Strange neon signs on bridges with the mystical letters G.O.U.R.A.N.G.A
I did question for a while whether my curiosity was unreasonable, but it's like anything in life that you cannot immediately explain in a sufficient manner - it turns into a ridiculous quest to discover the truth. To quote Mr Izzard "Must know, must find out"...as you empty the vacuum cleaner dust bag to find out what that "rattle" sound was...."the treasure of the Sierra Madre", of course not, but you never know!!
I have seen the sign on a bridge as you leave Liverpool on the M62 and also on a motorway bridge near Bradford. With the first sighting, I assumed it could be the company who constructed the bridge......with the second sighting, this seemed less likely. My third sighting was down Bold Street in Liverpool above what I think is an Indian restaurant - it may also be some sort of Hare Krishna centre.
I am not the only one to have noticed this phenomenon spreading across the country, I have heard other anecdotes too. So, being the curious soul I am, I decided to have a look on the net. Below are my findings on the Notes and Queries section of the Guardian Unlimited website which although perhaps the best source I found, actually resolves very little! Many of the explanations did raise a smile however, so I thought I would share!....
- "Gouranga is a Hare Krishna mantra meaning 'be happy'....possibly Sanskrit" (this is backed up by a few other minor sources I found on the net and by at least one of the nodes on E2).
- "It's a natural stimulant similar to ephedrine derived from a South American plant..." (and the writer goes on to correct himself) "of course that would have been the answer if the question referred to Guarana..." (hmmmm....maybe he had taken an overdose of Guarana when he read the question?)
- "In the.....computer game Grand Theft Audio the award for successfully running down an entire group of Krisna followers...known as the 'Gouranga bonus'....It wouldn't surprise me if this is part of the marketing campaign for the third game in the series." (evil marketing ploy eh? read on.....)
- "It will all become clear soon. It is doubtless just another viral marketing campaign which commences by spreading a name and then finally reveals the product...yet another stimulating drink or internet-based insurance company". (Finally the cynicism starts to drip onto the page!)
- "Gouranga means be happy. There's a Hare Krishna Ashram at the top of Bold Street." (this is the place I referred to earlier)
- "...a word that somebody paints on road bridges around the country so that people see them and say 'what does GOURANGA mean?'...it's started a Gouranga-spotting club." (of which I am apparently a member, oh dear)
- "If you say Gouranga, then you are smiling. Like cheese. Try it in the mirror." (OK so I tried it - looks more like a grimace to me)
- "I can say it with a really grumpy expression." (it all fits into place!)
- "I've seen Gouranga on a flyover on my way to and from Manchester for the last 6 years and I've always assumed it was something to do with the company that built the damn things....Needless to say it became something of a ritual to shout 'Gouranga' in a deep bass voice every time I drive under it. The wife thinks it's hilarious. Suddenly I seem to be seeing it everywhere and even in Pink...".(The case for some sort of brainwashing cult is becoming more possible by the minute. Do we think that his wife is laughing through sheer amusement or maybe to suppress the tears after the 376th time she heard him say it?)
- "A man with a clipboard got me. He said something about helping disabled people and asked for a donation. I gave him 70p. He said 'Do you want a badge or a stick of rock?'. I said 'I'll have a badge, please.' He said 'Pink or rainbow?' I said rainbow. He gave me the rainbow badge. It says 'Shout GOURANGA or else!' He asked me to say 'Gouranga' for him. I said Gouranga. Then I went."
- "Many of the posters (usually ones at roundabouts for some reason) have an unmistakeable cannabis leaf symbol and the text 'Call out Gouranga - be happy'. Could it be an ad campaign for an illegal home delivery service?"
- "Gouranga is a word which, so the Hare Krishna movement believe, has simply to be said to make things better. To spread the word around, packs of plain-clothed Krishnas have been decorating motorway bridges and junctions with the letters, or sometimes just painted graffiti."
- "Got collared by a dodgy looking bloke this week in Edinburgh who was flogging a CD to raise funds to build 'gardens'. We had no money on us, so settled with giving him a few quid, in return for which we got a book and a BRIGHT pink badge that read, 'Gouranga, Hey!'.
- "As a fully paid up Hare Krishna - I have the aforementioned word tattooed in 3 inch letters across the back of my shaven head. I can state without a doubt that it means 'Peace my brother' in a little spoken Welsh dialect. God bless".
- "Getting out of Waverly Station in Edinburgh last week, my brother and I were accosted by the same dodgy-guy-with-clipboard. We gave him a pound or two, then got a pack of cards... and a pink badge... and had to say 'Gouranga'... glad its a Hare Krishna thing and not something creepier".
Well I never claimed to have any answers did I? But I hope you are mildly amused nevertheless. I now feel cleansed of my curiosity - a cathartic process maybe. If you have any insights into the spooky goings-on, I suggest that we do not start up a never ending message board here (it's nothing to get excited about I'm sure), but you can always visit the Question and Answer page where I found the quotes.(http://www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/)
Oh and just one more thing, "Gouranga! / Many Happy Gourangas! / Wishing you a lifetime filled with Gouranga!" or something like that...