Hindu Ashram Cancels Major Holiday After Its Spiritual Leader, Guru Prakashanand Saraswati, Is Found Guilty of Molesting Young Girls, Then Flees

Yesterday was Holi, the most exciting, powder-slinging holiday known to Hinduism. It's one that the enormous Barsana Dham ashram outside of Austin celebrates every year with relish.

But not this year. Earlier this month, the ashram's spiritual guru, Prakashanand Saraswati, was found guilty of molesting young girls who grew up at the ashram. In light of the accusations, which Barsana Dham officials vehemently testified against, the ashram decided it had nothing to celebrate. According to an announcement from Diwakari Devi, president of Barsana Dham, the holiday was canceled.

"We are sad to say that, in light of the past several weeks, we will not be celebrating Holi this year at Barsana Dham," he wrote in an e-mail last night.

But while Barsana Dham is in mourning, Saraswati's on the run.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Saraswati was convicted on all 20 counts of sexual indecency with a child. The accusations were brought forward by three women, who said that Saraswati groped and kissed them for years beginning when they were 12.

Here's a particularly horrific portion from the Statesman's story:

In the few instances in which they told an adult of the incidents, the women said, they were instructed that the touching had a higher purpose. "I was told it was a test and if I failed it I would go to hell," Rose said. The other women said they were told the guru was gracing them.

The 82-year-old Saraswati was sentenced to 280 years in prison. That's 14 years on each of the 20 charges. Saraswati would have been 362 by the time he got out.

But Saraswati knows that even gurus don't live forever. Rather than take his chances, Saraswati fled.

Ironically, Saraswati's attorneys claimed that he was too weak and decrepit to go to prison. Now, it appears he's stronger and more powerful than ever: strong enough to flee Texas and axe an entire holiday in his wake.

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Mandy Oaklander
Contact: Mandy Oaklander