Little Bits of History

Far Out, Man

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2015
Mantra Rock Dance poster

Mantra Rock Dance poster

January 29, 1967: The Mantra Rock Dance takes place. It was a counterculture event put on by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) as a way for founder AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to have access to a wider audience for fundraising on the West Coast of the US. It was held at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. Prabhupada came from India to New York City in 1965 and found an increased interest in consciousness-expanding spirituality already growing. He was able to set up a temple in the Big Apple and was also asked to set up another on the west coast by some of his earliest followers, Mukunda Das and his wife Janaki Dasi.

The group headed west and met up with Das’s college friends and opened for business in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. At the time, the area was turning into a hippie haven. They wished to expand Prabhupada’s teachings and needed the funding to do so. They felt giving a rock concert would be an opportune method. Some of the more reverent apostles back in New York City found the idea of “amplified guitars, pounding drums, wild light shows, and hundreds of drugged hippies” to be anathema to the message intended. But Prabhupada traveled from New York City to San Francisco for the event.

Headlining the concert was the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin’s band. Also appearing was Moby Grape relatively unknown at the time. The musicians were willing to perform for “musicians’ union minimum” of $250. Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg was also included. He had helped Prabhupada get an extended US visa and although he didn’t hold to all of the swami’s prohibitions as stated, especially the ones about drugs and promiscuity, he was enchanted by the philosophy. Ginsberg often publicly sang the Hare Krishna mantra – something he had learned on a trip to India.

The concert was held on a Sunday evening and tickets were available only at the door where admittance cost $2.50. The concert began at 8 PM and nearly all 3,000 seats were filled. Latecomers had to wait outside in the hopes of someone leaving. Inside, people were given prasad or sanctified food. There was a ban on drugs that was neither obeyed nor enforced but the atmosphere remained peaceful. A few Hells Angels were at the back of the stage as security guards. Timothy Leary made an appearance. The evening wore on and was later proclaimed to have been a beautiful night and “the ultimate high”. It was “the major spiritual event of the San Francisco hippy era.”

Almost everyone who came wore bright or unusual costumes: tribal robes, Mexican ponchos, Indian kurtas, “God’s-eyes,” feathers, and beads. Some hippies brought their own flutes, lutes, gourds, drums, rattles, horns, and guitars. – Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

The Hell’s Angels, dirty-haired, wearing jeans, boots, and denim jackets and accompanied by their women, made their entrance, carrying chains, smoking cigarettes, and displaying their regalia of German helmets, emblazoned emblems, and so on – everything but their motorcycles, which they had parked outside. – Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. – Allen Ginsberg

The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That’s what poetry does. – Allen Ginsberg

Also on this day: Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
Honorable – In 1856, the Victoria Cross medal was established.
“Nevermore!” – In 1845, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was printed for the first time.
Nevermore – In 1945, the poem was published (a different look at the event).
Like a Phoenix – In 1996, La Fenice was destroyed by fire.

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