How Nithyananda and his disciples continue to milk the con – Shantanu Guha Ray


Shantanu Guha RayThe Indian government has distanced itself from the international embarrassment caused by Nithyananda. … Officials of the MEA say Nithyananda, born Arunachalam Rajasekaran in Tamil Nadu on January 1, 1978, is somewhere in the United States, and does not own any island near Ecuador. – Shantanu Guha Ray

He faces sexual assault charges and considers himself to be the Supreme Pontiff of Hinduism (SPH). He claims that he can upend the laws of physics to control the sun, and that he can make cows speak in English. He also claims to have created an island of Hinduism in South America, named Kailasa. Now, amid attempts by an order of white nuns to legitimise Kailasa, the Indian government has distanced itself from the international embarrassment caused by Nithyananda.

While people largely believe that Nithyananda resides on his island-nation of Kailasa, sources told this reporter that he may actually be in the United States, expanding his cult there, and trying to set up a base in California.

The Indian government has made it clear that New Delhi has nothing to do with Nithyananda or his cult and asked Indian missions in the United States and South America to keep a watch on the cult leader.

“I have no comments to offer. This is not something that deserves a comment. There is no official statement. India has nothing to do with Nithyananda or his claim to create a Hindu nation,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, told MoneyControl in a brief interview.

Sources within the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs told this reporter that the Indian government has alerted its missions to deny any help to the white nuns who speak for this sexual deviant. The officials said it does not augur well for the Indian government to comment on a person considered worldwide as a “bluffmaster”.

Whereabouts unclear

Officials of the MEA say Nithyananda, born Arunachalam Rajasekaran in Tamil Nadu on January 1, 1978, is actually somewhere in the United States, and does not own any island near Ecuador.

“He is definitely in California. We had information that he had a huge office in San Jose. And then we were told he and his men were scouting for some space in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean islands,” one official told Moneycontrol.

A senior official of the Ecuador Embassy in New Delhi told MoneyControl that Ecuador has already told the Indian government that the controversial Hindu monk has not acquired any island close to the borders of Ecuador.

“We have nothing more to explain, he is not in our country and anywhere near us,” the consular official said.

As many as five cases of sexual harassment are pending in various courts of India against Nithyananda.

Hoodwinking Newark

The said nuns—described by Nithyananda as his Rudra Kanyas (devotees of Lord Shiva)—had managed to lobby with the governments of at least 30 towns and cities in the US for recognition of Kailasa. One of those, Newark, had fallen for the line and declared Kailasa a sister city for cultural ties.

City officials have reportedly admitted to falling victim to a scam that led them to make Newark a “Sister City” with a fake Hindu nation. It all happened when Mayor Ras Baraka invited representatives of Kailasa to Newark City Hall for a “cultural trade agreement” and then discovered that Kailasa was not a real country. Following the incident, the Newark City Council reportedly rescinded the agreement, days after signing the ‘Sister City’ agreement. One city council member called the oversight “unacceptable” and said it “cannot happen any longer”.

Wooing the UN

These white women have dedicated their life to Nithyananda and the cause of Kailasa. One of them calls herself the Permanent Representative to the UN for Kailasa, and recently petitioned the international body for recognition as a country. Some of Nithyananda’s followers have reportedly said they were ready to die for him.

But the magic is not working at the United Nations, nor is it creating any impact at some of the wings of the UN.

The Kailasa website has uploaded the representations it makes to the UN from time to time. But, Luiz Fernando, an official of the UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for the Americas, told MoneyControl that his office does not have any information about Nithyananda.

Nithyananda’s office said the female followers had gone to Geneva to shed light on what they called centuries of ethnocide of Hindu women through false representations of Hinduism. “We took this opportunity to be the voice for Hindu persecution [sic] and we touched briefly on the persecution of SPH [Nityananda] and Kailasa,” said the press secretary of Kailasa.

Nithyananda is a [self-styled] Hindu guru who has awarded himself the fancy title of supreme pontiff, a concept that does not exist in Hinduism. Nevertheless, his followers only refer to Nithyananda as “the SPH”, to legitimise the title.

Back story

In 2019, Nithyananda, then a guru on the make with a penchant for all things bling, ignored court summons and fled India. The godman claimed he and his followers had bought an island off Ecuador. But that was a lie.

This was not all. In a brazen move, Nithyananda wanted to be the successor of Madurai Aadheenam Arunagirinathar. Madurai Adheenam is considered one of the oldest Saivite adheenams (Hindu monasteries) and said to have been established more than a millennia ago. The followers of the Madurai Adheenam believe that it was rejuvenated by Thirugnana Sambandar, one of the Nayanmars (disciples of Lord Shiva). Interestingly, Nithyananda was removed as the junior pontiff on December 19 in 2012, by Arunagirinathar himself.

Subsequently, Nithyananda got embroiled in other cases in the courts. Realising the heat was getting too much to handle, in 2019, Nithyananda went to Nepal taking the Gorakhpur route and entered the Americas using a fake passport. Everywhere he went in the US, he met non-resident Indians (NRIs) and asked for cash to run Kailasa. Some opened their purses, many refused.

He lived in great comfort, unlike an ascetic who sacrifices worldly pleasures and lives humbly. Those who saw him up close claimed that Nithyananda carried all the cheap gimmicks of nightclub magicians. Many paid millions, many got wary.

“He sold this theory of vashikaran (hypnotism) and many fell for his great Hindu revivalist theory. Many realised he was a fraud and had no supernatural powers,” said a source in New York.

“But his image is taking a solid beating these days, very few are buying his theory,” says Barry Sahgal, a New York-based venture capitalist and investor.

“No one calls him a godman, there are no godmen in the world today. Worse, no self-styled godmen have powerful patrons,” says Sahgal.

But Nithyananda remains unperturbed. In a video meant for his devotees, the self-styled guru says: “I have smoked it all, seen death, and have lived through it. I am Param Shivam (Lord Shiva). No one can touch me, I know everything, and I have seen the whole universe.” This reporter has seen the video and has a copy of it.

Responding to MoneyControl, Nithyananda’s press secretary said in an email that the world needs to realise that the United States of Kailasa is an ancient enlightened Hindu civilisation nation. “Kailasa was established much in the spirit of a country like the Sovereign Order of Malta, a borderless service oriented nation. The Vedas and the Agamas are the constitution of Kailasa. And Kailasa has more than 7 million e-passport applications.” MoneyControl could not verify the claims made by officials of the “United States of Kailasa”.

The press secretary further claimed that US courts have exonerated Nithyananda and fined those who filed cases (the victims) a million dollars, noting that they did not turn up in the courts. He added that Nithyananda did not run away from India. He was on bail and he travelled abroad. “He is not a fugitive.”

The press secretary quoted a report by Geoffery Robertson, a top human rights advocate and King’s Counsel from the UK, saying: “Nithyananda has remained abroad in order to seek asylum because he claims a well-founded fear of persecution.” The press secretary further said that innumerable attempts had been made on the life of Nithyananda. “For all these reasons he was moved to a safe place by his disciples and followers.”

Challenged by rationalists

But there are others who have called Nithyananda a fraud and called his bluff, among them some of India’s top rationalists.

“There are just a handful of such spiritual masters who can create miracles and you can hardly see them. They are far, far away from human settlements. So, those carrying this tag of godmen are people with some cult following. They are clever frauds,” says Narandra Nayak of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA).

Nayak told MoneyControl that he had made several petitions to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in an effort to expose these self-styled godmen as frauds. “Indians are mostly gullible. And then there are politicians and corporate captains. They are all modern, urban and westernised and seek out gurus to get a sense of security.”

Nayak said politicians across the world have their favourite godmen and gurus because they need some magic to maintain certainty in their professions. “Everyone thinks godmen like Nithyananda can create magic. Look at this outlandish claim of controlling the sun, how bizarre can you get? Or like getting the cow to speak? Yet, he has loads of followers.”

“Whatever he does, his cult will be surrounded with loads of fraudulent activities. No one will take him seriously,” added Nayak.

But Nithyananda is on a roll. He has issued e-passports to the virtual country online. He has drummed up 200,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel. He has also launched a Reserve Bank of Kailasa and said the Kailasian dollar will look like gold coins of the mediaeval age, weighing 11 grams each. He also says he will set up a Hindu parliament.

But these are just claims with no basis, as of now. The only truth of Nithyananda is that he and his followers have enough cash to run their show. And a few powerful friends, including a former CEO who once headed a top Indian IT company and is now deep into philanthropy.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the industry veteran said: “Nithyananda was a victim of relentless attacks by evangelists. So, he had no other option but to escape. He is not a criminal; he is propagating Hinduism and that should be a matter of pride for India. And all monks talk about supernatural powers. You don’t have to take them seriously. You actually follow their ideals, right?”

Nithyananda continues to have some powerful backers in India. That should give some relief to the controversial, self-styled Supreme Pontiff of Hinduism. – MoneyControl, 18 April 2023

› Shantanu Guha Ray is an author, the Asia editor at Central European News and a columnist for MoneyControl in New Delhi.


Kailasa Corporate Trail Graphic

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