Monday, January 25, 2010
If you had never been to the place pictured above, you might think that it was probably in Asia. That would be a reasonable assumption, unless you knew that I've never traveled abroad. But if you knew me well you might be able to guess that I shot this at New Vrindaban, in the mountains of the northern panhandle of West Virginia.
This is Prabhupadha's Palace of Gold. It was built to honor the Indian holy man who made it his mission to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the West. It's not very well known that A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada first settled in Butler, PA (of all places). Shortly after arriving there he found the funds to start a temple in the Lower East Side in New York City. The ashram in West Virginia was founded by his first American disciple- Keith Ham, better known as Kirtanananda Swami, along with his former lover Howard Wheeler (Hayagriva).
Ham experienced amazing success in growing his "intentional community", and at his peak he had well over 500 followers living with him. Unfortunately he went rogue in the 80's, and drew the attention and the ire of the local authorities. He wound up being incarcerated, and then expelled from his own domain.
Today the Krishnas have gotten past the controversy of their early beginnings. New Vrindaban is a fascinating and beautiful place to visit, and is only about a 90-minute ride from Pittsburgh. Hindi pilgrims from all over the world travel to see it. If you need a refreshing escape into the wild, I heartily recommend you make the drive, and tour the property.