With COVID restrictions in our rearview mirror, 2022 was a year marked by growth and expansion. This year saw a record number of visitors to New Vrindaban, with over 35,000 pilgrims and western guests and over 12,000 staying at the Lodge or cabins (33% more than the previous year). Our festivals were packed, and our retreats and events were well attended. In addition, we welcomed 22 new residents who have brought their gifts and devotion to a broad range of services for Radha Vrindaban Chandra.
The introduction of our Winter Retreats in January-March kicked off some new western outreach initiatives. These retreats are a gentle introduction to the bhakti lifestyle, introducing kirtan, mantra meditation, offering your food to the Lord, philosophy classes, and more.
An additional Bhakti Lifestyle Retreat in October followed the same model for 15 spiritual seekers. Our retreat leaders continue to nourish the original attendees with weekly follow up Zoom calls and WhatsApp sharing. Additionally, three of our residents also lead weekly online sangas with seekers from all over the world who have been introduced to Bhakti through the popular Wisdom of the Sages podcast.
Following the Winter Retreats, we met the beauty of spring with our Sunday Brunch outreach to westerners held at Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold. Hundreds of western guests joined us in the summer for tours of the Palace, delicious prasadam, and lovely music while nestled in the gorgeous setting of the Palace Rose Gardens.
Summer Speakers and Events
In June, HH Sacinandana Swami led devotees through a transformative Holy Name Immersion Retreat marked by profound presentations, and small group activities, concluding with our bi-annual 24-hour Kirtan event.
HG Narayani Devi Dasi guided devotees on a journey from Sraddha to Nishta and Beyond in a series of July presentations, followed by the return of our Wheeling Ratha Yatra on July 16th. West Virginia Sen. Owens Brown and Delegate Shawn Fluharty participated in the chariot festivities, along with many locals from the Ohio Valley.
August marked the 50th anniversary of the Bhagavat Dharma discourses by Srila Prabhupada at Bahulaban’s Pavilion Hill. First, dozens of devotees made the trek to the top of the mountain, where senior devotees shared their memories of the original event. Then, after several hours of beautiful reminiscences, everyone descended to enjoy sumptuous prasadam together. That month, we also welcomed HG Janaki Devi Dasi, who guided a group through The Right Use of Power™, a dynamic, inspiring, and relational approach to the ethical use of professional and personal power.
Fall and Winter Festivities
The September Man-Tra Men’s Retreat organized by HH Bhaktimarga Swami, HG Anuttama Prabhu, Gaura Vani, and their team helped devotee men discuss difficult topics and find strength and solace in the Holy Names of Krishna. The month also included a weekend gathering with HH Mahatma Das, who led devotees on an amazing Japa Retreat with fresh new insights on deepening our practice and passion for Krishna. Area residents and devotees alike also saw our fall Festival of Colors return, which welcomed hundreds of locals to Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold for engaging devotee musicians, yoga, color throws, and a wide assortment of prasadam offerings. Finally, October brought our Kartik 24-hour kirtan event, with devotees from around the country blessing us with their heartfelt and joyful sessions.
November was a month of gratitude, and hundreds joined us for a Thanksgiving Day feast. Our annual Christmas Retreat warmed hearts in the cold weather, welcoming many families who love to spend this gift-giving season at New Vrindaban, and many more returned for our final New Year’s Retreat.
Inspiring Teachers, Book Distribution, and Initiations
Throughout these months, we were nourished by many preachers who came to New Vrindaban, including HH Vedavyasa Priya Maharaja, HH Mahavisnu Swami, HH Chandrasekar Swami, and HG Amarendra Prabhu, to name a few. In addition, book Distribution numbers continue to inspire, with over 5,600 Bhagavad-gitas shared and nearly 6,400 other books placed. Finally, twelve devotees from the congregation received first initiation, and four devotees (two from the New Vrindaban community) received their second initiation.
Making Meaningful Connections
We also welcomed several groups and local officials, including the Marshall County Administrator, the Greater Moundsville CVB Executive Director, the Executive Director of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, state politicians, and representatives from both our US Senator’s offices. They toured Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, ECO-Vrindaban, and the Temple and concluded with a curated luncheon in Govinda’s. Speaking of Govinda’s, it saw a 28% increase in revenue over 2021, serving thousands of guests.
Moundsville’s Family Resource Network staff were welcomed to a “Lunch and Learn” in November, which began a fruitful relationship between the area non-profit and our Devotee Care department. It has resulted in many practical donations, including diapers, toiletries, and educational toys, as well as the return of health care “navigators” who recently spent a day at New Vrindaban helping devotees receive free or discounted health care. The possibility of a mobile medical unit coming to serve New Vrindaban devotees is also being discussed.
Devotee Care staff member and Prabhupada disciple, Lilasuka Devi Dasi had a brain aneurysm on November 26th and passed away a few weeks later. While devastated by the sudden episode, dozens of devotees traveled to her hospital room in Morgantown to surround her with love, chanting, and kirtan. Unfortunately, we also lost Lila Morrow, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, who, in her earlier years, had rendered numerous exceptional services to the movement in various countries.
Looking back on 2022, even with labor and construction supply issues, we saw fantastic progress in expanding housing options for those wishing to join us and for our growing families to have more space for homes and gardens. Residents are anxiously awaiting the opening of our ten new devotee apartments, which have a completion target for late spring of 2023. Govardhan Village, which has designated land for five new cabins and pads for eight tiny house lots, is taking shape near the water tower. New home sites with acreage called Bahulaban Village and Vrindaville are in final preparations for devotees who want to build.
New Temple Progress and Many Renovations
Significant progress was made by devotees and outside experts on the construction of the Radha Gopinath Temple, with an inauguration set for 2023. Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold saw a 16% increase in visitors from the previous year. Its renovations included ongoing exterior restorations, a new heating/cooling system installed, and the final domes are set to arrive in 2023. Our Village Center also received a much-needed exterior refresh and new heating and cooling. In addition, 2023 will see the basement renovated to provide a space for a devotee gym.
In the Fall, New Vrindaban shifted part of our focus to improving our guest experience by expanding bathrooms and pilgrim department office space in the Temple. In addition, new radiant heated flooring is being installed in the Temple lobby, while the whole space is being redesigned to be more welcoming and uncluttered.
At our extraordinary December Holiday Gala, we revealed our theme for 2023, “Let’s Grow into the New Year together.” We look forward to witnessing all that Krsna will accomplish in the coming year, committed to deepening and broadening our service to Him.