AUSTIN (AP) _ The founder of the Barsana Dham Hindu temple in Hays County has been arrested in Washington, D.C., and charged with 20 counts of indecency with a child.
Prakashanand Saraswati, 78, was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service on Thursday afternoon at Dulles Airport and was being held in Alexandria, Va., according to the Hays County sheriff's office.
"He's waived extradition, and arrangements are being made to bring him back to Hays County," sheriff's office spokesman Leroy Opiela was quoted as saying in an Austin American-Statesman online report Friday.
The charges stem from an investigation that began in August, sheriff's officials said.
According to his indictment, Saraswati, known as "Shree Swamiji" to his followers, is accused of groping two girls who were under age of 17 at the time on several occasions between 1993 and 1996.
In a statement, the temple described the allegations as "groundless."
"Shree Swamiji has dedicated his entire life to serving humanity and upholding the tenents of our faith. No one who knows him would ever believe he would do anything such as this," the statement read.
The Barsana Dham center is located in a rural part of Hays County on the outskirts of Austin. Society members have been living at the 200-acre ashram, or spiritual retreat center, since 1990, practicing Saraswati's philosophy of "divine love consciousness" based on ancient texts common to Hinduism.
The center's Web site says Saraswati was born in India and that he traveled the world before establishing the Hays County temple. It was designed as a representation of the holy land of Braj in India, according to the Web site.
Information from the Austin American-Statesman: www.statesman.com
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.