Kirtanananda Swami leaves his body aged 74

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Swami Bhaktipada, who built a massive farm community and a Palace of Gold that became the crown jewel of the U.S. Hare Krishna movement before scandals and criminal charges led to his downfall, died Monday in India, his biographer said. He was 74.

Bhaktipada had been hospitalized in July in Thane, India, with a collapsed lung and a bleeding brain, said spokesman, former disciple and biographer Henry Doktorski. His kidneys began to fail last week, and Bhaktipada died Monday morning.

Doktorski lived at the New Vrindaban community near Moundsville in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle for 16 years and said he plans to soon publish “Gold, Guns and God: Swami Bhaktipada and the West Virginia Hare Krishnas.”

Under Bhaktipada’s leadership, New Vrindaban grew into what at one time was the nation’s largest Hare Krishna community. But the community’s membership waned after the swami was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to prison time in the 1990s.

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