New Vrindaban Community Festival Celebrates Cow Protection Program

Photo by Brad Hundt Olivia Snider of the New Vrindaban community feeds a cow earlier this week. The community is celebrating its cow protection program with a festival this weekend.

Even though beef cattle can live for 15 to 20 years, most don’t pack in all those years. They are usually slaughtered before they reach their second birthday. The same goes for dairy cows, but they at least usually make it to age 4.

That’s not the case at the New Vrindaban community in the hills outside of Moundsville. Founded a little more than 50 years ago by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, members of the community maintain a herd of cattle and oxen that numbers more than 60. The dairy cows are milked, of course, and the oxen are deployed for agricultural purposes. But the cattle otherwise live out their lives in the relatively serene surroundings of New Vrindaban, and are quietly buried when they die.

This weekend, New Vrindaban is celebrating what it calls “50 years of cow protection” with a festival that will include churning butter, making patties and decorations out of cow dung, and presentations on subjects like training oxen.

Cattle are considered sacred within the Hare Krishna movement, which is an offshoot of Hinduism, as well as in Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Jainism. According to Olivia Snider, who manages the Palace Lodge at New Vrindaban, “What we practice is the yoga of love and service. And in that is the love of all creatures. Everything has a soul.”

When the cows reach the end of their lives, Snider said, they are wrapped in a blanket and ushered out of this realm with singing and chanting by devotees.

Given their relatively long lives, members of the community can feel an emotional attachment to the cows, just as people would to dogs or cats that are household pets.

“They’re so sweet,” she explained to a visitor earlier this week. “It’s really sweet how they live.”

The New Vrindaban community is perhaps best known for its ornate Palace of Gold, which opened in 1979 and draws thousands of visitors every year, whether they are adherents to the faith or not. Isolated to a degree because of its location, the community has spent years rebounding from scandals in the 1970s and 1980s that beset its leadership and led to tumbling membership. The festival celebrating the community’s cows is an example of how New Vrindaban is reaching out to the wider world. Tourist brochures for other sites in West Virginia are available in its welcome center, drilling for natural gas has occurred on the community’s 1,200 acres, and events like summer camp and a festival of colors are on the agenda.

The group has also applied to have the Palace of Gold listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The festival starts at 8 a.m. Saturday with a class on Krishna and the cows, and proceeds through breakfast, cow washing and milking, and arts and crafts activities for children.

The day wraps up with a bonfire and live music from 8 to 10 p.m. On Sunday, the proceedings get underway with a breakfast at 9 a.m, and concludes with dinner at 7 p.m.

For additional information go online to www.newvrindaban.com/event/celebrating-the-cows.

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