Barsana Dham Temple Shelters Hurricane Ike Evacuees

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Hindu organization opens its doors to house evacuees fleeing dangerous storm.

More than 150 people from Houston and the coastal area evacuated to the Barsana Dham temple located in northwest Hays County. Many of the evacuees are of the Hindu faith or natives of India who are seeking shelter from the storm.

"The founder of the temple, Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, tells us that one of the main principles of our Hindu faith is service," said Prabhakari Devi, Vice President of Barsana Dham. "So it's our humble service to open our doors to those fleeing the hurricane to provide a place of shelter in a warm and uplifting environment."

Devi noted that the temple facilities offered those of the Hindu faith a location where they can observe their religious practices including specific diet and prayer schedules. The temple shelter will remain open as long as needed.

While the evacuees are predominantly of Indian descent and the Hindu faith, Barsana Dham is opening its doors to anyone seeking shelter during the hurricane evacuation.

The temple has converted buildings on the temple grounds to accommodate visitors during this time. A yoga center, community hall and other facilities are being used as temporary dormitories. Barsana Dham members are volunteering their time to provide meals specific to the Indian culture, hosting games, yoga classes, and other activities and holding traditional Hindu services.

Subesh Mehta of Pearland, Texas is one of the evacuees finding safe shelter at Barsana Dham. "This temple is a real blessing in a situation like this," said Mehta. "Barsana Dham is definitely the right place for all the people escaping the hurricane because the soothing environment helps us keep calm."

For the temple, this marks its second time to provide shelter accommodations for a hurricane. In 2005, Barsana Dham served as a shelter during Hurricane Rita and housed more than 170 people during that evacuation.

Founded in 1990 by H. D. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, the Barsana Dham Temple and ashram complex serves as a national center of the Hindu faith in the United States and is one of the largest Hindu temples in North America. With more than 1,200 members, Barsana Dham is active in a number of local and global charitable activities including housing rehabilitation work in Central Texas, flood relief efforts for India, and the ongoing support of hospital operations oversees.

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Russ Rhea