Hindu guru briefly held for indecency, continues US tour (Second Lead)

April 30th, 2008 - 11:00 pm ICT by admin  

New York, April 30 (IANS) A prominent Hindu religious leader with a worldwide following and a huge ashram complex in the US, who was detained on charges of indecency with minor girls, is carrying on with his scheduled programme after he was released on bail. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, 79, founder of Barsana Dham, a 200-acre temple and ashram complex near Austin, Texas, was accused of inappropriate touch to two underage girls on several occasions between 1993 and 1996.

According to local media reports, detectives began investigating the swami, a votary of the path of devotional love, in August 2007 but charges were framed this April.

He was detained by US marshals last Thursday in Washington, DC, on his return from India via Europe where he received medical care. He was released on bail a day later.

Barsana Dham temple vice-president Prabhakari Devi told IANS that authorities seemed to have followed up on a complaint filed 15 years ago by the girls.

The swami arrived in Barsana Dham Saturday and addressed a crowd of 5,000 people attending the annual gathering. He is continuing with his lecture tour of Texas, New Jersey and New York as scheduled.

Expressing sadness at the allegations against her guru, Devi said in an email statement to IANS Wednesday: “Shree Swamiji (as he is known) is beyond reproach in every area of his life, which he has lived in the public eye for decades. We are all confident that the alleged incidents of more than a dozen years ago are false. We are certain he will be vindicated and his message of devotion to god will be undiminished.”

Barsana Dham bears the name of the place in India, where Radha, Lord Krishna’s devotee, is believed to have lived. The swami’s followers have been living at the ashram since 1990, practising his philosophy of “divine love consciousness”.

The imposing shrine named Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple was opened in 1995.

Born in Ayodhya, India, the swami is a disciple of nonagenarian Jagadguru Kripalu Maharaj, a prominent religious leader in India. He has led the creation of several Hindu centres and temples around the world and has overseen the development of several charitable hospitals in India. A renowned scholar, he has authored many books on Hinduism including “The True History and the Religion of India”.

In the past too, some Indian spiritual and religious gurus preaching in the West, like Swami Rama, have been accused of sexual misconduct with their devotees. The response of their organisations usually is that the allegations stem from an attempt by vested interests to malign the gurus and Hinduism in general.

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