The Independent Archive 29 September 1987 : India's `godmen' charged with hanky-panky

`How long can dark clouds hide the sun?' India's rich gurus are in trouble, writes Bruce Palling from New Delhi. The taxmen are after them

IT HAS been a bad time for India's gurus, or "godmen", as they are called in the sceptical local press.

Chandra Swamy, the jet- setting guru and confidant of Adnan Khashoggi, Tiny Rowland, Elizabeth Taylor and other seekers after spiritual truth, has been detained by India's tax inspectors for possible foreign exchange offences. Earlier, charges were brought against the foundation of the sex guru Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh under the Foreign Contributions (Regulations) Act of 1976.

The Telegraph of Calcutta has just printed a lengthy investigation into the deaths of five boys in the heavily guarded ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the wealthy guru who was the religious teacher of the Beatles two decades ago.

Chandra Swamy, a 39-year-old southern Indian, is known more as an adviser and fixer for the rich than as a religious teacher. Earlier this month, he was detained at Madras airport for questioning about where he gained the foreign exchange for his hectic international life style. He explained that "as far as the money is concerned, it is no problem. Donations and contributions are aplenty." He hinted darkly that there were many secrets he could reveal about his numerous friends in the Indian political scene. "Let me tell those in power that my shoulders are very broad. I can carry the weight of all sorts of allegations on them. But one day the truth will emerge."

The swami next turned up with Devi Lal, chief minister of Haryana. They were the star attractions in the holy town of Kurukshetra, where hundreds of thousands of worshippers turned up to witness a partial eclipse of the sun.

Further investigations by the revenue officials had to be curtailed as the swami announced he was taking part in a nine-day meditation, on a diet of honey and water, and would only be free to talk for a few hours in the evening. He did not appear too concerned about the charges but was more pessimistic about the future of India: "How long can dark clouds hide the sun? I have already predicted that the next two years are very bad for the country. There is going to be more trouble. I just want to tell those in power that there is a bigger power and he is God."

The future of Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh is equally uncertain, since his return to India nearly two years ago after fleeing from his commune in the United States. Residents at his original ashram in Pune were not pleased to hear of his return, and for the first 18 months he stayed in a resort in the Himalayas with a Western disciple, explaining that a return to Pune was out of the question because "bhagwan is allergic to dust and to temperatures above 17 degrees Centigrade".

Rajneesh has toned down his act and no longer practises what he termed "dynamic" meditation in which a couple would copulate in front of an audience so that they could "transcend desire". He denies he was ever a guru of sex, saying he was merely trying to transform people's sexual energy into spiritual energy. Since his secret return to Pune earlier this year, there are only about 100 affluent Western devotees left at the ashram, which is facing charges of allegedly forging documents to avoid paying income tax to the tune of pounds 2m.

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi lives behind 6ft walls with barbed wire, and is guarded by more than 100 people at his ashram on the outskirts of Delhi. The Telegraph of Calcutta alleges that five boys died after being used as guinea pigs in the ashram's "medical institute" searching for cures for cancer, heart ailments and Aids. Delhi police have charged the ashram's authorities with culpable homicide after a youth died last June. The case was only registered after 16 youths marched to the local police station to stop the ashram authorities cremating the body before a post- mortem was performed.

The Maharishi, who has amassed a considerable fortune, is rarely seen in public. The last time was in June, when he had to leave the ashram and stay in a New Delhi five-star hotel, after his employees went on strike for an increase in their wages of pounds 10 a month.

From the Foreign News pages of `The Independent', Tuesday 29 September 1987

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform