What do the Hare Krishnas, Grand Theft Auto, UK bridge graffiti and an unusual viral spam campaign have in common? Gouranga!
I recently received an email with the following text:
From: “Neateye” NitaiGouranga@aol.com
Call out Gouranga be happy!!!
Gouranga Gouranga Gouranga ….
That which brings the highest happiness!!
This I found curious because I once practiced Vaishnavism, and am familiar with who/what Gouranga is. At first I thought it was some old acquaintance playing a prank. Then I did a Google search and found out that this same message has landed in thousands of mailboxes over the last three years.
Multi-colored ‘Gouranga’ graffiti appears on bridges across the UK. Posters and stickers bearing the name have also been the subject of a long-running guerilla art campaign across Scotland. The culprits are likely Hare Krishna devotees from the Scotland temple, according to this discussion in the Guardian.
The ‘Gouranga bonus’ is an easter egg in the first Grand Theft Auto game, awarded when the player swiftly runs over a group of Hare Krishnas. An article in the latest issue of Edge magazine documents the making of GTA:
“One of the programmers came up with a routine that had pedestrians following each other. This led to the idea of a line of Krishnas following each other down the street and then, once we had all experimented with ploughing through them all in one go, the Gouranga bonus became an obvious addition.”
A Wikipedia entry summarizes the Gouranga meme.