Indian fair draws crowds to Barsana Dham
Sue Thurston and her friend Tracy Thomason weren't like thousands of
Austinites who took in Art City Austin and its 190 artists on East
Cesar Chavez Street on Saturday. They didn't go wish Eeyore happy
birthday at Pease Park. And they didn't see one swing of the bat in
the game between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma State University.
All that activity was in or around crowded downtown. Instead, they
were in the peaceful prayer hall of Barsana Dham learning about
They attended Mela (Indian fair) at the temple on RM 1826, not far
"It's just fascinating," said Thurston, after attending a lecture
inside the temple, "that every basic religion has its center. The nut
is the same. There is always a loving, eternal God."
Thomason was taken by the openness of Barsana Dham and its members.
"So many religions are closed to other faiths. Not this one. It's good
to know that I can come here to use the quiet area for meditation,"
Thurston said, "This place is an island of serenity out in the
While the two women found the Hindu faith intriguing, thousands of
others came for the fun, food and activities. There was something for
everyone. Children performed a dance on an outdoor stage. Walking
tours provided insight on the 200-acre property covered with
wildflowers. A shopping bazaar was packed with Indian items: jewelry,
knickknacks, clothing and music. And there was quite a large selection
of framed photos and paintings of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj,
the spiritual leader of the Hindu world.
The carnival atmosphere delighted children. Pony rides. A petting zoo.
Games and an inflatable castle. And yes, snow cones and cotton candy.
Admittance was free, though visitors paid $5 for parking.
"I've never seen anything like it. It's beautiful out here. Look at
the pool in front of the temple. The water is said to be holy. It's
just extraordinary that these folks open up their temple and share
their customs with the community," said Adam Benavidez, who brought
his children to enjoy a new culture.
"And the food is wonderful," said Virginia Adams, who drove in from
San Antonio with a group of friends. For $5, she got a combination
plate of urid and kidney beans and rice in spiced gravy. The plate
also had bundi raita (yogurt) and gulab jamun (a doughnut-like ball
soaked in a sweet syrup). "And the mango lassi, India's health shake
of mango and fresh yogurt, was the best," Adams said.
While the exposure to Indian culture was fun and carefree, there was
one steadfast rule before entering a building. "You have to take your
shoes off," said Benavidez. "Next year, I won't bring tennis shoes
where you have to fuss with laces every time."
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