ISKCON New Vrindaban owns 35 apartments which are rented to devotees serving at the temple. You see on your right two of the older apartment buildings.
On your left is New Vrindaban’s unique school called Gopal’s Garden. The school offers a nursery and kindergarten for children ages three to five and an elementary school for grades 1-8. Older children attend the high school in town.
3. Vrindavan Ghee Factory
Next on the left is the ghee factory which produces Vrindavan Ghee. This company is owned by a devotee family. Truckloads of butter are brought in from out of state and then made into ghee. About four devotees are engaged in the local production, and they usually produce two batches of ghee per week. This is then shipped to a warehouse in New York and sold all over the East of the USA.
New Vrindaban has two main land-holding nonprofits – ECO-Vrindaban and ISKCON New Vrindaban. It also has a third important legal entity with the Village Association. ECO-Vrindaban promotes cow protection and local agriculture. The cowherd team currently care for 70 cows, bulls, calves, and oxen at four different barns. You can see the office of ECO-Vrindaban in front of you and the big open barns where mainly geriatric cows reside. These cows have ample space on the surrounding hill where they are free to walk and graze. You may see some cows in the barn while driving by.
5. Lower Barn
The barn you see here is for hay storage. During the winter, when there is a shortage of fresh grass, hay (which is just dried grass) is fed to the cows. ECO-Vrindaban produces about 1,000 bales of hay each year and stores them in this big barn along with machinery used for this purpose. The overstock of hay is sold in the spring to local farmers.
6. High Tunnels
Next, you come to the high tunnels where ECO-Vrindaban produces vegetables year-round. Masses of vegetables are grown to supply Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s temple. Excess produce during the summer is sold at the weekend village market. In addition to the high tunnels, there is an open garden where vegetables are grown during the summer season. In this area, there are also stations for washing and packing produce.
7. Garden of Gratitude/Village Center/Milking Barn
Next on your left is the Garden of Gratitude where flowers for worship are grown during the warm season. After that is the Village Center which is the house where Srila Prabhupada stayed for five days during his 1974 visit to New Vrindaban.
You can also see the milking barn where cows who are giving milk are taken care of along with their calves. There is space for a maximum of eight cows. Milking happens at 7:00am and 6:00pm daily. You are allowed to go and watch the cows being milked, but please do not feed the cows during milking so as not to cause difficulties for the devotees doing the milking. You are welcome to feed them at other times.
8. Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold/Lotus Pond
Driving up the hill on the way to Srila Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, you pass the lotus pond on your left. About 1,000 lotuses bloom from mid-June to late September and enchant visitors. The annual Festival of Colors, Holi, takes place in this area in mid-September.
At the peak of the hill is Srila Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, a memorial for ISKCON’s Founder-acharya, Srila Prabhupada, who arrived in the USA in 1965 and established 108 temples and farm communities all over the world before he left this planet in 1977.
Prabhupada’s Palace roof and domes are currently under renovation, bringing it to the end of phase two of a seven-phase renovation plan. The remaining phases include restoration of the terraces and lower level and the addition of a welcome center and museum for Srila Prabhupada.
CNN named Srila Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold as “one of the eight religious wonders to visit in the USA,” and Business Insider in 2019 and 2020 listed it as “one of the 30 most beautiful places to visit in the USA.” Since 2019, it has been listed in the National Register of Historical Places.
You can take a guided tour of the Palace. These are offered every half an hour from 10:00am to 5:00pm, and during the high season from 10:00am until 8:00pm. In the winter, tours are by appointment only. Details are usually posted on the website.
9. Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Temple
Here you can see the Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Temple, the first of the seven temples which Srila Prabhupada asked the New Vrindaban devotees to make replicas of. It is currently under construction. Near this temple is a shrine of Lord Shiva known as Kundeshwar Mahadeva who is considered the protector of New Vrindaban.
The ponds in this area are replicas of Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda. There is a beautiful historical narration of how the original ponds in India were formed. One day, Aristasura, a demon in the form of a bull, attacked Vrindavan threatening to kill everyone. Lord Krishna promptly dispatched this demon, but afterwards was criticized by the young gopis, or cowherd girls, for committing the sin of killing a bull. They told Him that to purify Himself He needs to bathe in all the holy rivers. Immediately, Krishna kicked His heel in the ground and formed a large pit in the earth and then summoned all the holy rivers who appeared in their personified forms and filled it. He then bathed in the pond, which came to be called Shyama Kunda.
Then Krishna told the gopis that now they had to purify themselves from the fault of criticizing Him by bathing in His pond. But, considering His pond to be contaminated now that He had bathed in it, they dug their own pond, Radha Kunda, and collected water from the nearby sacred lake, Manasi Ganga, to fill it. In the end, the waters of the two ponds mixed and both Radha and Krishna dipped themselves in each other’s ponds. This pastime exhibits the playful, loving relationship between Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan. And it is said that anyone who sprinkles water from these ponds on their heads will have their dormant love for the Lord awakened very soon.
10. Govardhana Hill
The hill behind the water tank is part of Govardhan, a replica of the original Govardhan Hill in India which Lord Krishna lifted 5,000 years ago to save all the people of Vrindavan from a terrible storm inflicted by the demigod Indra. Krishna lifted the whole mountain on the little finger of His left hand and held it there for seven days and seven nights while all the villagers sheltered there, free from hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and totally absorbed in loving gratitude toward the Lord. This pastime shows how Krishna always protects and provides for His devotees.
The sculpted hill on your right represents Aniyor, the place where Krishna was asking for more food during the Govardhan festival which took place before He lifted the hill. You can learn more about this famous pastime in Srila Prabhupada’s book entitled Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
You are now passing through the Madhuban area. On your left, there was an old farmhouse under the big tree which served for many years as the temple of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra. A memorial stone reminds visitors of this historical fact. Srila Prabhupada stayed in this farmhouse during his visit in 1972.
12. Srila Prabhupada’s Home during his Final Visit
On your right is Sankirtan and Ruci Prabhu’s house where Srila Prabhupada stayed during his fourth and final visit to New Vrindaban in 1976. Srila Prabhupada would sit each evening under the tree you see on the right and give an informal class to devotees and guests.
13. View of the Farmhouse (Old Vrindaban)
Through the trees you can see the original New Vrindaban Farmhouse. When the devotees acquired the property in 1968, this farmhouse was the only building at New Vrindaban. Srila Prabhupada stayed in this house for 32 days during his first visit in 1969. You will come to this farmhouse a little later on the tour.
14. Jewelry Factory
On the left is a jewelry factory where about 14 staff members work, producing silver jewelry for Japan and Hong Kong.
You will now leave the public road and turn onto a gravel road. This road is secure to drive on, but please adjust your speed accordingly. You will drive down into the valley and then up the other side to the original New Vrindaban Farmhouse.
On your left is what was once New Vrindaban’s horse rink. In the early days, devotees did not use heavy machinery but instead engaged draft horses in doing work like cutting the grass, plowing the fields, dragging logs from the forest to the farm, and pulling wagons for general transportation. The horses were trained in this horse rink. The horse barn can be seen above the small pond you will pass on your left.
(Original New Vrindaban farmhouse)
Here is the original New Vrindaban farmhouse. The devotees started the New Vrindaban community in this farmhouse in 1968, and Srila Prabhupada stayed in the upstairs room of this house for 32 days during his first visit of New Vrindaban in 1969. During that time, he maintained his daily schedule, translating during the night, being available for personal questions during the day, and giving lectures under the old persimmon tree in front of the left corner of the house in the evening.
Life was very austere in those early years. Accommodation was short, and devotees started to build cabins around the farmhouse. But there was hardly any money for the maintenance of the devotees. The well did not provide enough water for everyone’s daily needs, so devotees had to walk ten minutes down to the creek to take shower under a waterfall. This was a lot of fun during the summer but not so fun during the wintertime! Many devotees would leave New Vrindaban in the winter and go to the Pittsburgh temple where life was a little easier.
From this farmhouse, Srila Prabhupada presented his vision for New Vrindaban to the devotees. Struggling just to survive the first year here, the devotees could barely fathom how Srila Prabhupada’s grand vision would ever manifest. But they understood that Srila Prabhupada desired that they expand the community by acquiring more land and attracting more devotees.
A temple room was created on the ground floor, and the deities of Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath were installed here. This installation happened on a very busy weekend in June 1973 during which the groundbreaking ceremony for Prabhupada's Palace and the installation of Sri Sri Radha Madhava at Madhuban also took place.
H.H. Radhanath Swami worshipped Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath here for seven years, and H.H. Chandraumauli Swami was the deity cook who prepared all the offerings for the deities. Radhanath Swami was known for his austere lifestyle. He would sleep on the floor of the pujari room behind the altar or, later, in the little attic built over the hallway on the left of the altar.
Srila Prabhupada visited the farmhouse again in 1976. The photograph in the temple room shows Srila Prabhupada taking darshan of Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath with the current altar.
For a while, the original farmhouse hosted only ladies. This was before the brahmacharis moved back from Bahulaban. From here, they went every day to Prabhupada’s Palace site to work on the construction.
ISKCON’s first cow, a black cow who Srila Prabhupada named Kaliya, was acquired by the devotees in 1968. When Srila Prabhupada visited the initial New Vrindaban farmhouse in 1976, Kaliya would run to Srila Prabhupada from far away. On one occasion, the cowherd man next to Srila Prabhupada told him, “This is Kaliya.” Srila Prabhupada looked at the cow as if he were seeing an old friend and said, “I know.” Then, when Srila Prabhupada walked to the farmhouse, Kaliya walked with him. The special connection that Srila Prabhupada had with Kaliya demonstrates how a pure devotee connects to all living beings.
The initial New Vrindaban farmhouse is an important part of New Vrindaban’s history as well as a holy place of pilgrimage due to Srila Prabhupada’s prolonged stay here. There are plans to renovate the farmhouse in the near future and to develop Srila Prabhupada’s room upstairs into a museum memorializing Srila Prabhupada’s residence here.
Your tour may stop here and you may return to the temple or you may proceed to…
By driving another two miles toward US Route 250, you will come to Bahulaban. In 1971, the devotees bought the Bahulaban farm, a 150-acre tract of land with an old farmhouse which they transformed into a temple. Almost immediately, the center of the community shifted from the original farmhouse to Bahulaban. There, the devotees built their first building, a cow barn, out of lumber from trees they cut themselves from the forest. The cows were cared for on the ground floor of the barn, and devotees stayed upstairs with no running water or sanitary system. They took showers outside and used an outhouse as their restroom. Many devotee babies were born to the sound of the mooing cows in this barn!
Eventually, they built the Bahulaban Guesthouse and later, the Utility Building which became a multi-trade workshop for Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold. Here, the marble was cut and polished, stained-glass windows were crafted, and carpentry work was done. There were also rooms here to accommodate devotees who performed these services. Over time, a large warehouse and additional workshops were constructed.
Thank you for taking this self driving tour and feel more familiar with the history of New Vrindaban.