NEW YORK: A prominent Indian religious leader with a worldwide following and a huge ashram complex in the US has been arrested on charges of indecency with minor girls emanating from alleged incidents in the 1990s.
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, 79, founder of Barsana Dham, a 200-acre temple and ashram complex near Austin, Texas, has been accused of groping 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 indictment on 20 counts of indecency with a child or sexual contact was handed down in April.
Barsana Dham temple vice-president Prabhakari Devi confirmed that their guru was arrested last Thursday at Dulles airport in Washington on his return from Europe where he was receiving medical care.
Denying the charges, the ashram officials said in a statement: “We believe these allegations to be groundless. Shree Swamiji (as he is known) has dedicated his entire life to serving humanity and upholding the tenets of our faith. No one who knows him would ever believe he would do anything such as this.”
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 ornate temple opened in 1995.
Born in Ayodhya, India, the swami is a disciple of 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.
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