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 Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Project Manager (HR) - Halifax - Upto £365 p/day

£315 - £365 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment