs for hikes into the mountains.
The Lotus Temple is also home to cows, free-roaming peacocks, chickens and rabbits, a macaw and a couple of friendly African grey parrots. On our visit the gardens were bustling with a colourful group of school children who had come to volunteer tending to the vegetable patches. With the smell of spices drifting from the kitchen and the sound of peacocks crying, it made for a refreshing respite from hokey middle America in the realm of the Latter-day Saints.