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Golden anniversary nears for Golden Palace

Written by Peter Smith on .

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Mother's Day weekend is always a popular time at New Vrindaban, the "Land of Krishna," which holds a weekend "Festival of Inspiration" retreat at its community in mountainous community just outside of Wheeling, W.Va.

The community was founded by followers of A.C. Bhaktividanta Swami Prabhupada, who brought to the West what is popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement, a reference to the sacred chants of its adherents. 

 

Hundreds of people attended this past weekend's retreats, held amid cloudy but mild weather. They attended inspirational talks and workshops and chanted in the main temple.

New Vrindaban is the oldest community in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The movement itself turned 50 last year, and New Vrindaban marks its 50th anniversary next year. It's best known as home to the "Golden Palace," above, built first as a home and then a memorial shrine to the founder. As a tourist attraction, it's known as "America's Taj Mahal." But pilgrims still outnumber tourists. At the time it was built, there was very little of a Hindu footprint in the United States. Now, there are two major temples in Greater Pittsburgh alone and smaller institutions as well, and there are temples in cities throughout the country. At the same time, the New Vrindaban temple and shrine have received growing numbers of Hindu pilgrims whether or not they are ISKCON devotees.

 

The community has had a stormy history, including a time when it was excommunicated from ISKCON amid a co-founder's conviction for racketeering and allegations of murder and child abuse. Today, the community is back in ISKCON's fold and participants are working to rebuild it both spiritually and physically. The community, located amid a vast natural-gas reserve, also recently drew attention for agreeing to sell extraction rights, with certain concessions.

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