Built by the Hare Krishnas, this amazing Buddhist structure was intended as a home for the Hindu sect's aging guru, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Prabhupada brought the movement known as Krishna Consciousness to the United States in 1965, at age sixty-nine, and founded the New Vrindaban community in 1968. Prabhupada visited again in 1972, when his disciple Srila Bhaktipada, leader of the seventy-five-member West Virginia commune, determined to build him a palace based on traditional Indian architectural forms. Over the next six years, members of the sect constructed the palace. Considering the fact that they worked without blueprints and with no prior building experience, the level of achievement and workmanship is remarkable. Floors and walls are marble and onyx inlaid with intricate patterns; doorways and woodwork are teak. Windows are filled with stained glass, and a gold-leafed dome presides over all. After Prabhupada's death in 1977, what had been
Formally arranged, terraced gardens with fountains and a prize-winning rose collection surround the palace on the lower levels. The Temple of Understanding, the community's center, is downhill from the Palace of Gold. Here architecture and landscaping are less formal, though gilded statues around the pond conjure definite eastern images. Long-range plans call for a huge granite temple to be erected on the 4,000-acre property. For now, the Palace of Gold, finished and open year round, provides a sufficiently remarkable sight.