SPANISH FORK — Nearly 50,000 people took part this past weekend in Holi, a Hindu celebration with ancient origins.

Each year, participants throw dyed corn starch to signify the arrival of spring, which for this faith and others is a time to forgive and renew.

The priest, Caru Das of Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, explained what it does, particularly for the young people.

"There's all that youthful energy that sometimes, in terms of religion, we don't really offer an outlet to in a pure, constructive, consciousness-raising way, to have a really great time," he said.

Only two arrests were reported

Cory Sutterfield, 18, of Sandy, was arrested for investigation of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct for allegedly throwing colored chalk on a Utah County sheriff's deputy who was conducting traffic control at a crosswalk. Police say he also had a warrant out for his arrest.

Tanner McBride, 18, of Herriman, was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of prescription drugs, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and other charges. Six teens under 18 were in his car when an officer pulled him over for speeding. The officer discovered a scale, a marijuana grinder, "baggies containing a green leafy substance," prescription drugs, cash and other items in the vehicle, a police report states.

"He told me that he had been selling marijuana at the festival," the report states.

But the members of this religious community said most visitors to the weekend celebration were respectful. A large percentage of them are Latter-day Saints.

"The young Latter-day Saint people resonate with it because they can celebrate their spirituality in an atmosphere that's totally drug- and alcohol-free, not totally, but that's our intent, and those arrests were made because of our zero0tolerance policy for those things," Das said.

He explained that no one is permitted to throw the colored corn starch inside the temple because it is considered a sacred space with worship services twice a day and community yoga classes as well. Das said BYU and Utah Valley University students also come for their world religion and anthropology classes.

Das calls the festival a spiritual and financial success. Funds raised during the festival sustain his religious community and help the members take Holi to other cities.

"When you throw the colors to the wind, you are throwing up your resentments and you're looking toward a future that's so great, you need sunglasses to face it," he said.

Monday started as clean-up day. Most participants, the priest said, were very helpful. But the next Festival of Colors is just around the corner, in Salt Lake City, on May 3.

Email: cmikita@deseretnews.com