Step out of the Appalachian Mountains of Moundville, West Virginia into the Palace of Gold, which reminds many visitors of life in India. “It felt like I was coming home,” described the feelings of one recent guest from New Delhi.
Greeted by Andy Fraenkel, master spiritual storyteller, we were led on an in depth tour of the Palace and grounds. Andy also explained through story, many of the beliefs of the people who built this magnificent structure. Only outside pictures were permitted at the Palace of Gold.
This beautiful golden temple glistens in the sunlight as sunrays catch on the gold coated roof and walls. Construction began here in 1974 with the intention of making a beautiful home for Prabhupada, who founded the Hare Krishna Movement. While Prabhupada did visit the Palace four times during its construction, he never got to live at the Palace due to his death in India two years before it was finished. Upon its completion in 1979, it became a memorial and an instant attraction.
It was decided to build a palace around the original home, adding abundant marble, gems, and gold to make it remind others of similar places in India. This was a huge undertaking and took five and a half years to complete at a cost of $400,000. That may not seem like much for a beautiful palace, but costs were kept low due to volunteer labor of the commune that lived nearby at that time. When the Palace of Gold opened in 1979, 25,000 people were on hand.
Before entering the Palace of Gold, you will be struck by the beauty of their famous Rose Garden, the perfect place for a time of meditation amongst the beauty and scent of the blossoms. There are over150 varieties of roses plus a hundred water fountains to add to the ambiance, as you bathe yourself in the morning sun.
A lotus pond is covered with blossoms in this secluded Garden of Time. It’s the perfect place to spot a white swan or duck floating among the lotus. The pathways around the grounds make a peaceful place to walk with nature, and enjoy blossoms from spring through fall. Gorgeous peacocks are frequently seen wandering through the garden as well. From here you can see vistas of three different states.
Now it’s time to discover the inside of the Palace of Gold. Sunshine again plays its role in enhancing the stained glass windows. Sparkling crystal chandeliers reflect inner light from the mirrored ceilings. A Great French Chandelier, over 150 years old, brightens the room so semi-precious stones and pure gold glisten. While it is called the Palace of Gold, there are actually only about 80 ounces of gold used in construction. Gold leaf was applied in very thin sheets, 1/1000″ thick, and brushed onto the walls and ceiling.
As you walk on floors of marble imported from Europe, Asia and Africa, there are designs on the walls describing the Krishna religion. One wall had several peacock designs as they are a symbol of royalty and bring good fortune. Lord Krishna wears a peacock feather in his hair.
Cows and elephants have their special place also. The cow is revered as a source of food while the elephant is a symbol of wealth as kings rode them during peacetime and wartime. During the 1980’s, an elephant actually stayed on the grounds near the Palace of God, but it didn’t like the cold weather. So they actually got a semi and sent the elephant to Florida on vacation for the winter. But that expense only happened one year!
The Palace is home to those of the Hindu faith, whose many denominations are all religious manifestations of Dharma. Andy explained, “Each one of us has different unique abilities. Use your talent as an offering to God.”
According to the Dharma teachings: “The path to enlightenment is very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourselves and start cherishing others.”
The Palace of Gold is located at 3759 McCreary Ridge Road outside of Moundsville, WV. Take route 250 South, which is a curvy, mountain road and watch for signs to direct you to the Palace of Gold. It is very well marked.