It was a surreal sight indeed on Friday June 7th to see Madhava Das and other kirtaniyas belting out the Holy Name on a stage in the very heart of Times Square, New York City.
The historic Harinama Sankirtana event drew some 200 devotees, and was used to promote New York Rathayatra and the accompanying Hare Krishna Festival from June 7th to 9th.
To put on the event, ISKCON Brooklyn partnered with the Yuga Dharma Ashram, a group of devotees who chant in the city daily.
A permit was secured to chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra from 4pm to 8pm, in Father Duffy Square, the center of Times Square and the “crossroads of the world.”
From a large purple backdrop behind the stage, Lord Jagannath’s merciful face beamed out at the some 330,000 people who pass through daily. The words “Hare Krishna Festival” were also clearly visible.
For four hours, devotees including Radhanath Swami, Kadamba Kanana Swami, Madhava Das, Akinchana Krishna Das, and Yuga Dharma ashrama leader Rama Raya Das led ecstatic kirtan.
Devotees set up a book table in TImes Square – Photo by Dipika Ray
Hundreds of devotees, including many brahmacharis in brilliant saffron, danced through the Square, roaring back the Holy Names.
Many passersby joined in, creating a “kirtan train” with devotees by putting their arms on each other’s shoulders. At one point, even Times Square’s famous Mickey and Minnie Mouse could be seen participating with glee.
“The response was tremendous,” says ISKCON Brooklyn vice-chairman Chaitanyananda Das. “Even while we were setting up, before we had even started, people were coming over and saying, ‘When’s the music starting?’ and ‘Keep up the good work, you guys are awesome!’”
Gopal Champu Das distributes one of many sets of Prabhupada’s books – Photo by Dharmatma Das
He adds: “The many hawkers in Times Square also showed a lot of respect and appreciation, and made space for us to do our thing. The ‘Naked Cowboy,’ who is known for playing his guitar in his underwear and a cowboy hat, wanted to chant with us.”
During the chanting, Yuga Dharma Ashram brahmacharis set up a book stall, and distributed many of Prabhupada’s books, including full sets of Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
To encourage people to visit the temple and attend the Rathayatra, devotees also passed out thousands of welcome packets including a brochure for the festival, a brochure about the temple, coupons for the Govinda’s lunch program, a coupon for a free book, bookmarks, and some prasadam lollipops and cookies.
“It was all very well received,” Chaitanyananda says. “The organization that manages Times Square, called the Times Square Alliance, were very pleased with the event. And they look forward to us doing more events there over the course of the summer.”
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies