New Vrindaban: A Hare Krishna Community in West Virginia

Learn about the founding of New Vrindaban, home of the Palace of Gold.

| July/August 1972

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    Daily devotions to Krishna are part of life in New Vrindaban.
    Photo by Howard Wheeler
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    The construction of homes was a community endeavor.
    Photo by Howard Wheeler

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I've seen members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness chanting "Hare Krishna" on the streets of New York and San Francisco so many times that I was immediately interested when I heard of the Society's commune in West Virginia. When I further learned that the settlement (New Vrindaban Community, R.D. 3, Moundsville, West Virginia) was not only succeeding, but actually expanding into an actual village devoted to Vedic culture, I decided to pay the commune a visit.

Moundsville is only about 12 miles south of Wheeling, West Virginia and I was soon turning off State Road 88 to 250 South through rolling Appalachian hills and small farms. The land was beautiful—hilly, not mountainous—and the terrain was covered with maples, poplars, oaks, locust and the light green of early summer grass. In a few minutes I left 250 for Limestone Hill Road, followed the narrow gravel byway over a long rambling ridge . . . and arrived at New Vrindaban at eleven in the morning.

I was greeted by Kirtanananda Swami, one of the original founders of the settlement. Kirtanananda—a short cheerful man in his mid-thirties who, like all Krishna devotees, assumed a Sanskrit name upon initiation into the Society—explain explained that the community was primarily financed through the manufacture of incense and invited me into one of the commune's "factories". After explaining how the incense punks were dipped into oils, packaged and shipped, Kirtanananda showed me the rest of the property.

As we looked over the large white farmhouse, barn and smaller buildings near the road, I was impressed by the flurry of activity as approximately 20 Krishna devotees bustled about their chores. The women were cooking, cleaning the house and looking after children while the men tended cows, strung fence, repaired and expanded structures,. worked on vehicles and manufactured incense.

"This is just one of the three farms that now make up New Vrindaban Community," my guide informed me," and each piece of land has its own name. Vrindaban is our original property, this farm is called Bahulaban and our third is Madhuban. Ban means forest and the names we've chosen are those of forests in India where Lord Krishna traditionally sported as God on earth."

"How long have you been here and how much land does the community own?"

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