India is a land of godmen. They make big money. Though health, well-being and spirituality are what they all profess, and earning in crores from their devotees, many have made it to the headlines for the controversy they create, like financial irregularities, sexual abuse and, sometimes, even murder.
How superstitious are we as a nation? Enough, to kill a man for reasoning against it or give away enormous amount of wealth to their gurus to find their comfort. The booming business by so-called swamis and astrologers fuelled by irrational belief. Half of India is hungry, half is uneducated. These babas and gurus who preach all this humbug, it doesn’t translate into betterment of society. But whether you like it or not the gurus and spiritual leaders play an integral role in the daily lives of thousands of Indians seeking a pathway to happiness and enlightenment.
The nation is outraged over the alleged sexual assault case on self-styled godman Asaram Bapu. While some people are calling it all a controversy, others are demanding to hang Asaram. The self-proclaimed spiritual healer is currently evading arrest. Asaram is not the lone godman with a dubious record. A wide assortment of self-styled messengers from God has remained in news more for their notorious antics than their spiritual healing.
An allegation of sexual assault against religious guru Asaram Bapu has once again brought the spotlight on India’s numerous spiritual gurus and preachers.
Though health, well-being and spirituality are what they all profess, and earning in crores from their devotees, many have made it to the headlines for the controversy they create, like financial irregularities, sexual abuse and, sometimes, even murder. Here are some gurus, who have attracted controversy in recent times.
Sant Asaram, endearingly called “Bapu,” is a Self-Realized Saint from India. He preaches the existence of one Supreme Conscious in every human being, be it Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or anyone else. He represents a confluence of bhakti yoga, gyan yoga and karma yoga. Asaram Bapu has always been into controversies. According to sources, annual turnover of his trust is around Rs. 350 crore.
In the year 2000, the Asaram Ashram was allocated about 10 acres of land in Bhairavi village of Navsari district by the Gujarat government. Also, in Madhya Pradesh, in 2001, the Yog Vedanta Samiti of Asaram Bapu was reportedly given permission to use the premises of the Mangalya temple in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh, for 11 days for a satsang. The samiti failed to vacate the premises after the satsang, and continue to occupy a total of 100 acres of land, valued at over Rs. 700 crores
On August 21, 2013, Asaram Bapu was accused of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl at his Jodhpur ashram even as her mother was waiting outside. He was served a summons in the case by the Jodhpur police at his ashram in Indore. The police had earlier served a summons to his officials at his Ahmedabad ashram. The godman claimed he was innocent and regards the minor as his “daughter.”
Asaram and his son were also investigated in the mysterious deaths of two boys whose decomposed bodies were found from the banks of Sabarmati River near his ashram in 2008.
Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is known throughout the world as Amma, or Mother, for her selfless love and compassion toward all beings. Her entire life has been dedicated to alleviating the pain of the poor and those suffering physically and emotionally. Amma inspires, uplifts and transforms through her physical embrace, her spiritual wisdom and through Embracing the World. Throughout her life, Amma has embraced and comforted more than 32 million people. When asked where she gets the energy to help so many people while simultaneously running a massive humanitarian organization, Amma answers: “Where there is true love, everything is effortless.” Mata Amritanandamayi is also called as “The Hugging Saint” as she has hugged over 3 crore people. Her property is worth Rs. 17 billion.
Today, Amma’s birthplace in Kerala has become the worldwide headquarters of Embracing the World. Home to 3,000 people, thousands more visit every day from all over India and the world. The center’s residents and visitors alike are inspired by Amma’s example and dedicate themselves to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
One of Kerala’s writer Sreeni Pattathanam wrote a book on her making many revelations. He spoke about several mysterious deaths in her ashram.
Before Baba Ramdev became the latest crusader against corruption, he was best known for his efforts to popularise yoga among increasingly health conscious Indians.
Ramdev is largely a television and video phenomenon. He fired the imagination of an entire segment of TV watchers, who tuned out of daily soap opera to tune into and do yoga with Baba Ramdev. Now, thousands turn up at his camps to do mass yoga with him.
Ramdev was born in 1965 in a Haryana village called Alipur. He was named Ramkishan Yadav. Various biographies say Ramkishan attended school till class 8 and then joined a gurukul where he learnt Sanskrit and Yoga.
A wiry man with a full flowing black beard, hair parted and tied back, in red robes, the abiding vision of Ramdev is of a man demonstrating very difficult yoga asanas. He has a considerable following and people flock to his institutes in Haridwar, near Dehradun. The yoga guru claims to cure many ailments through yoga and ayurveda and has courted controversy with his claims of curing AIDS and cancer with yoga, though he later clarified that he had only said yoga helped provide relief to those with AIDS.
He has lakhs of followers across the world. Ramdev has always been into limelight. Besides his ayurvedic medicines and yoga, he is also known for the political statements. His property is worth Rs. 13 billion today.
He is surrounded by many controversies regarding financial irregularities and tax scams.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is a social reformer, preacher, spiritual leader and the head of the India-based socio-spiritual organisation Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) since 23 September 1990.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim has about 700 acres of land in Sirsa, 175-bed hospital in Ganganagar, a gas station, a market complex and 250 ashrams across the world. His property is worth more than Rs. 300 crore.
In 2007, Singh was accused of hurting the religious sentiments of the Sikhs, and of involvement in murder. He was cleared of both the charges by the courts, and maintains that he holds all religions, including Sikhism in the highest esteem.
Baba Ramdev’s associate Acharya Balkrishna has 34 companies to his name whose turnover is Rs. 265 crore. This information was given by the government in the Lok Sabha. He is the director of 23 companies in Uttarakhand whose turnover is Rs. 94.84 crore. Besides these, he has five companies registered in Uttar Pradesh, four companies registered in Delhi and one company registered in West Bengal.
Balkrishna was sent to jail for allegedly submitting fake documents for obtaining Indian passport. He was arrested after a local court issued non-bailable warrants against him in connection with the case.
The CBI had registered a case of cheating and criminal conspiracy against Balkrishna last year for allegedly procuring fake degree and violating Section 12 of Indian Passport Act by furnishing fake and forged High School and graduation certificates to the passport authorities for obtaining the document.
Nirmaljeet Singh Narula aka Nirmal Baba
Nirmaljeet Singh Narula or Nirmal Baba is a spiritual leader known for his public discourses and has followers in some parts of India. He has a turnover of Rs. 238 crore. He bought property worth Rs. 70 crore between April and May.
Nirmaljit Singh began his brick kiln business in 1981. However, he suffered losses and following this, he started a cloth shop but again failed in his venture. He was then involved in mining of Kyanite from Jyoti Hill, Jharkhand in 1998–1999.
He claims to have attained nirvana in a Jharkhand jungle in the 1980s. He then cut his Sikh hair, shaved off his beard and adopted the name Nirmal Baba.
Nirmal Darbar used to be the name of the paid televised show corresponding to each public meeting of Baba. This show was broadcast by approximately 40 different channel. During these Darbars, he used to make public appearances and conversed with aggrieved devotees, who usually narrated their personal, social or financial worries to him. He would ask questions to diagnose what has stopped kirpa (God’s kindness) from flowing in the devotees’ lives. He then, used to advise them on those issues publicly and suggested “solutions” to make kirpa (God’s kindness) flow in the devotees’ lives again thereby solving their problems. Nirmal Baba also claims to save his devotees from negative effects of black magic and evil spirits. All the Samagam meetings had tickets for Rs. 2,000. The tagline of the show was Yantra chale na tantra mantra, na rahe dukhon ka ghera. Bhagya uday ho jayega jab ho, Nirmal Baba aashirwad tera. Meaning “Even when objects representing aspects of divine and mystical hymns and sounds having special meanings fail, good luck can be awakened in a person’s life by blessings of Nirmal Baba.”
Recently, Nirmal Darbar, a trust and spiritual program run by Nirmal Baba, came under media and legal attacks because of its allegedly fraudulent activities and for charging exorbitant sums of money from people claiming to solve their problems with the help of self-proclaimed “divine powers” and solutions through eating certain things like rabdi, pani-puri, etc. He is now accused of amassing wealth over Rs. 238 crore through questionable means.
Paul Dhinakaran is endowed by God with the gifts of prophecy, word of knowledge, healings and faith as he brings God’s word prophetically to people, the nations and churches and the Lord does miracles when he prays for people and nations.
Born on September 4,1962, he entered his youthhood away from God, deeply depressed and fully gripped with a fear regarding his future. Today, he spearheads the Karunya University that was founded in 1986 with a divine vision to “raise leaders in technology with high spiritual values and commitment to society.”
Dr. Paul Dhinakaran dedicated his entire life for the ministry of God. As a visionary, he revolutionized the “Jesus Calls” ministry in several ways. He was instrumental in establishing Jesus Calls “Prayer Towers” throughout the globe in 10 countries and 40 Prayer Towers all over India where dedicated Prayer Intercessors offer prayers 24 hours for thousands of people daily. The National Prayer Towers have been established in India and the USA to exclusively pray and prophesy for the nations.
The self-proclaimed faith healer, Paul Dhinakaran, is a very popular figure in south India. He is reportedly the owner of a massive Rs 5,000 crore empire. He allegedly receives funds from the Prayer Tower Building Blessing Plan, Sponsor TV Programs, Jesus Calls Blessing Plan, Family Blessing Plan, Children Blessing Plan, TV Club Blessing Plan, Bethesda Prayer Center, Sponsor Prayer Festival, Business Blessing Plan, Dr. DGS Dhinakaran Endowment Fund.
BJP leader Uma Bharti’s recent remark over Christian faith healers indicating Paul Dhinakaran has sparked a fresh controversy. Media is also shifting its focus on the activities of the Christian man of South India.
Other godmen’s property
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s property: Rs. 500 crore;
Sant Morari Bapu’s property: Rs. 300 crore;
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s property: Rs. 250 crore.