New Vrindaban’s population continued to swell after Prabhupada’s death in 1977. Kirtananda hoped to attract new converts by building seven sprawling, flashy temples on its seven hills, just like New Vrindaban’s namesake town in India, where Krishna is said to have spent his childhood. By the early 1980s, about 700 Hare Krishna followers lived on the grounds. By 1985, New Vrindaban was the second-largest employer in Marshall County, West Virginia.

However, a string of scandals divided the community. In 1986, Thomas Drescher was convicted of the murder of a fellow follower. FBI agents, investigating accusations of racketeering and child molestation, raided the community in 1987 and arrested Kirtananda. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness expelled New Vrindaban and all its members from the worldwide movement the same year. In 1996, Kirtananda pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, and his supporters left the community. Finally, a fraction of its former size, New Vrindaban was readmitted to the worldwide Hare Krishna movement in 1998.

—compiled from Associated Press reports

all content copyright Rob Hardin and Eric Hornbeck 2008