Jim Shaffer's shop is dusty and smells like a horse stable—a comforting olfactory association that I suddenly realize has less to do with horses than with the rolled and bundled straw I see stacked high along the walls. Though the pole barn that houses Shaffer's Charleston Broom and Mop Company is just a few miles from the capital city of Charleston, West Virginia, the unincorporated area where it sits along Davis Creek in Loudendale is a wooded, quiet, and close-knit community.
The New Vrindaban is a Krishna community in the hills of Appalachia, the vision of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual leader of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The New Vrindaban in West Virginia is the realization of Prabhupada's dream to establish a holy pilgrimage site in North America. It was conceived to echo Vrindavan, India, which is where, according to many Hindu religions, Krishna took human form. The devotees of the Krishna faith understand it to be the equivalent of Heaven on Earth.