Is he a ‘nutty’ godman or is Nithyananda a Hinduism icon in New India?
He claims to have floated a country, launched its own currency and Reserve Bank and is planning a Hindu Parliament? A year after he fled the country, his whereabouts are not known to the Govt
He is ‘His Divine Holiness Swami Nithyananda’ to his followers. Others see him as a nut case and make fun of his bizarre preachings. His ‘comic’ videos in which he speaks of how he delayed the rising of the Sun and his plans to develop a vocal chord for cows and other animals have been a rage and are deemed stress busters by many. Even if they do nothing for your spiritual well-being, they are trusted to uplift the spirit and make you laugh!
He was accused of rape but failed to attend 50 court hearings. His passport was revoked but in October last year he fled from the country and the last one had heard of him was a bland official statement that Interpol had been alerted by the Indian Government to find him. But even as other fugitives like Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi battle extradition in courts, the Swami is having a ball.
Red corner notices have not deterred him from floating a virtual country for Hindus, issuing e-passports to the virtual country online (clue: Internet is the most populated city) and declaring himself as the Supreme Pontiff and the Prime Minister. While his physical whereabouts are not known, Ecuador has denied reports that the Swami has bought a private island off the Ecuador coast and parked himself there. But his virtual presence on the Internet has grown. He has several Facebook pages devoted to him, runs a website and has kept up a steady stream of videos to share his pearls of wisdom on Hinduism. In the last 10 days of August, he has caused a flutter by announcing that the Reserve Bank of Kailasaa had launched Kailasaa’s own currency. Known as Kailaasian Dollar, the currency, he declared, would be made of gold and one Kailaasian Dollar would be made of 11 grams of gold, no less. He has also announced that in the next six months he will come up with a Hindu parliament and news media have dutifully reported his claims.
His YouTube channel has over two lakh subscribers. His devotees run two Facebook pages – one titled HDH Nithyananda Paramashivam, with the official ‘verified’ sign from Facebook; the other is called The Avatar Clicks. The second channel, which posts short clips of his speeches, is wildly popular, not just among his devotees but also his detractors, who share the videos ridiculing him.
The earliest photographs made available by the Swami show him as a novitiate (Maharaj) in the Ramakrishna Ashram at Mylapuram. After four years in Chennai, he was sent to Belur Math, the RKM headquarters near Calcutta, where he lasted barely six months. Around 2000 he is believed to have set up his own ashram and has not looked back since then.
The last ‘scandal’ he was associated with was when a Tamilian family from Chennai accused him of having abducted four of their children and detaining them in the Nithyananda Ashram in Ahmedabad. Police raided the ashram, running in the premises of a schools, and rescued two of the four children. But there was no trace of the couple’s two daughters. Little is known of the case even as Gujarat Police went after the school which was accused of forging clearances and certificates. They arrested two trustees of the school, who soon obtained bail. A third trustee, Pooja Shroff, was granted anticipatory bail in July by the Gujarat High Court. Their links with Nithyananda however remains a mystery.
The Swami had earlier fled Tamil Nadu following charges of rape. He was eventually arrested from Himachal Pradesh in 2010 and taken back to face trial. Video clips of the Swami in compromising position with a Tamil actress surfaced on regional TV channels but the actress herself did not lodge any complaint and Nithyananda was soon back in public, telling his followers that he planned to replace all forms of energy with ‘conscience energy’ and enhancing the life-span of human beings to 200 years.
In 2015, a woman devotee died inside the ashram leading to another controversy. The mother of a young man who had tried to kill himself in the ashram in 2008 also gave a statement to the Karnataka CID.
A report in Newsminute maintained that from ashrams in almost every district of Tamil Nadu and in Bidadi, he now owns properties in Telangana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Puducherry.
“His operations in the United States too has spread to many cities in the past few years with ashrams set up in Ohio, San Jose, Seattle, Phoenix and a few other places. Nithyananda has been popular amongst a section of young people in America and over the years, many of them have been given administrative positions in the dhyanapeetham,” said the report.
But none of this explains where the absconding Swami has parked himself. It is also not clear whether the Government of India does not take him seriously at all and treats him as a joke or whether it takes him a little too seriously.
What is clear is that a conman or not, the godman has no dearth of resources and has powerful friends protecting him