Money and sex tarnish Indian guru image

Himaval Maheswara Bhadranandaji

Himaval Maheswara Bhadranandaji: outraged at being labelled bogus

Jeremy Page in Delhi

First there was the Indian swami, or holy man, who was arrested last week for allegedly raping under-age girls and found to be keeping a tiger pelt, drugs and pornographic videos in his ashram.

Then a second one in Kerala, upset by a local newspaper report, tried to shoot himself in the head in a police station in front of television cameras. A third swami from the same state is now on the run after being accused of failing to repay a loan of one million rupees (£12,000) that he took out in his former life as a film producer.

Swamis have been revered in India for thousands of years, originally as leaders of Hindu religious schools or sects who were often believed to have healing and other divine powers. But the latest cases have exposed the seamier side of many gurus, some of whom claim millions of followers — including top politicians — and become hugely rich from donations. They have also set the government of Kerala — one of two communist states in India — on a collision course with religious groups after a state minister declared that most swamis were frauds.

“They’re conducting all kinds of criminal and material activities behind their spiritual exteriors,” G. Sudhakaran, Kerala’s minister for temples, told The Times. “Ninety per cent of them are fake and criminals. There are so many swamis who have enlightened the hearts and minds of people, but these people are fakes with no idea about spirituality. They are only interested in women and money and muscle power.” His comments outraged many devout Hindus, who consider swamis to be beyond reproach — even above the law.

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The minister’s remarks were hailed by atheists and rationalists as a rare example of a senior government official speaking out about a problem that has plagued India for centuries.

“This isn’t just a problem confined to Kerala — the same thing happens everywhere else,” Narendra Nayak, the president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, said.

“You have all sorts of illegal things going on in ashrams, but police won’t go in there because they’re holy places.” Dr Nayak alleged that many swamis abused their holy status to launder money for politicians, businessmen and criminals and to provide a safe place for their clients to drink and have sex with prostitutes.

Part of the problem, he said, was that the swamis were not regulated by any central religious or government body. James Vadakkumcherry, a former teacher at the Kerala police training college who is doing a study on bogus swamis, said that there were about 50 or 60 such “holy men” in Kerala alone.

Santhosh Madhavan — Swami Amritachaitanya — was arrested in March and faces multiple charges including fraud, rape and possessing narcotics. He is accused of sexually assaulting and making pornographic films with several under-age girls.

Police also say that he had been wanted by Interpol since 2004 for allegedly defrauding a Dubai-based Indian woman called Serafin Edwin of 4.5 million rupees when he was visiting the Gulf. She says that she gave him the money to buy a hotel in her name in Kerala but he says it was payment for astrological and other services.

When police raided his four-storey mansion they allegedly found a tiger pelt, drugs, a police uniform and pornographic videos. Some reports said that the videos included secret recordings of “VIP guests in action on the bed”. The case prompted one newspaper to run an exposé on alleged bogus swamis, featuring Himaval Maheswara Bhadranandaji, who stormed into the newspaper’s offices and put a gun to his head, injuring himself before being arrested.


We are simply wasting our time. This is Kali Yuga. These things will happen. Please chant the mahamantra and stay away from illicit sex, gambling, meat eating and intoxication and you don't need any Guru, whether Indian or European.

Jayanta, Vrindavan, India

Religious leaders are assumed to be moral examples. But an ochre robe is not a proof of morality. In fact, it is an easy way of disguise. That is why religious leaders from east and west should be under strict control and carefull watch from the public. Transparency is a key point. 

Serguei Badaev, Moscow, Russia

It's easy to tar everyone with the same brush. 

It is paramount to saying that all Churches throughout the world are filled with paedophile priests who prey on young children, as has been documented in court cases, and an admission by the Pope in the USA of the churches mishandling of these cases.

phil, London, England

In any country, there are leaders and institutions good, bad and indifferent. In fact, great social uplift work proceeds in the name of certain gurus in India. As the BBC film doc. The Secret Swami on Sai Baba showed, social service can also be done by a guru under great question in other ways

Barry Pittard, Mapleton, Australia

The list of Indian swamis prosecuted for sex and/or murder is very long and involves gurus with innumerable followers. India's top guru, Sathya Sai Baba, is protected from law by the Government. One can find the documented proof on the web.

Robert Priddy, Oslo,

Hahaha 4 storey mansion! I was always under the impression that hindu spiritual leaders had to lead a life of poverty.

Meera, Reading, UK

Just because there have been a few instances, does not imply that every Guru, or ashram is suspect. I would urge all to have a close look at some of the wonderful humanitarian work that is being done today by the very Gurus and organizations criticised by many. How a generalized statement be made?

Priya, Bangalore , India

I think too many folks have watched the movie "The Guru" with Jimi Minstry. LOL

Krishnanunni Menon, Glen Ellyn, USA

It has become a fashion with journalists to blindly continue the colonial tradition of picking stray instances involving Hindu Gurus or spiritual leaders and then highlighting the same. 

Would they dare do this with Christians or Muslims leaders. No! Only Indian spiritual leaders are singled out.

Gautam Vig, Delhi, India

Indians have been bogged down by these fake saddhues for ages, itys such a nusaince.ts now makings tatements in term sof pronogrophy, illegal activities and thugging people. worse. shame.One needs to really go into heart to search a real genuine sadhu for spiritual guidance. !

rohan, london, ukl

There may be some bogus Gurus going around, but there are some really sincere and genuine teachers too who are not interested in money and material wealth. It is not right to generalise everyone in this way. Every faith has its share of sincere and hypocritcal clergy.

Henry Schwartz, Leeds, UK