A Brief History of Prabhupada’s Palace

by Damodar das

The Palace of Gold opened on Janmastami/Labor Day Weekend in 1979. This was the culmination of six years of collective effort of the residents of New Vrindaban. What had begun as a home for Prabhupada, originally meant as a place he could do his translation work, had evolved into a much more impressive edifice.

Upon its completion, an annual Labor Day Weekend festival which centered on the Palace became a tradition and would bring devotee guests and other visitors. This would satisfy to a large extent the same purpose the Festival of Inspiration does now. Additionally, many thousands of people, some of whom would not normally visit any religious place, began coming to see a beautiful monument and spend some time hearing about the spiritual personality for whom it was built.

With the surprising fame of the Palace, preachers and book distributors both here and abroad were finding an increasing level of success in conveying their message. Moreover, almost all visitors who viewed the Palace were able to sense that there was a mood of devotion that had gone into the project, and many termed it a ‘ labor of love ‘, distinguishing it from other tourist destinations.

Then shortly after the opening, with the Palace up and running, the emphasis in the community turned towards building a new temple and guest lodge, and much of the attention previously focused on the Palace was directed elsewhere. Also, with the very frequent tours going on at the Palace, the Palace managers found it incompatible to have devotees spending time there, so there gradually developed an alienation of the very people who otherwise would have stayed mindful of the Palace and its needs.

By the mid to late 1980’s, various leadership difficulties and some incompetent managerial schemes further complicated the matter. The belief which had once existed in the minds of the devotees that the Palace was an important puspa samadhi for Prabhupada and a unifying place of pilgrimage for his followers had dwindled or vanished in many ways.

With due consideration of these points however, we cannot forget Srila Prabhupada surmising that if America took seriously to the Vaisnava path the world would follow. The Palace once appeared capable to help implement that plan to a significant degree, and seeing it bereft of a respectable standard of maintenance has been disheartening to those who have invested some part of their lives in it.

Despite all this, with essentially no budget for advertising, the Palace continues to attract and host approximately 15-20,000 guests per year. The gate receipts provide the necessary payroll for 8-10 people and to do a moderate amount of the continuing maintenance and renovation. Those who are maintaining the Palace at this present stage are eager to see that a greater number of individuals become involved in order to fully manifest the potential of this project.

In the past twenty-eight years the Palace has inspired close to a million people (and many more through the media) to spend their time seeing this memorial built in Prabhupada’s honor, and to listen to discussion on his activities and character. Many of the visitors to the Palace then continue onto the temple, experience the darshan of Their Lordships, often spend time with the community’s residents, and thus they are opened to other devotional opportunities.

We would like to see the Palace once again be thought of as a place of unity for all Vaisnavas, where a pleasant atmosphere of service in devotion is present. While you are here, kindly stroll the Palace grounds and take a good look at the current state of affairs.

If any of you have information on how we may create a trust fund or endowment for the Palace, or if you are aware a way to possibly receive some grants, offer your suggestions. As of now, we stand to lose the use of the entire back area (former restaurant/gift shop/preaching area) unless something is done very soon. A printed report of the situation is available.

A variety of other areas have remained unsightly for years. You may consider spending some summer days painting, financing some gold-leaf work, volunteering to give some tours or helping with construction. Any expertise or experienced guidance you can offer will be valued. As you know, this type of direct service to an acarya of the holy name always satisfies the soul.

Thank you, The Palace Staff (304) 843-1812 843-9808 845-3400

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