India is the 7th largest country and 2nd most populous country in the world. A country where more than 33 crore gods are worshipped. A country where religious traditions play a significant role in the society.
But then India is a country of tens of thousands of gurus. There are gurus for rich and poor. Many of them command huge followings at home and overseas counting politicians, film and cricket stars, bureaucrats and ordinary people among their devotees.
It is quite common, to see people having huge posters of these godmen in their homes or stuck to their cars. Amulets with their pictures on them are also a common sight. While it is acceptable to have a spiritual guru who would be more of a guide, it is sometimes disturbing to see these gurus take the position of gods.
Over the past few years, quite a few scandals were dug up in and around the ashrams of some of the renowned spiritual leaders, proving them to be as human as any of us.
One such Guru is Asaram Bapu who is once known for his spirituality and divinity. Asumal Harpalani was born in April 1941 in a village called Bernai in Sindh region in present-day Pakistan.
His family migrated to Ahmadabad city in Gujarat after the partition of India. He started practicing spiritualism with different gurus in the early 1960’s.
In 1972, he formed his first ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati river in Motera town of Gujarat. His influence spread to different parts of India and around the world in the following decades.
According to his website, he has 40 million followers worldwide. He also has properties worth millions of dollars across India. A person having such a huge fan base is accused in many rape cases. A court in the northern city of Jodhpur ruled that Asaram Bapu raped a 16-year-old girl in 2013 at his ashram there. He is likely to appeal against the verdict in a higher court.
The guru, who is 77, has 400 ashrams around the world where he teaches meditation and yoga.
He is also on trial in another rape cases in Gujarat state.
Asaram was arrested in 2013, after two of his followers registered a case of sexual assault against him.