Chandigarh: A guru declared dead has been in a deep freezer in his ashram for nearly six weeks with followers confident he will return to life to lead them, his spokesman said.
Dead or alive? A hoarding of Ashutosh Maharaj in the town of Nurmahal. Maharaj died in January after he reportedly died of a heart attack. His devotees from Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan believe he is in a meditational trance and he will return. Pics/AFP
Devotees placed Ashutosh Maharaj, whom authorities declared clinically dead on January 29, in the freezer and have been watching over his body in the sprawling ashram in a small town in northern Punjab state.
Maharaj, reportedly in his 70s, is one of India’s many gurus who headed the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission) and claims to have millions of followers around the world.
Spokesman Swami Vishalanand insisted their leader was not dead but was in fact in a state of samadhi — the highest level of meditation,— and was therefore still conscious.
Vishalanand said that followers were now waiting for him to end his meditation. Until then, the ashram in Nurmahal town would stay open with followers performing their own mediations and spiritual sessions.
“Mahara-ji is still sending messages through followers in their meditative stage to protect his body till he returns,” he said earlier this week.
The decision to place him in the freezer was challenged in court by a man claiming to be his former driver, who alleged several followers were not releasing the body as they were seeking a share of the guru’s properties.
But the court rejected the man’s petition after receiving information from authorities confirming his death, from a heart attack, said Reeta Kohli, additional advocate general of Punjab.
“The court rejected his pleas after the Punjab government said that the man is clinically dead and that it is up to his followers to decide what they want to do with the body,” Kohli said.
Senior police officer Gurinder Singh Dhillon said police ‘cannot interfere’ now that the court has made its ruling. Another spokesman has said that they will simply wait.
“When we close our eyes, we can talk to Maharaj ji, who has assured us he will come back,” he said.
In 1993, the devotees of a Kolkata-based guru Balak Brahmachari, who was also known as the Marxist Godman, refused to cremate his body for nearly two months, insisting that he would recover from a ‘meditative trance’. They said that he had gone in a similar trance in the past too. Eventually, around 450 policemen entered his centre and took away his body for cremation in the face of fierce protests by the devotees.
Number of followers Ashutosh Maharaj had