New Vrindaban, West Virginia
The Palace of Gold
|• Total||1.9 sq mi (4.8 km2)|
|• Land||1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2)|
|• Water||0.04 sq mi (0.1 km2)|
|Elevation||1,175 ft (358 m)|
|• Density||190/sq mi (73/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||1717344 |
New Vrindaban is an unincorporated community and ISKCON (Hare Krishna) intentional community located in Marshall County near Moundsville, West Virginia. The town consists of 1,204 acres (4.87 km2) (of which 0.1 km2 is of water), and several building complexes, homes, apartment buildings, and businesses including the Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra Temple (RVC Temple) and the Palace of Gold. New Vrindaban was founded in 1968 by Kirtanananda Swami and Hayagriva Swami. New Vrindaban is named after the Indian city of Vrindavan. The religious organization, ISKCON New Mathura Vrindaban, was expelled from ISKCON in 1988, but was readmitted 10 years later.
According to the 2010 US Census, the 6 census blocks that make up New Vrindaban had a population of 352 and had the West Virginia status of unincorporated town. It is bordered on the north and northwest by Big Wheeling Creek, on the East by Stull's Run, and on the southwest by the village of Limestone. The town's water and sewage utilities are provided by the New Vrindaban Public Service District and following the Marshall County Commission's road naming project all streets in New Vrindaban have been fully named. In addition to ISKCON, the town is the location of McCreary Cemetery, resting place of West Virginia pioneer Lewis Wetzel, various locally owned business, and other ISKCON affiliated organizations. The chief components in New Vrindaban's economy are tourism, agriculture, and cottage industries.
The religious organization ISKCON New Mathura Vrindaban is the largest holder of land in New Vrindaban with 38% of the land in the town. Agribusiness firm GEETA Inc. holds 14%, and all other organizations and individuals own 48% of the land encompassing New Vrindaban. In addition to the previously mentioned organizations, jewellery manufacturer Lone Ones Inc., organic commercial bakery World's Best Cookie, Vaishnava Performing Arts Inc., and Vedic Heritage Trust Inc. have facilities in New Vrindaban.
The community was founded in 1968 by Kirtanananda Swami and Hayagriva Swami, two early disciples of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. New Vrindaban developed under the controversial guidance of Kirtanananda Swami (honored as "Srila Bhaktipada" after March 1979), and by the mid-1970s the live-in population had grown to over 100.
ISKCON New Mathura Vrindaban is strictly vegetarian and believes that meat consumption creates negative karma. Alcoholic beverages and illegal substances (such as drugs) are prohibited in the main Holy sites around the Temple of Understanding Circle Drive.
According to ISKCON News, on 4 July 1983 Vedavyasa Priya Swami installed the statue of Sri Nathji at the RVC Temple. Conversely, according to Gargarishi Das, the deity was not installed by Vedavyasa Priya, but was installed instead by Kirtanananda Swami.
In October, 1986, a census report showed 377 adults living at the community.
On March 16, 1987, during their annual meeting at Mayapur, India, the ISKCON Governing Body Commission expelled Kirtanananda from the society for "moral and theological deviations." The community of New Vrindaban was expelled from ISKCON a year later.
After Kirtanananda Swami left New Vrindaban, and new leadership stabilized, the community was readmitted to ISKCON. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported in 2006 the population stood at about 100. However, this number only indicated how many people were members listed in the community directory rather than official census numbers.
Prabhupada's Palace of Gold
Originally intended in 1972 to be a residence for A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896–1977), the Founder/Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), the plans evolved after Prabhupada's death in November 1977 for an ornate palace of marble, gold and carved teakwood, which was dedicated as a memorial shrine on September 2, 1979. Kirtanananda Swami (the leader of the New Vrindaban Community) and Bhagavatananda das (the community's principal architect and sculptor) were the two primary forces behind its design and construction.
Kirtanananda explained, "In the beginning, we didn't even know how to lay blocks. As our Krishna consciousness developed, our building skills developed, then our creativity developed, and the scope of the project developed."
The Palace of Gold opened in 1979 to positive reviews. CBS PM Magazine reported, "the magnificence of the Palace of Gold would be hard to exaggerate." Life magazine called the Palace "a place where tourists can come and be amazed." The New York Times proclaimed "Welcome to Heaven." The Washington Post called the Palace "Almost Heaven." The Courier-Journal of Louisville stated, "It's hard to believe that Prabhupada's Palace is in West Virginia. In fact, it's hard to believe it's on this planet."
As of mid-2011 an ambitious five-year, 4.27 million-dollar restoration effort has been underway to restore and renew the Palace.
The community is overseen by a Board of Trustees of long-standing community members who oversee land and legal issues. Day-to-day management of the temple and lodge is overseen by a Management Team working with the different departments.
Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in June 2007.
Statue of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in July 1997.
Victims and killers of New Vrindavan
Several devotees (with spiritual names, having "dasa" word) were killed in New Vrindavan (for this main reason New Vrindavan was blacklisted, and considered a black sheep of ISKCON for at least several years).
Names of victims (including Hare-Krishnas, who were killed to death) and dates of offenses:
- 1977 - Unknown body (murdered victim).
- 1980, November - Taru Das, Thomas Meyers (murdered victim). Disappeared without a trace.
- 1983 - Chakradhari das, Charles St. Dennis (murdered victim). Was shot and stabbed by Daruka das and Tirtha das.
- 1983 - Radheya, son of Chakradhari (murdered victim). Found suffocated in an abandoned refrigerator, just month's after Tirtha killed Chakradhari.
- 1983 - Rohini, the son of Daruka (murdered victim). Found dead in same refrigerator.
- 1985 - Kirtanananda. Deviated after being bashed by Triyogi.
- 1986, May 22 - Sulochana das was murdered in Los Angeles.
- 1986, December 7 - Nimai Bryant, the son of Sulochan drowns at New Vrindaban.
- 1986 - Randall Gorby survived a murder attempt by New Vrindavan hitmen in 1986.
- 1986 - two more unidentified bodies discovered in 1986 (murdered victims).
- 1990, July - Randall Gorby was found killed in his pickup truck.
Names of known offenders :
- Triyogi das (Michael Schockman). Picked up a large, heavy piece of pipe and bashed Kirtanananda over the head, almost killing him (October, 1985).
- Tirtha das (Thomas Drescher) found guilty in the murder of Sulochan, Los Angeles jury recommended life in prison (1991). Co-killed Chakradara das
- Daruka das - Dan Reid, murderer, killed Chakradhari dasa (St. Denis). He was the co-murderer who helped to kill Chakradhari (was shot and stabbed in 1983).
References and footnotes
All information is sourced to the following article unless stated otherwise
- Rochford, Burke E. Jr. and Kendra Bailey Almost Heaven: Leadership, Decline and the Transformation of New Vrindaban in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions Vol. 9 nr. 3 February 2006
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "About us: New Vrindaban" official website. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
- Marshall County, WV Courthouse, County Assessor Records, Populated Places Statistics
- Lewis, James (2011). Violence and New Religious Movements. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 276.
- Pulliam, Sarah (18 July 2008) "A lower-key kind of Krishna; Instead of communes, today's Hare Krishnas have embraced congregations and welcome those with only a casual interest in the movement." The Columbus Dispatch page 1-A
- Houser, Mark (30 April 2006) "Rebuilding its temple" The Pittsburgh Tribune Review
- Marshall County, WV Courthouse, County Assessor Records, 2010 Webster District Tax Map 1 and 2 Parcel Data
- Hayagriva Das, The Hare Krishna Explosion (Palace Press, New Vrindaban WV: 1985)
- Brugger, Rachael. "The Rise, Fall, and Rebuilding of New Vrindaban". Ohio University Global Leadership Center.
- Welcome sign at entrance to Temple of Understanding Circle Drive
- 26 July 2008 Sri Nathji: The Transcendental Cowherd Boy Goes West ISKCON News, Retrieved on 18 September 2008
- Gargarishi Das, “Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Festival,” Brijabasi Spirit, vol. X, no. IV (c. August 1983), 17.[verification needed]
- This is confirmed by the New Vrindaban offering in the 1986 Srila Prabhupada Vyasa-puja book—"Sri Vyasa-puja 1986: The Most Blessed Event, August 28, 1986, The Appearance Day of Our Beloved Spiritual Master His Divine Grace Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Astottara-sata Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness"—which listed the names of each resident of the community. Disciples of Srila Prabhupada: 104 men, 66 women; Granddisciples: 99 men, 91 women; Varnasrama College: 17; Children 212. This was probably the year of greatest population for the community.
- "GBC Resolution 1987 ISKCON - Governing Body Commission"., dead link March 2010
- Prabhupada's Palace of Gold: A Labor of Love (Palace Press, Moundsville, West Virginia: c. 1982)
- Yogeshvara Das, "In the Hills of West Virginia: Prabhupada's Palace of Gold," Back to Godhead, vol. 16, no. 7 (c. June 1981), 5.[verification needed]
- "In the process of building the Palace our devotees have become expert in so many arts and crafts; many which we never before thought possible. The labor on the Palace—truly a labor of love—has been done completely by the devotees of New Vrindaban, without any remuneration except for the highest; that is, developing one's spiritual consciousness, knowing that one's efforts are being devoted solely for the pleasure of Krishna and the spiritual master." Damodar Pandit Das, "Scenes from Prabhupada's Palace," Brijabasi Spirit, vol. 4, no. 7 (October 1977), 8.[verification needed]
- Kirtanananda Swami, cited by Edward Schumacher, "West Virginia Marvels at Indian Palace," The New York Times (Monday, September 3, 1979).
- Edward Schumacher, "West Virginia Marvels at Indian Palace," The New York Times (Monday, September 3, 1979).
- Lynn Darling, "Krishna Land," The Washington Post (Monday, September 3, 1979), D1.
- "Children of Krishna: Seeking heaven in West Virginia," The Courier-Journal Magazine (Sunday, February 10, 1980).
- Hillary Johnson, "Children of a Harsh Bliss: In a West Virginia Commune, an Extraordinary Look at Life and Love Among the Krishnas," Life (April 1980).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to New Vrindaban, West Virginia.|
- New Vrindaban Community official website
- Prabhupada's Palace of Gold official website
- A Community in Transition-New Vrindaban
- The Conversion Experience-Student reports from the Global Leadership Center at Ohio University-The Pluralism Project
- The Instant Karma of New Vrindaban (article)
- All names of killed devotees, and Hare-Krishna killers of New Vrindavan ISKCON