New Mathura Vrindaban

A spiritual oasis with a golden palace, marred by scandal but seeking redemption.

New Mathura Vrindaban, often known simply as New Vrindaban, is an unincorporated area and intentional community associated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), located in Marshall County, West Virginia, United States. Founded in 1968 by Kirtanananda Swami and Hayagriva Swami, it aimed to be a self-sufficient, spiritual community based on the principles and practices of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a tradition within Hinduism focused on devotion to Krishna.

Foundation and Growth

New Vrindaban was established with the intent to emulate the holy city of Vrindavan in India, a significant pilgrimage site for Vaishnavites. As the first farm community of ISKCON, it attracted followers seeking a simpler, more devout lifestyle away from the materialism of mainstream society. Its most notable structure, Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, was initially intended as a residence for A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON. Construction began in the early 1970s, with the palace being completed in 1979. Despite Prabhupada never living there, the Palace of Gold became a major tourist attraction, lauded by media outlets for its stunning architecture and spiritual atmosphere​​.

Scandal and Legal Troubles

However, the community was not without controversy. In the 1990s, New Vrindaban was embroiled in scandal when its leader, Kirtanananda Swami, was accused of serious offenses, including child molestation and involvement in criminal activities such as racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder. These allegations led to his expulsion from ISKCON and eventual imprisonment. The community faced a significant decline in followers and financial support during this period, leading to a downturn in its fortunes and the discontinuation of many of its services and projects​​.

Recovery and Present Day

Despite these challenges, New Vrindaban has made efforts to recover and redefine itself within the broader ISKCON movement. The community has focused on restoration projects, particularly of the Palace of Gold, and has sought to address past wrongs, including implementing child protection policies. Today, New Vrindaban continues to attract visitors and pilgrims, though it operates on a much smaller scale than its peak in the 1980s. It serves as a reminder of both the potential and the pitfalls of spiritual communities​​.

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