New Vrindaban, located off U.S. 250 east of Moundsvillem, began in 1968 as a project of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The society, a Hindu organization, was founded in New York in 1966 by Srila Prabhupada. In his native India in 1944, Prabhupada had founded Back to Godhead, an English-language magazine devoted to the Hindu god Krishna. In 1959, he took vows of renunciation and was named A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. He arrived in New York in 1965 at the age of 69. His International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) flourished in the American counterculture of the 1960s.
Prabhupada’s disciple, Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, whose birth name was Keith Gordon Ham, was the founder of New Vrindaban, following Prabhupada’s guidelines. The name comes from Vrindavana, India, the place of Lord Krishna’s childhood. The project began modestly. In 1968, there was no electricity, no running water, and no easy access to the only building, a battered shack. Now New Vrindaban has a temple, a guest lodge, restaurants, gift shops, a prize-winning rose garden, and various other enterprises, as well as its most impressive structure, Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, which was constructed by Krishna devotees.
New Vrindaban, which had become one of West Virginia’s leading tourist attractions as well as an important religious site, underwent a crisis late in the 20th century. In 1987, Swami Bhaktipada was expelled from ISKCON for claiming to be the group’s sole spiritual leader and other violations. In 1990, he was accused of ordering the deaths of two of his followers and charged with racketeering, fraud and conspiracy.
New Vrindaban was expelled from membership in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness for several years, and the community fell into decline. In recent years, however, the community has rebounded. Members who left have returned, and new devotees have arrived. Members are focused on finding ways of sustaining the community and restoring the Palace of Gold. Their efforts include a “Cow Protection Program,” which asks donors to give money for the care of the animals, which they consider sacred.
This Article was written by Gordon L. Swartz III
Last Revised on October 21, 2010
Hubner, John. Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988.
Prabhupada's Palace of Gold. Moundsville: New Vrindaban Community, 1986.