Buenos Aires: Few in India would know about the city of Hastinapur in Argentina. People here too pay obeisance to Indian gods and the Pandava princes who ruled the Indian city by the same name thousands of years ago.

Hastinapur was the capital of an ancient Indian kingdom. The throne of this kingdom was the prize over which the Kurukshetra war was fought between the Kauravas and their cousins, the Pandavas. But far away in place and time exists its namesake.

Spread across 12 acres near the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, Hastinapur houses about a dozen temples of Indian gods. The air around this holy place is filled with the scent of agarbatties (incense sticks) as devotees gather in droves to gain wisdom.

Statues of deities are placed in a flower garden, some stand on pedestals, while some hang on the side walls and pillars. Lord Ganesh, Krishna, Surya, Narayana and Shiva have their own temples, and the Pandavas too have one.

"The dozen Argentines who live there look after the gods and the place. During weekend, the human population increases to over one hundred," says R. Viswanathan, Indian ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

"Many Argentines visit Hastinapur as a retreat from the hectic life of Buenos Aires which is about 50 km away," he says. They meditate and read books on philosophy in the quiet natural environment of Hastinapur.

Argentineans go there for wisdom. They learn philosophy, practice yoga, meditate and sing bhajans. That is why it is called 'ciudad de la sabiduria', or the city of wisdom the temple caretakers cook vegetarian food and share it with the children from poor families in the neighborhood.

The only sound here comes from the nesting of birds in trees and the humming of bhajan songs by devotees. The place, surrounded by a serene greenery of rosewood trees, witnesses over a hundred visitors during weekends.

The Hastinapur Foundation, which runs the place, was founded by Argentinean author Ada Albrecht in 1981. Albrecht introduced Indian philosophy in the country and became a guru for Argentineans seeking wisdom. She also wrote a number of books such as "The Saints and Teachings of India" and "The Teachings of the Monks from Himalayas".

The founders and directors of the foundation who work as managers, engineers or professors, volunteer their time.

"Hastinapur does not have any god men seeking fame and fortune and flaunting wealthy followers. It is an institution to pursue pure wisdom, peace and divinity," says Viswanathan.

The place also has a Buddha temple, one for Virgin Mary, one for Greek god Demeter and another one called the temple of all faiths.

Yoga, meditation, philosophy, devotional singing, sacred drama, workshops and seminars, among other activities, are organized. Festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi and Baisakhi are also held.

It offers a three-year post graduate course in yoga. The classes are held on weekends only. Currently, there are 2,500 yoga and philosophy students.

The foundation has published a number of books on Indian philosophy and translated the Bhagwad Gita, Bhakti Sutras, Upanishads, Srimad Bhagwatam and Yoga Sutras.

The foundation also has other centers in Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Colombia in Latin America.

(Agencies)