Palace of Gold
Hidden in West Virginia’s hills is one of the state’s most magnificent treasures—a monument that rivals the majestic palaces of India.
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Originally intended as a home for their leader, Prabhupada, community members designed the palace to include a bedroom and bath, a study where Prabhupada could do his writings and translations, and most importantly, a temple where he could practice his religious traditions and perform chants and meditations.
In the study, one of the palace’s most elaborately designed rooms, sits a life-sized replica of Prabhupada translating Sanskrit writings into English. Around him, the walls are inlaid with several types of marble and adorned with gold baseboards and cornices and silk peacock brocades sewn with real, gold thread from India. Antique, carved teakwood furniture fills the room, and two antique vases from China are purportedly donated gifts from Henry Ford’s great-grandson, a member of the greater ISKCON culture. In Prabhupada’s bedroom, the walls consist of nearly 2,000 pieces of rare Persian onyx and Italian marble, and the gold-leaf ceiling featuring nearly 1,000 hand-painted flowers was designed and completed by a community woman who spent six months prone on her back, painting the ceiling. The bathroom mirror is an 18th century piece imported from Spain, and the 300-pound sink of grey-orange marble features rose quartz faucet handles embellished with 22-karat gold.
Finally, at the center of the palace lies Prabhupada’s temple, intended as the main room of the building, where he would have gathered with his devotees every morning and evening to perform kirtan, a devotional tradition of call-and-response chanting. A rare, antique chandelier from France hangs from the ceiling adorned with murals, and the floors, walls, and ceilings are inlaid with 35,000 feet of 50 varieties of marble and onyx imported from France, Italy, Canada, and the Middle East and cut into 2,000 hand-polished pieces. After Prabhupada’s death, members incorporated an ornate, gold-leaf throne for him, the focal point of the temple, with a dome ceiling boasting more than 4,000 pieces of crystal.
Despite a history clouded with controversy after a federal investigation in the 1980s put investigators on the trail of the then-leader of the New Vrindaban community, the Palace of Gold remains a majestic monument to Prabhupada and his community of followers, leading quiet lives of devotion in West Virginia’s hill country. “In this culture, teachers are respected persons and students are always trying to do things to please him,” says Tom. “Everyone is always trying to bend over backwards to please the teacher, and that is why we have the Palace of Gold today. Prabhupada’s devotees just kept making the monument nicer and nicer to please him and honor him.”
As you leave the palace, the soft whisper of the wind in the trees accompanies recordings of Prabhupada performing the Krishna mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare,” calling God’s name and reminding visitors that this place, born of Hindu philosophies, is a place of love and devotion.
For information on tours and festivals at the palace, visit palaceofgold.com. The palace is open April through August, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and September through March, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are $8 for adults, $6 for children 6 to 18.
Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, RD 1 NBU# 23, Moundsville, WV 26041; 304.843.1812