2. There is a Hare Krishna Tree in Tompkins Square Park

Hare Krishna Tree

Tompkins Square Park, nestled between Avenues A and B, has a storied history that the newer restaurants and ornate rowhouses surrounding the park may not tell. As late as the 1990s, the park was a crime-ridden gathering place for the area’s homeless population. In 1988, riots were held at the park over a 1 a.m. curfew enacted to decrease the prevalence of drug pushers and homeless people in the park. The riots were violent clashes between protestors and police. Despite the park’s violent past, a tree still standing near the southern edge of the park tells a rather different, more peaceful, story.

The park houses a few American elm trees that survived a fungus called Dutch Elm Disease that ravaged the population of Dutch Elms in the 1930s. One of them, now called the Hare Krishna Tree, was where A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his disciples gathered in 1966 to host the first outdoor chanting session of the religious group’s mantra. The Hare Krishna movement, known formally as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was founded in New York and bases its core beliefs on Hindu scripture as well as the practice of Bhakti yoga. A group gathered at the tree for over two hours chanting “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” accompanied by a band of instruments. Today, the tree is considered the birthplace of the Hare Krishna movement, and followers continue to visit the tree to pay homage to its significance.