The Barsana Dham: A Taste of India in Austin
by Joe Cline.
Most expect that to be able to see a true Hindu temple you would have to travel to . . . well . . . India, or at least a country in which Hinduism is a more dominant religion. But that’s not necessarily true. Throughout the years, as immigration has become more common, Hindu temples have been erected wherever believers have settled, including in America, including in Texas.
The Barsana Dham is located just south of Austin in the hill country. It was built in 1990 and today is the main U.S. center of Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat, a holy man in Hinduism born in 1922 in Mangarh village. It is said that all who saw his sweet smile and serene look loved Jagadguru Kripaul Parishat from the start. His virtues and intelligence were lauded from a young age, particularly when, at age 14, he traveled to Indore to study Sanskrit literature and mastered every topic he chose to tackle. At age 16, Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat finished school and took up his Divine nature. He spent the rest of his life, which continues on today, teaching the people of India and all who would listen about his beliefs and ideals as a divine and devout Hindu man.
In 1990, Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat gave his blessing for the creation of Barsana Dham. It was designed on a 200-acre property to be a representation of the holy land of Braj, where Shree Radha Rani and Shree Krishn appeared more than 5,000 years ago. Those who visit it are meant to take from the Temple and its surroundings a sense of serenity and calm that often cannot be found in the outside world. It is also hoped that visitors will walk away having learned of the knowledge of the Vedas, the Gita and the Bhagwatam, as well as the process of divine love consciousness, the energy Hindus believe unites one man’s soul with the Supreme God.
Every year, all the major Hindu festivals are celebrated at Barsana Dham in the traditional style. For example, in September, Radha Ashtmi is celebrated. This is a day commemorating when Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani descended into Barsana. The celebration begins with chanting of the leelas and virtues of the goddess, followed by more chanting and praying and a prepared lunch. It is a day in which many in the United States come to celebrate, just as all of the other Hindu festivals are from Mela Fair to Maha Shivrati to Jhulan Leela.
Truly, Barsana Dham is not a place to be missed when you are in Austin, regardless of whether you are there for religious or simply tourist purposes. But do be aware that the visiting hours are compact; general visiting is only permitted between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., daily. At those times, all may visit the holy places, view the temple architecture and take in the beautiful culture living within the site. At other times of the day, holy services are taking place and it is requested that general visitors not roam the grounds.