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Hare Krishna in popular culture

Contributions to popular culture involving direct reference to the Hare Krishna mantra, or the Hare Krishna movement include the following:

In music

Beatles influence

After coming in contact with the Hare Krishnas in 1969, several of the Beatles took interest in the movement. This interest is reflected in songs later recorded by the band.

Pop music

Straight Edge subculture

In the 1980s, several bands and individuals from the punk-related straight edge subculture took interest in the Hare Krishna doctrines, leading to a number of prominent straight edgers becoming official members of the movement. Due to the influence of a Hare Krsna named Larry Pugliese, Krishna Consciousness found its way into the New York hardcore scene in the mid 1980s and became known as Krishnacore. Pugliese established a house in nearby northern New Jersey for fellow devotees to live in, and sponsored free food distribution (in Tompkins Square Park) and clothing drives as well as concerts for the punks and skinheads hanging out in what was then a rough and tough Lower East Side.

Early devotees included John Joseph and Harley Flanagan of the band Cro-Mags, Ray Cappo of Youth of Today, and Vic DiCara, former guitarist for Los Angeles band Inside Out, who established quite possibly the most famous of all of the newly dubbed bands, namely 108. Krishnacore bands sing about Krishna and Krishna Consciousness the same way that a Christian band would sing about Jesus. Other notable Hare Krishna punk and hardcore musicians include: Shelter, Cro-Mags, Run Devil Run, Request Denied, Poly Styrene and Lora Logic of X-Ray Spex.

In movies

  • Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), a Hindi movie which centers around the hippie invasion of Kathmandu, Nepal. The film also features the Hindi hit song Dum Maro Dum, which includes the chant "Hare Krishna Hare Ram".
  • In The Laughing Policeman (1973), after Walter Matthau's character leaves a strip club following his interrogation of the club owner, Hare Krishnas are singing and dancing the mantra and a group member approaches Matthau and is briefly seen conversing with him and presenting him with literature.
  • In the John Waters movie Female Trouble (1974), Taffy (Mink Stole) returns home and announces she is joining the "Hare Krishna people", and Dawn (Divine) warns her she will kill her if she does. Later, Dawn performs several crimes including knocking her daughter unconscious with a chair and later killing her for becoming a Hare Krishna.
  • In the Cheech & Chong movie Up in Smoke (1978), police detectives attempt to infiltrate a battle of the bands contest dressed in robes taken from a group of Hare Krishnas.
  • The hippie-themed Hair (musical) (1967) contains the whole Hare Krishna chant as a song, and in the Miloš Forman film Hair (1979), Hare Krishna followers are depicted dancing about at a Be-in.
  • In Dawn of the Dead (1978), a Hare Krishna zombie is seen throughout several scenes. Its bizarre appearance made it one of the more memorable zombies in the film, and it lead to NECA producing an action figure of it in its "Cult Classics" line. The character can also be seen in the 2004 movie remake.
  • Hare Krishnas have been on the receiving end of several jokes in ZAZ comedy films including The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) and Airplane! (1980).
  • In The Muppet Movie (1979), a Hollywood agent in a swamp tells Kermit the Frog he is lost, to which Kermit replies, "Have you tried Hare Krishna?" The reference becomes a running gag in the movie.
  • In Roller Boogie (1979), one character throws in the towel and becomes a Hare Krishna to forget disco music and roller skating after learning that the roller boogie contest is going to be canceled.
  • In Stripes (1981), John (Bill Murray) and Russell (Harold Ramis) get their hair trimmed, while Ox (John Candy) exits completely bald, holding his cut hair in his hands and looking astonished. Russell jokes around and starts dancing and singing, "Hare Krishna!"
  • In Time Bandits (1981), a picture of Jagannath is shown on the boy's bedroom wall. When the characters are running from the "Supreme Being," Jagannath is in front of them. The movie was produced by Terry Gilliam, George Harrison, and Denis O'Brien.
  • In The Devil and Max Devlin (1981), a sankirtan van hits and kills the main character. The Hare Krishna devotees jump out of the van, surround the man who is dying, and perform a kirtan while the camera pans over their stricken expressions.
  • In Blade Runner (1982), Hare Krishna devotees appear performing sankirtan in a short segment during a street scene.
  • In They Call Me Bruce? (1982), Hare Krishna devotees are depicted.
  • In The Karate Kid (1984), Daniel claps two sanders together and sings "Hare Krishna".
  • In Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Woody Allen's character considers joining the Hare Krishnas in his search for God.
  • In Miami Blues (1990), the lead character (played by Alec Baldwin) breaks the finger of a Hare Krishna in the Miami airport, causing him to go into shock and die, and this leads to the police search for Baldwin's character.
  • In Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993), there's a scene in which Bonanza Jellybean (Rain Phoenix) says to Sissy Hankshaw (Uma Thurman), "Did you realize that cowgirls have been around for many centuries? Long before America. In ancient India the care of the cattle was always left up to young women they called gopis. Being alone with the cows all the time, the gopis got awfully horny, just like we do here. Every gopi was in love with Krishna, a good-looking young god who played the flute like it was going out of style. When the moon was full, this Krishna would play his flute by a river and call the gopis to him. Then he would multiply himself sixteen thousand times - one for each gopi - and make love to each one the way she most desired. There they were, sixteen thousand gopis balling Krishna on the river bank, and the energy of their merging was so great that it created a huge oneness, a total union of love, and it was God. Wow! Quite a picture, huh?"
  • In Girl, Interrupted (1999), the Hare Krishna movement is briefly mentioned. When asked what her plans are after graduation, Winona Ryder's character responds, "I'm going to join the Krishnas." Her classmate replies, "Hare Krishna? That's interesting, actually."
  • In the first of the Final Destination trilogy (2000), in the first scene, we encounter the Hare Krishnas in an airport, foreboding the tragic events that follow.
  • A scene in Osmosis Jones (2001) contains a small group of cells chanting Hare Krishna. This is barely noticeable, but present.
  • In Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003), one of the characters at the end is shown joining the Hare Krishna movement. They use footage of Srila Prabhupada arriving somewhere, and use an arrow to point to the character as being in the crowd.
  • In Jersey Girl (2004), when Maya asks Ollie to lunch, she says, "C'mon, you're ruining my karma level", Ollie responds with "You're trying to get square with Krishna?", to which she replies, "Hare Hare."
  • Aaron Naumann, a character in the film Bee Season (2005), becomes a Hare Krishna after rejecting Judaism.
  • In Across the Universe (2007), when the song of the same name reaches the Sanskrit phrase "Jai guru deva om", Hare Krishnas walk down a subway train that is passing the train Jude is on.
  • In Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), an Indian Bollywood film, the song "Bhool Bhulaiyaa" contains lyrics such as "Hare Krishna Hare Ram" portrayed on Akshay Kumar.
  • In Religulous (2008), Hare Krishna devotees can be seen very briefly during a montage sequence near the beginning of the film.

In television

  • Allen Ginsberg appeared on William F. Buckley, Jr.'s show "Firing Line" on September 3, 1968, and sang the Hare Krishna mantra as he played dolefully on a harmonium. According to Richard Brookhiser, an associate of Buckley's, the host commented that it was "the most unharried Krishna I've ever heard.
  • In an episode of Lou Grant (episode #18, "Sect", February 6, 1978), Charlie's son joins the Hare Krishna movement, taking the name "Vishnu das".
  • Hare Krishnas have been mentioned and/or parodied a number of times on the comedy show Saturday Night Live. For example, "Christmas Tree Salesman" Season 4 Episode 75 (Dec. 16, 1978), "Al Franken becomes a Hare Krishna" Season 4 Episode 86 (May 26, 1979), "Robin Williams' Monologue" Season 13 Episode 242 (Jan 23, 1988), and "The Penis Measuring Machine" Season 20 Episode 382 (March 25, 1995).
  • On In Living Color, Jim Carrey played a Hare Krishna in a sketch called "Krishna Cop" (Season 3, Episode 9, December 6, 1991).
  • In the episode of Seinfeld entitled "The Subway" (Season 3, Episode 30, January 8, 1992) the character George is robbed of all his clothes by a woman and enters Monk's Cafe wrapped in bedsheets. A patron mocks him by shouting, "Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna!" and George responds, "How'd you like a Hare Krishna fist down your throat?"
  • In The Simpsons episode entitled "Homer and Apu" (Season 5, Episode 94, February 10, 1994), after seeing Christians singing in an Indian airport, a Hare Krishna devotee remarks "Oh, great — Christians". Also, in the episode "The Joy of Sect" (Season 9, Episode 191, February 8, 1998) a Hare Krishna devotee asks Bart if he's ever heard of Krishna Consciousness. In reply to which Homer says, "This, Bart, is a crazy man!"
  • Mad TV included a sketch called "Krishna Rock" (Season 1, Episode 105, November 11, 1995). The skit takes place at an airport where four Hare Krishnas in orange robes are chanting and dancing when one of them decides to leave the group for a girl but ends up begging to be allowed back in the group.
  • In the episode of South Park entitled "Starvin' Marvin in Space" (Season 3, Episode 44, November 17, 1999) there's a scene involving Mr. Garrison telling his class that, "The Hare Krishnas are totally gay." Also, on the episode "Super Best Friends" (Season 5, Episode 69, July 4, 2001), Krishna is featured as a member of the "Super Best Friends", a crime fighting team of religious figures, along with Jesus, Joseph Smith, Muhammad, Buddha, Laozi, Moses, and Sea Man.
  • There is a reference to Hare Krishnas in That '70s Show, when Kitty found the devotees to be so nice that she almost got into their van with them.
  • In the HBO miniseries Angels in America (2003), there is a scene with Hare Krishnas singing on the sidewalk below Prior's apartment window.
  • Comedian Ross Noble devoted a portion his show "Unrealtime" (2003) to discussing an encounter he once had with some Krishnas, a tramp and a London bus.
  • On the House, M.D. episode entitled "Cursed" (Season 1, Episode 13, March 1, 2005), Dr. House tells his young charge Dr. Chase concerning the latter's father, "You breeze by him like he's a Hare Krishna at the airport."
  • Hare Krishna is referred to in the medical sitcom Scrubs, in the episode entitled "My Chopped Liver" (Season 5, Episode 110, Production code 517, April 4, 2006) when J.D. shaves his head.
  • Stand-up comedian and television presenter Russell Brand is often heard saying "Hare Krishna" upon his exit from a show or venue. For example, on the UK Big Brother show "Big Brother's Big Mouth", Brand ends every show with the phrase "Hare Krishna." Brand has been a vegetarian since the age of 14, and his abandonment of drugs and alcohol was done with the help of the Hare Krishnas, to whom he feels "indebted".

In fiction

In video games

  • In Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988), Zak is approached by a Hare Krishna devotee, and sold a book called, How to Raise Your Consciousness and Lower Your Golf Scores!. This book can later be given to an airport bum, causing him to become a devotee, himself.
  • In Grand Theft Auto (1997), the text "GOURANGA!" is displayed whenever the player runs over a group of Hare Krishnas, who are occasionally featured as pedestrians. They are again featured in Grand Theft Auto 2 (1999) as one of the gangs the player can work for.

In advertising

  • A 2001 advertising campaign for Kit Kat chocolates in the United Kingdom depicted Daleks (from Doctor Who) chasing people on the street saying, in the standard Dalek tones, "Give us a cuddle!" while the final shot had Daleks following a group of Hare Krishna devotees, chanting "Peace and love!" The advertisement concluded with the Kit Kat slogan "Have a break, have a Kit Kat," implying that the Daleks were having a break from their habitual killing.


  • The Hare (computer virus), also known as "Hare.7610", "Krsna" and "HD Euthanasia", infected MS-DOS and Windows 95 machines in August 1996. The virus was set to read the system date of the computer and activate on August 22 and September 22, at which time it would erase the hard disk in the computer and display the following message: "HDEuthanasia by Demon Emperor: Hare Krsna, hare,hare."
  • Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc., mentioned the Hare Krishnas during his commencement speech at Stanford University on June 12, 2005: "I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting. It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

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