Marxist Godman's disciples keep his death on ice

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THE DOCTORS say the swami is dead. So do the Calcutta police. And, laid out on ice blocks in his Hindu temple, Balak Brahmachari may look quite stiff and still. But his millions of disciples believe their 75-year-old guru is merely in a deep meditative trance.

Nicknamed the 'Marxist God-man' because he counts several of West Bengal's Communist leaders among his devotees, Mr Brahmachari was pronounced dead of heart failure at a Calcutta clinic 11 days ago.

However, instead of cremating his body within 24 hours as is required by Hindu custom and law, the swami's followers took Mr Brahmachari back to his ashram on the banks of the Ganges. There, they laid him out on ice in a room with many flowers, an air conditioner and several electric fans.

The swami is expected to pop back to life any day now, according to Chitta Sikdar, his secretary.

Mr Sikdar urged reporters and the thousands of pilgrims who mobbed the ashram to consider the swami not as dead but in a 'timeless samadhi' - the ultimate state of meditation in which all bodily functions temporarily cease while the soul drifts free.

Faith in Mr Brahmachari's resurrection, Mr Sikdar said, is based on the fact that in December 1960 the guru entered a similar state of samadhi which lasted for 20 days.

This time, whether the guru is dead or otherwise engaged will be communicated to Mr Sikdar and other disciples who are now meditating to pick up the subtle signals telling them when, or if, the guru plans to regain consciousness.

Calcutta police are not entirely convinced the guru will spring back from the dead. A superintendent, Rajpal Singh, pleaded on Tuesday with the guru's men to burn the body 'as speedily as possible'.

The flow of pilgrims into the city was tying Calcutta's already notoriously bad traffic into knots.