New Vrindavan Time Line


Stages of New Vrindavan (NV) development - ISKCON project located in West Virginia's northern panhandle.

1968-71: A rural retreat for the members of ISKCON. Communal Motto: Plain Living and High Thinking

1972-77: Different sites begin to emerge - NV as village. residence for Srila Prabhupada is underway. Craft shops are developed to construct Prabhupada's Palace. Main emphasis on the cows, self sufficiency and building the Palace. Communal.

1978-1986: NV as a tourist attraction and place of pilgrimage for the Hindu community in North America. Krishnaland idea develops (transcendental Disneyland) with various attractions depicting the pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavan. Plans for Temple of Understanding project go into full swing. Communal with a few exceptions - usually devotees with inheritances. A number of devotees receive financial assistance from relatives that they keep and use.

1987: NV leaves ISKCON.

1988-1993 NV reinvents itself as City of God. Organization is known as Interfaith League of Devotees with a dozen satellite centers around the world. Salaries and stipends emerge. Devotees begin to make financial arrangements for their own families. Rent system introduced. Transitional period.

1994 - present: Families have their own sources of income. Some start business, cottage industries, several work as truckers, while others work for the Palace or the community and receive a salary. They either own their own property or rent houses or apartments from the community. Only the devotees who are living in the Temple building itself live communally. Return to ISKCON.

Detailed Time Line

1965 *Srila Prabhupada arrives in USA at the age of seventy.

1966 *Prabhupada starts center in NYC on lower east side. Appealing to hippies. Incorporates ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). One purpose is "To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna." Srila Prabhupada wants to see rural, self sufficient communities.

1968 *New Vrindavan (NV)is started by several of Srila Prabhupada's early disciples - Kirtanananda Swami (later aka Bhaktipada) and Hayagriva das - on a remote 130 acre site with 99 year lease, located in Marshall County, West Virginia. The farm is up a two mile road impassable by car. The project is maintained by Hayagriva's salary as English professor at Ohio State University.

1969 *Srila Prabhupada visits NV for one month. Gives many guidelines. Wants 7 temples on 7 hills. At this time NV is seen as a retreat for members of the Hare Krishna movement. Prabhupada tells them to depend upon the cows and the land. *About 8-10 devotees in residence. 1st cow is purchased.

1971 *Bahulaban property is purchased and community becomes more visible since a major part is now situated on the road.

1972 *More land is purchased. Small Temple is built as extension of farm house in Bahulaban. *Srila Prabhupada visits and major event is held for Janmastami (Advent of Lord Krishna) with about 500 devotees and interested people in attendance. I visit at this time. News article in NY Times very favorable. *40 devotees in residence. 21 cows. Total land about 600 acres

1973 *Site for Prabhupada's quarters is purchased. Ground breaking ceremony is held. Kirtanananda Swami inspires devotees to work hard to build Palace and a Vedic Temple. *Incense business brings funds into community. *Motorcycle gang attacks NV. One gang member is looking for his daughter who he believes is in NV. Several devotees wounded by gun shots. Although many devotees testify, there are no criminal charges brought against gang.

1974 *Srila Prabhupada expresses a desire to retire to NV for 6 months out of the year to write undisturbed. Prabhupada visits NV. *Several small adobe cottages are built for families. Most families live in rooms above new cow barn that has been built in Bahulaban. Morning worship services held at three locations in the community. *The structure being built for Prabhupada begins to be referred to as Prabhupada's Palace.

1975 *113 cows, oxen, bulls - daily milk production from 25 milk cows exceeds 1200 lbs (about 140 gallons). *Building is constructed to house marble shop, dining room, etc. There is no refrigeration, milk and other perishables are stored in man made cave.

1976 *Hepatitis epidemic. Community is quarantined for two months in March/ April. My family and I arrive at this time. *Prabhupada visits in June. He tours palace under construction. He says we should make the whole state of WV Krishna Conscious. *80 full time devotees in residence with about 15 children in the school. Traveling party goes out to raise funds. Many devotee families live in small rooms above the barn.

1977 *Prabhupada passes away in India. Kirtanananda Swami is the first to begin to initiate his own disciples shortly after Prabhupada's passing. Soon, other leaders around the movement follow his lead. *100 devotees in residence. 150 cows about 40 are milking. 1000 acres of land.

1978 *Utility Building is constructed for casting shop and additional devotee residential rooms. Craft shops are in full swing for Palace completion.These include sculpturing, marble, stained glass, rod iron, fine arts, casting. *Devotees begin to view Palace as a way to draw visitors. *NV sends teams of devotees out to collect funds at various sporting events.

1979 *Palace grand opening in September draws over 1000 devotees as well as thousands of tourists. Fantastic media attention. Kirtanananda is acknowledged throughout the movement for his achievement. *Candle making business in introduced for Christmas sales at malls. *150 residents.

1981 *Guest Lodge is built. Plan is made to landscape a site near Palace and move temple there for a temporary period. *200 residents.

1982 *Palace continues to draw thousands of tourists. New Vrindavan is pride of the movement. Kirtanananda and NV continue to inspire devotees around the world. Idea to develop Krishnaland, a transcendental version of Disneyland. Project is later also called Land of Krishna. New plan for elaborate South Indian Vedic style temple - Temple of Understanding - begins to take shape. *400 devotees. About 2000 acres.

1983 New interim temple is built. Deities are moved during elaborate grand opening. Now center of community is shifted to an area a quarter of a mile past the Palace.* *NV begins to hire outside people. *Palace printing facility is opened in a recently purchased house. *Building and property to house school is purchased. *NV opens grocery/health food store. *Shuttle bus service is introduced in the community to bring devotees to offices and work sites along a four mile stretch of road.

1984 NV has over 150 paid employees - 2nd largest employer in the county. Planned South Indian style temple - Temple of Understanding - is officially unfolded. *NV growing beyond its communal roots. Some devotees are dissatisfied and want to develop independent sources of income for themselves and suggest NV also develop various sources of income. Kirtanananda, however, wants traveling parties to continue collecting funds as major source of income. NV also develops active membership program and enlists financial support from many Hindus in USA and India. *In 1984-85 population reaches over 600, including over 110 school aged children and ten teachers. 60 pre school children - Nursery building is built for them. Over 3000 acres of land.

1985 *Groundbreaking Ceremony and placing of Deity beneath the ground, for Temple of Understanding in May with visiting state politicians and dignitaries. They see this project as a financial boon to northern panhandle of WV. New site is excavated for ceremony. *Collection activities by traveling parties in full swing. *International meeting held at NV concerning situation with ISKCON gurus (at this point there are 14 gurus). Over 200 devotees attend meetings. Many devotees want the guru system reformed since some of the gurus have deviated from their vows or have become overbearing managers. Many visiting devotees are unhappy that Kirtanananda (although a very cordial host) does not attend the meetings except for the one time he is scheduled to make a presentation. *NV Press publishes: Hare Krishna Explosion by Hayagriva; Christ and Krishna, Song of God, Eternal Love by Kirtanananda *New and improved dairy facility is built about one and a half miles from temple to accommodate herd increase to 300 cows. *Apartment complex is built near temple. Although devotee families are asked to buy apartments, developing independent finances is still discouraged. Some are given apartments due to the importance of their service. *Devotee families receive a monthly allowance at community general store. This goes on for about 3 years. *Some devotees leave to develop independent financial situations since they are discouraged to do so in NV. *In Oct. Kirtanananda Swami is attacked by crazed, visiting devotee and is in hospital in coma for one month. The perpetrator is out of jail in one year.

1986 *At town meetings talks arise about developing varnasrama in NV. This is Vedic system of how society is structured. Issues arise about people with different devotional standards living in the community, owning TV sets (three people own TVs), owning land, etc. At this point about 8 devotee families own their own land. *Kirtanananda Swami begins to develop idea of Westernizing Krishna Consciousness, in worship services and literature. Eternal Love (inspired by Imitation of Christ) was already published in 1985. (Krishna-ized versions of Alice in Wonderland (1987), Pilgrim's Progress (1988), The Psalms (1988) are written and published by Kirtanananda and ghost writers. He begins promoting Western classical music, especially that of J.S. Bach. A 20-voice choir is formed in October which sings Krishna-ized classics of Bach, Handel, etc, as well as Krishna-ized Christian hymns, which continues until 1993.)

1987 *Peaceful FBI raid in January. Confiscate records, computers, etc. Eventually RICO charges are brought against Kirtanananda and several others. *Most children sent to public school (to counter-act bad PR) as a statement that our kids are normal, healthy and bright. School age children begin to live with their parents on a permanent basis. Previously school age kids live in ashrama environment, and only visit and stay with parents periodically. Our school, however, remains open and 15 kids decide to attend. School is moved to smaller facility. *Because of increased legal expenses employees are laid off or hours cut back. We learn that Cult Awareness Network actively promotes suits or legal actions against their targets so that victims' funds are depleted in defending themselves. *Kirtanananda Swami is excommunicated from ISKCON, along with NV community. Kirtanananda faces impending criminally charges and ISKCON wants to distance itself. Some devotees leave the community to remain with ISKCON.

1988 *Idea to develop Interfaith City of God. Elaborate model is built and put on display. Architectural plans for Temple of Understanding assume more gothic and Western dimensions. Soon plan becomes a more inter-faith concept, and the name changes to Cathedral of Healing, finally to Cathedral of the Holy Name. *Murti (statue) of Lord Jesus installed in Temple at Christmas. *More devotees leave. 400 residents. *NV starts to put on interfaith conferences.

1989 *By now Kirtanananda Swami has introduced Franciscan type robes, beards, pipe organ and other Western instruments, silent meditation, Christian hymns. Organization now known as Interfaith League of Devotees. Devotees of other traditions are invited to live in NV. *Many faithful Hindu supporters become alienated by the changes, and some feel they have been cheated since they have given large donations to construction a Vedic style temple. We begin to lose their support. *More devotees leave. Population down to about 350. *40 students at school with five teachers. *A sizable number of devotees out collecting funds.

1990 *Kirtanananda states that devotee families should develop their own incomes to maintain themselves and purchase land from the community to live on. *Stipends are introduced.(Previously, the few families who bought their own homes did so with inheritances. Some devotees who received inheritances merely turned it over to the community.) *Dairy reaches its peak at about 900 gallons daily. Herd is over 400 with 160 milking cows. *Palace printing closes. Press equipment is sold.

1991 *Kirtanananda Swami is convicted and sent to prison. *Building and mortgaged property which once housed the large school is forfeited. *Rent system is introduced at apartments and houses.

1992 *Kirtanananda Swami placed in house arrest near Wheeling to await appeal. *Kirtanananda's plans for a clinic and multi level green house are abandoned after large amount of money is spent.

1993 *Kirtanananda Swami released from house arrest. Under order of court he does not reside in NV, but stays on property about one hour away called Silent Mountain. *Murti Swami, main architect at NV for 10 years, departs. During his stay he has altered plans for Temple of Understanding /Cathedral of the Holy Name 30 times. *Sept - Kirtanananda Swami privately admits to improprieties unbecoming a guru and he is asked to step down as guru and leader of NV by many senior devotees. He is advised to travel and preach. Strain develops between two camps within the community. (One camp wants to continue with him as the leader; the other camp wants Kirtanananda to step back from his position and allow NV to return to the worship and practices that Srila Prabhupada established.) *Last interfaith gathering is held in the fall (13 gatherings are held in five years). *Management is in limbo. No more money comes to NV from collections which are conducted by Kirtanananda's followers and now only go to him directly. He gives funds to support the school. *Two separate morning worship services are held: the one which Srila Prabhupada introduced in the West; the other of Krishna-ized Christian hymns which Kirtanananda started. The latter is finally dropped in early 1994.

1994 *Ad Hoc community forms to give shape to NV management. Two managerial boards develop. (I am also involved in this and remain a board member until 1997.) *250 residents.

1995 *During new trial, Kirtanananda pleads guilty and is ultimately sentenced to 12 years. *It becomes standard practice that families must maintain themselves financially - devotees develop independent incomes or receive a salary or stipend from community. (e.g.,. school teacher, tour guide at Palace, or priest on altars receiving stipend - position of accountant, lodge manager receiving salaries). Many families have their own property. *Sales from construction equipment, bulldozers, etc are used to maintain the community. *In 1994-1995 many Kirtanananda followers move away from the community. *about 225 devotees in and around greater NV community. 30 students and four teachers in our school. 350 cows. *Due to sever lack of funds dairy operation is downsized by limiting impregnation of cows. Old ones die off and no new calves are born.

1996 *Rentals, sales of property, and continued sales of various equipment is used to pay community bills. *25 students and three full time teachers in our school. *Several devotee owned businesses start up, bringing jobs to community members as well as to surrounding population.

1997 *ISKCON and NV formally renew relationships. Decide upon one year waiting period before NV reenters ISKCON *18 students in elementary school with two full time teachers.

1998 *NV returns to ISKCON on two year probationary period. *Hindu pilgrims and ISKCON devotees visiting NV increases. *Community continues to sell property. Down to about 1400 acres. All is available for purchase except for 500 core acres designated as ISKCON. *225 residents in greater NV with about 30 devotees actually living in the temple building. 10 students and two teachers in school. *250 cows - only 10 milking. New barn has been built across the road from temple to accommodate milking cows.

1999 *NV private school closes. *Hindu visitors continue to increase. NV starts to receive more financial support from Hindus. *NV Continues selling land.

2001 *Two devotee owned businesses go out of business. *Full time President/Manager is hired to run NV *About 20 devotees live in temple building. *Suit brought against New Vrindavan (and ISKCON) by 50 former students at boarding schools charging alleged abuse in the 1970's and 1980's.

2002 *New Vrindavan and other North American ISKCON temples file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (a move not toward liquidation, but toward reorganizing assets and setting aside funds to assist young people who went to ISKCON boarding schools). "Chapter 11 is a further effort to address past problems by creating an orderly and efficient procedure for dealing with and maximizing return to claimants," said Sandy Frey, Bankruptcy Counsel.

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