As I drove the last five miles of crumbling and winding road leading to Prabhupada's Palace of Gold near Moundsville, West Virginia, my expectations were high, but they didn't prepare me for the assault on the senses I was about to encounter. As I got out of my car I immediately heard the faint chanting over the palace public address system, similar to chanting one would expect coming from a mosque in the Middle East. "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare" was being chanted in a loop by a hypnotic male voice. It was, frankly, ...er...um...pleasant.
I paid the modest $8 "donation" to get a tour of the inner sanctum of the Palace of Gold, which is a shrine to Swami Prabhupada, who established Krishna Consciousness in the United States in the late 1960's, and lived on these grounds for about a month in the summer of 1974. Photography was not aloud on the tour. I've toured many castles and palaces and cathedrals and churches in the United States and Europe, and this compared very favorably to most of them. The inner sanctum was all marble, crystal and teak wood imported from around the world, to include two rare vases given to the palace by the grandson of Henry Ford. There are over five pounds of gold leaf used to line the ceiling.
To walk the grounds there is no charge. The highlight this time of year is the rose garden, meticulously maintained by followers of Krishna Consciousness.
A statue of Krishna in the rose garden.
After removing my shoes at the door I sat in the back of the temple, spellbound at times by the melodic chanting of Krishna adherents facing a shrine at the front, all the while Indian women dressed in colorful sarees entered and placed their palms together in front of their chest, then walked around to the different shines in the room. This was not a place designed specifically for tourists. This is a place real people practice their religion. I sat for about a half hour before quietly getting up and leaving. I was never made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, nor were my two kids.
Peacocks roamed the grounds near the temple and are considered prized because Krishna wore their feathers. In nature it is the male peacock who struts his feathers as a mating ritual to attract females. This bird had no problem showing off for nearby females as I took his picture.