The guru, the sex tape and an unholy row

Spiritual leader claims he's victim of a conspiracy after saucy video triggers outrage

To his countless thousands of followers across India and around the world, Nithyananda Swami was nothing less than a true guru – a genuine holy man who could lead people to spiritual happiness. A message from the young leader posted on the website of his organisation, Dhyanapeetam, or Knowledge Centre, says: "Be blissful".

But then a video emerged that appeared to show the leader getting a little too blissful with two shapely south Indian women.

His followers were furious and his ashram in the city of Bangalore was attacked by crowds angry that the guru's pursuits appeared to include the carnal as well as the sacred.

The handsome 32-year-old has claimed there is a plot against him and said the video, which shows him frolicking with the women and was widely broadcast on Indian television, is "a mix of conspiracy, graphics and rumours".

Now, however, he has decided to stand down as the head of his organisation, and instead lead a "life of spiritual seclusion for an indefinite time".

"In view of this, and to enable the Dhyanapeetam to function with such amended agenda as may be necessary, I am resigning as the head of the Dhyanapeetam and from all the trusts associated with it," he said. "Whenever, if required, I will return and talk about all that had happened as an independent witness to my conduct with a clean heart and pure soul, and also in a less prejudiced atmosphere. I thank you all. Be blissful!"

Yet the matter may not go away so easily. Police have launched an investigation to determine whether the spiritual leader had "outraged" the feelings of his followers.

The case has already come before the courts. The guru, who has also established ashrams in the US and Europe, sought to quash the initial police investigation. He filed a petition accusing his former driver and purported disciple, Karuppa Lenin, of seeking to defame and damage the organisation by making false claims against him.

By the standards of other material readily available on the internet, the video featuring the religious leader is not especially spicy. Indeed, at one point, a woman seeking to rub the guru's feet appears to struggle to get his attention because he seems more interested in watching television.

Yet the allegations about a man who claims big-name movie stars and politicians among his followers have shocked and upset thousands of people, coming amid a flurry of incidents involving religious leaders. Police last month arrested one guru for running a brothel involving air stewardesses and college students, and charged another with kidnapping a minor.

In a recent interview with the Times of India, Nithyananda Swami insisted that he had been in a "state of Samadhi", or trance, when the footage had been recorded late last year. He claimed the actress was a volunteer at the ashram and had been looking after him because he was unwell.

"There's a lot of misinterpretation, manipulation and morphing. Now, we are working to find out which part was recorded and which was manipulated," he said. "When that video was taken, I was in a state of trance. My personal life has been misrepresented and my privacy has been invaded. The media has even taken pictures of me when I am changing my clothes after a bath. This has been done to defame me."

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 General

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Advisor - Opportunities Available Nationwide

£15000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to ...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Special Needs Support Worker

£12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence