In an exclusive interview to mid-day, Sukhwinder Kaur aka Radhe Maa opens up about her past and ongoing controversies, be it police investigations against her, or claims that she has amassed a fortune of Rs 400 crore, or why she is always dressed in red
As soon as we reach the bungalow in Borivli where Radhe Maa had been given the entire fifth floor by her follower, Sanjeev Gupta, we are asked to tie a handkerchief on our heads. When we asked why we should cover our heads, Radhe tells us, “This is not for me, but to pay respect to Devi Mata as this is her temple.”
Apart from music and dance, Radhe also has a penchant for the colour red, which is why she is always seen in the same colour. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
We enter her apartment to find her dressed in the usual red, seated on a chowki with her eyes shut, while bhajans played softly in the background. Here, she revealed how she wanted to commit suicide when she was called to the police station after multiple allegations against her came to light.
Read Story: Radhe Maa refuses to tolerate complainants
She told this paper how these controversies were just attempts to defame her, to get some cheap publicity at her cost. Nevertheless, she prayed that God would forgive her detractors and help them find direction.
On her fame
Q. How did you become Radhe Maa from Sukhwinder Kaur?
A. I got married at a very young age; I was 17 when my parents wanted me to settle down. After 2 and half years, my husband left me and our two sons, and went abroad. To fend for my sons and in-laws, I started stitching clothes for a living. It came to me naturally, and I never had to learn it from anyone. I also taught other women in my village to stitch, so they could earn a livelihood as well. Since childhood, I had always loved music; every time I heard music, I felt like I was in a trance. I would get lost in the music and my in-laws noticed this and felt that I had some kind of power in me. They took me to my guru, who took me under his wing and christened me Radhe Maa when he saw that I had divine powers within me. That is how I got the name.
Q. Do you think that you have divine powers? If yes, then when you did you realise this?
A. My guru taught me about my powers 27 years ago.
Q. Do you claim to be a god?
A. I have never claimed that I am God, but people see God in me and they come to me for blessings. I just tell them to have faith in God, and I guide them on how to live life without any moh or maya, and how to surrender totally to God.
On her beliefs
Q. Why do you worship Goddess Durga?
A. I want Devi Maa to give me a darshan; in fact, I have already met Devi Maa, but I cannot reveal anymore.
Q. Why do you always carry a trishul (trident)?
A. According to me, Devi Mata is within me, and that is why I carry a trishul, like Mata.
Q. You have advised followers against love marriage and said they must be like Sita if they want a husband like Ram, and vice versa. Then how is it okay for you, a married woman, to be hugged and carried in the arms of male strangers during satsangs?
A. I am not against love marriage. And I treat everyone as my child. My followers hug me because they think of me as their mother.
Q. People have questioned why you dance to Western songs when you are a follower of the Devi.
A. Since childhood, I have always had the urge to dance. Whenever I hear music — it does not matter what kind of music it is — I start dancing automatically. I don’t know what makes me do so.
Q. There are rumours that you rejected an offer to appear on the television show, Bigg Boss. Were you concerned that appearing on the reality show would expose you?
A. I don’t know what Bigg Boss is. I will never go to any reality show and no one has ever approached me for it. I have not seen any such programme, and neither am I interested, so the question of me appearing on such a show does not arise.
Q. Have you ever had aspirations of becoming a Bollywood actress?
A. I have never thought about it. I don’t even watch movies or TV; it has been 27 years since I last watched a film.
On her looks
Q. You used to wear western attire earlier, but now you have started wearing Indian clothes. What is the reason behind this?
A. Before marriage and until two years after marriage, I used to wear western clothes. I was young and beautiful, and loved wearing western dresses. But after I got guruji’s blessings and started worshipping the Devi, I changed my attire and started wearing simple clothes.
Q. You continue to wear jewellery and make-up; is this an expression of your style?
A. These days, I don’t wear make-up or jewellery by my own wish. It’s all done on the request of my followers. They want me to wear jewellery and make-up so that I look like Devi Mata.
Q. You are 50 years old; how is it that you look so young?
A. Really? I look young? I do yoga and pooja of Devi Maa. This could be the reason.
Q. Do you feel bad when people older than you, even senior citizens, call you Maa?
A. I no longer think about age; I consider everybody as my children.
Q. Why do you always wear red clothes?
A. I have always loved the colour red, so I wear it all the time. I also sleep on red bed sheets.
On her riches
Q. There have been allegations that you transformed into Radhe Maa to make easy money, since people are very emotional and giving when it comes to religion. Please comment.
A. I have never asked anyone to come to me. I have never forced anyone to give me anything. I am a follower of Devi Maa, which is what I have always said. People come to me for blessings. People come to me by their own wish. If they have faith that I have divine powers, then where is my fault? I believe in giving, and not taking.
Q. People claim you are worth R400 crore. What do you have to say about this?
A. Please tell these people to give me just R10 crore out of this, and they can have the rest. All I have is Rs 2 crore, which includes my property in Delhi, my jewellery and all my earnings in the last 25 years.
Q. You reportedly spend a few lakh rupees each day. What do you spend on?
A. How much ever people give to me, I pass on to the needy.
Q. There are allegations that when you are called for a chowki, you demand a lot of money, and your follower, Talli Baba collects this money on your behalf.
A. I don’t charge any money from my bhakts when they call me to lead the pooja. These allegations are baseless. There are many followers of mine who call me for chowki, and every year, there is one chowki on a large scale that my followers organise. But there have never been any demands from me.
Q. Why do you live with the Gupta family?
A. I have 50 such bhakts all over the world, who have kept aside a room for me in their homes. I can live with any of them. I met the Gupta family when I was visiting one of my followers in Mumbai. Since then, the whole family follows me everywhere, so I live with them now. Yeh pura sansar mera parivar hai, aur mein sab se pyar karti hu. Aaj tak maine kisi se kuch nahi manga, aur mere paas kuch nahi hai.
On recent controversies
Q. What do you think about the recent controversy in which a woman from Kandivli filed a complaint against you in a dowry case?
A. This case is in the court. The truth will be in front of everyone very soon. I came to know later that the complainant had once come to my chowki. I don’t know anything else about her.
Q. One of your former followers, television celebrity Dolly Bindra has alleged that you asked her to have sex with one of your followers (Talli Baba). What is your response to this allegation?
A. Talli Baba is my follower and he has been living with me since he was 6. He has been like my son these past 23 years. Those who make such allegations, have a corrupt mind. Dolly Bindra had written to me about her problems regarding family and money. I just told her to have faith in God. Whenever and whatever my bhakts would give me, she wanted for herself. I would just give it to her. All this started when she took a loan of R5.5 lakh from my bhakt, Sanjeev Gupta, for some court matter. When he asked her to return the money, she began to accuse me of all these things..
Q. There have been other allegations that you run a sex racket.
A. What is a sex racket? Whenever a chowki (ritual in which Radhe leads a pooja of Devi Mata) is done, we have permissions from the police. I really don’t know why these three to four people have made such allegations. Whenever I am alone, I am submerged in prayers to the Devi.
Q. Arshi Khan, a model, also alleged that you tried to force her into a sex racket?
A. Arshi Khan? Who is she? I really don’t know. I don’t remember any Arshi Khan attending my programmes. When it comes to the issue of a sex racket, I have never thought of doing such bad things in my life. Those people making these allegations are using my name for cheap publicity. They should do something good instead; I pray to god that they find some guidance.
Q. There have also been allegations that a farmer’s family from Gujarat committed suicide after they sold their property and paid a huge amount of money to you, in hopes of getting rich.
A. I don’t know any farmers; they had donated the money to another sant, and even the court has given its judgement on this matter. I really don’t know why this complaint was registered by a particular gentleman whom I have never even met.
Q. Tell us how you learnt about all these complaints against you.
A. When police summoned me, a follower of mine informed me that I would have to go to the police station. I was shocked to hear this and started wondering what bad had I done which led to this. I thought of committing suicide, then realised that if I was wrong, I should be ready to face punishment. As for those who have made these allegations, God should give them blessings and a bright future. (In tears) I am most hurt by Dolly Bindra. I tried hard to make her good. She would always scream in between my programmes and use foul language. Whatever my followers gave me, she wanted to take. I would give it to her in the hope that she would become a good human being. But one day, she made me cry so much that I considered committing suicide just because of the torture. She wanted all the attention for herself, she wanted to become Radhe Maa.
Q. Sources have alleged that they have seen evidence of wrongdoings on your laptop.
A. I don’t use mobile or any laptops; I don’t know how to use these new-age digital things.
Q. There have been allegations Chhoti Maa was also involved in the same cases. Who is she?
A. She is a follower of mine. Her parents stay abroad but she chooses to be with me. It’s because of her love for me she wants to do seva. It’s her choice.
Q. In 2012, you were bestowed with the title of Mahamandaleshwar (high priest/ priestess) by the Juna Akhara, a prominent Shaivite sect of ascetics. This title was controversial in itself, and your former follower Surinder Mittal has alleged that the title was granted only after several high-ranking ascetics were bribed. What do you have to say to this?
A. After the recent controversies, people are making more allegations against me. The title was given to me by 200 sadhus who saw my popularity and how many followers I have. Mittal was one of my followers. His allegations are false.