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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before