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Millennium Post

India, a land of illusions

Religion in India seems to be at crossroads as saints involved in filthy affairs are being honoured by the highest religious bodies in the world’s largest ever congregation of the devotes. It looks as if the most revered titles are being distributed against certain consideration as part of favour and appeasement.  Religion today is becoming a faded mirror, unable to depict the real picture of saints and society. It is, no doubt, a cause of concern for the enlightened and intellectual class.

Recently during the Maha Kumbh at Allahabad, Swami Nithyananda was bestowed with the title of Mahamandaleshwar.
This came as a disgraceful news as Swami Nithyananda has nothing to his credit to make him worth this title. The title is awarded to saints who are supposed to have acquired certain ‘super godly’ qualities and are distinct than others.

The saint in question was arrested in April 2010, after a video was made public that recorded pictures showing the saint in an objectionable position with a woman. It became difficult for the society to digest the shameful sexual acts of the saint who once figured in the Watkins’ list of the top 100 most spiritually influential people in the world. Nithyananda made inroads in the US apart from extending his sphere of influence in South India. He was born in Triruvannmalai in 1978 and rose to become the head of Madurai Adheenam in 2011and the Chairman of the Hindu University i.e. the International Vedic Hindu University, Florida State in the US. He came into lime light owing to his spiritual healing processes.

He is also known as the founder of the Dhyanpeetham based at Bengaluru, Karnataka. Dhyanpeetham is a worldwide movement for meditation. It is believed that the Swami has a following of millions in the country and abroad and around thousand spiritual centres and temples. His so-called aura attracted a large number of politicians, film stars and other VIPs to become his devotees. The list includes the then Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other eminent leaders apart from Bollywood stars like Vivek Oberoi, Juhi Chawla, Ranjeeta and others. It seems his modus operandi has been extensive and versatile which made him more and more influential year after year. This was his ascending and sounding period.

His fame took a U-turn when on 2 March 2010, the country witnessed an explicit video of a spiritual guru getting cozy with a Tamil actress. The Swami had to face charges of rape, unnatural sex, criminal conspiracy, cheating and threat to life. He remained underground for approximately 45 days to avoid arrest. Finally the Swami was arrested from Arki in Himachal Pradesh in April 2010. His so-called intimate relations with Ranjeeta (the Tamil actress) presented him in a negative light. The worse came when the Swami declared himself incapable of performing any sexual act.

Further, his woes inflated with cases related to the charges of defamation of Tamil culture and insult to Hinduism. The Swami also faced anger in the US as an American NRI woman accused him of sexual harassment. It is understood that a US-based disciple levelled allegations of sodomy and homosexual acts against him. In October 2012, Nithyananda was also sacked by Sri Arunagirinathar, his predecessor, who appointed him as his successor. Time was against him and he had to spend sleepless nights and frightful days.

The Swami emerged as a totally changed personality with the announcement of Maha Nirvani Akhada, honouring Nithyananda with the religious title of the Mahamandaleshwar.

Maha Nirvani Akhada is one of the oldest Akhara and one of the main organisers of the Maha Kumbh at Allahabad. Swami Nithyananda becoming the Mahamandaleshwar - what kind of destiny is this? This has once again made him a controversial Swami. His elevation is being lambasted by the other Akharas, including the All India Akhara Parishad. It is being alleged that a huge amount of money was spent to influence the decision, before the final announcement was made.  One faction is alleging that the required process was not followed, whereas the other factions are raising eyebrows at the decision having been apparently taken in a huff and that too  in secrecy.

The other Akharas are now demanding suspension of the title given to Nithyananda. In fact, the decision in question has become a matter of wide criticism. The wisdom of the Maha Nirvani Akhara is being questioned. Religion has  become a mockery as the devotees would start losing faith and commitment towards their deities. Let us all call upon all those concerned to join heads to urge the dharamgurus to devise modalities to avoid recurrence of such fiascos.   

The author is a communication consultant
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