for examiner.com on Aug. 15, 2009
The drive from Cleveland to Wheeling, West Virginia is a beautiful juxtaposition of Ohio forests with the industry that supports Ohio. As you live the city behind you, your trip will take you past small towns and awe-inspiring factories, like the First Energy plant just outside of Steubenville, which spans the roadway and creates a tunnel. Of all the sites that you may expect to see, the most unlikely site is the 22 karat gold dome at the peak of Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, just outside of Wheeling.
Srila Prabhupada came to America from Calcutta in 1965, at 70-years-old, in order to spread the message of Krishna Consciousness, which he did through his travels, writing 80 books, and the creation of The New Vrindaban Community in 1968. His devotees began to build a golden palace for him to write and relax in the rolling West Virginia hills, but Prabhupada passed away during the construction. Since then, his followers have transformed the palace into a monument. His followers built a temple, called The New Vrindaban Temple, only a quarter of a mile down the road.
The Palace of Gold, declared America's Taj Majal by the New York Times, is surrounded by the West Virginia countryside and, when standing on one of the many overlook points, it is impossible to see a road or power line. Isolated at the union of curving country roads, this monument boasts 8,000 square feet of gold leaflets, 52 types of marble from 17 countries, antique French chandeliers, and hand-stitched tapestries. The palace was completely constructed by Prabhupada's disciples - members of The New Vrindaban Community learned to cut the marble that lines the walls and hallways, and resident artists spent weeks on scaffolding to create the murals on every ceiling. The beauty of the palace can only be matched by its large lily pond, and the All American Rose Selection award winning rose garden.
The Palace of Gold is a dazzling labor of love, a monument to a spiritual leader that is worth the time for its cultural significance as well as its beauty. While you are in the area, you can geocache to better understand why West Virginia is properly dubbed wild and wonderful.