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About Mysterious America

This column, hosted by our own Dr. Seymour O'life, goes out of its way to bring you the bizarre, strange, uncanny, and just plain mysterious places that dot this fair land. Perhaps it is a huge Buddha statue in New York or a state park in Pennsylvania, where the stones ring like bells - each month is always a peculiar jewel when it comes to Mysterious America.

The Palace of Gold

3759 McCreary's Ridge Rd, Moundsville, WV 26041 • 304-843-1600

In 1973 devotees decided to build a home for Srila Prabhupada, where he could write his books and enjoy the clean country air. A location was chosen for its potential beauty, the land was cleared and construction was started on a simple house. The plan was a rough sketch drawn on a scrap of paper.PalaceInside

But Lord Krsna had His own plan. Somehow or other at each step the trial and error construction produced something grander than the devotees had imagined. What was first to be a simple residence for Krishna's spiritual became, under the guidance of Keith Ham (a.k.a. Kirtanananda Swami), something else entirely as the humble house grew into a palace fit for a raja,… with crystal chandeliers, marble floors, stained glass windows, mirrored ceilings. Gold leaf and semi-precious stones accent its architectural flourishes. Surrounded by fountains, fragrant gardens, and a lily pond, it is utterly out of place on a backroad in West Virginia.

Bit by bit, cemented, chiseled and forged, and with marble, gold and carved teakwood, costing $600,000 in materials alone and built with loving labor of the devotees - Prabhupada's Palace of Gold emerged. The palace and surrounding area is so grand it has become its own town - New Vrindaban, West Virginia. Named after a city in India, the town is some 1,200 acres in size and is the largest such community in the United States.

Prabhupada's 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," and another newspaper 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."

We couldn't agree more – it is truly a stunning palace.

Have you ever wondered what the Hare Krishnas did with all that spare change they begged at America's airports? Now you know. Prabhupada envisioned New Vrindaban as an attraction for pilgrims and the curious, and visitors are always welcome at the Palace of Gold. You can either be guided by one of the Krishnas or just walk around (after removing shoes or slipping on a pair of complimentary booties). You'll certainly enjoy it more than Prabhupada himself, who died two years before it opened on September 2, 1979. Another interesting note from the Palace of Gold is its visionary, Keith Ham; he was later accused of child abuse and contract murder, kicked out of Krishna, and ended up in prison in North Carolina for racketeering. Ooops.

Around the town itself, you will find other temples, statues, and points of interest all adding up to an interesting and fun day trip on our Spring Break. We hope to see you come along for the ride.

Gouranga! ~ O’Life out!

Backroads had visited the incredible site in the northwest corner of West Virginia a decade or so back when the late, great Jeff Bahr did a feature on it.

But, as we are gearing up for our Spring Break Rally, which will spend a few days in McHenry, Maryland, not far from the border with the Mountain State, we will be having a great day trip to and from this magnificent citadel.

But how did this incredible structure come to be in the western edges of West Virginia just minutes from the state of Ohio and the river with the same name?

To learn this, we must learn about one man – His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977, who) is widely regarded as the foremost Vedic scholar, translator, and teacher of the modern era.

Palace3Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, the leading proponent of Krishna consciousness in India during the early part of the twentieth century, first met the young man later known as Srila Prabhupada in Calcutta in 1922 and urged him to preach Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's message of Krishna consciousness throughout the English-speaking world.

After forty years of struggle in India to do this he boarded a steamship bound from Calcutta to New York City in 1965. At age sixty-nine, with forty rupees and a trunk of his Bhagavatam commentaries – the first ever in English – his aim was to introduce "India's message of peace and goodwill" to the western world. During the last twelve years of his life, Srila Prabhupada would inspire thousands of Westerners and Indians to devote their lives to Krishna consciousness, launching one of the fastest-growing spiritual movements in the history of the world. Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). ISKCON is popularly known as the "Hare Krishna" movement.