A kirtan (collective chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra) at Washington Square Park.(© Kasper van Laarhoven)

If you’ve ever been to Union Square, you’ve seen them: They chant, drum; sometimes they even give you a free copy of their scripture. Hare Krishnas are often shrugged off as an urban oddity on par with clipboard people, but what lies behind those orange robes and endless mantras?

This Friday, June 16, Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It will premiere at Village East Cinema. The documentary tells the story of Srila Prabhupada, a disheveled 70-year-old Hindu who boarded a freighter to the U.S. in August 1965 with little more than three self-translated religious texts and instructions from his guru to “offer spiritual wisdom to the people of the world.”

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