“Arunagirinatha Desikan is known for courting controversies,” says M.C. Rajan

Arunagirinatha Sri Gnanasambanda DesikarSri Arunagirinathar Gnanasambantha Desika Paramacharya, the 292nd pontiff of the Madurai Adheenam, passed away in Madurai on 13th August 2021. He was 77. – The Hindu

Public discourse in Tamil Nadu has become so brazen that nothing shocks the people. If it has been a race to the bottom in politics, things are not rosy in other spheres either. With traditional religious orders losing their relevance, the mushrooming New Age godmen seem no better.

No wonder that sexcapades of prominent people in saffron robes or in other shades has replaced drawing-room discussions on dhoti-clad Dravidian netas’ yearning for fair-skinned women.

Nothing would better explain the public fatigue with religious icons than last week’s coronation of Nityananda, the self-styled godman embroiled in a sex scandal involving a tinsel world damsel, as the successor of one of the richest and oldest Saivite mutts, Madurai Aadheenam. The beleaguered godman received a shot in the arm with his anointment as the 293rd head of that institution.

This comes at a time when the conservative brahminical Sankara Mutt in Kancheepuram is fighting to retrieve its lost prestige after the 2004 arrest of the senior pontiff, Jayendra Saraswati and his junior, Vijayendra Saraswati. Though the godman’s elevation as a mutt head was greeted with disgust, there were no major protests.

There is a caste angle too. Headed only by those from the upper caste Pillaimar community, the Saivite mutts used to command respect and even supported the non-brahmin movement. But, over the years they have been plagued by turf wars over vast properties in addition to accusations of sleazy sexual activities. Adherents of Madurai Aadheenam claim it to be the most ancient, tracing its lineage from saint-poet Thirugnana Sambandar, one of the famed quartets of the Bhakti movement, which saw the decimation of Jainism and Buddhism in the state.

The current pontiff of Madurai, Arunagirinatha Desikan, is known for courting controversies. He had worked as a reporter with some Tamil dailies before joining the mutt and his former journalist colleagues have many stories to tell.

M. NatarajanBesides hobnobbing with pro-Tamil political groups and shady characters like M. Natarajan, hubby of Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala, he even flirted with Islamic groups. Though he presented his ring to M. Karunanidhi during the inauguration of the DMK headquarters Anna Arivalayam, Desikan had seen to it that he was always on the right side of the political divide.

Worse, this was not his first announcement about a successor. Earlier, he had appointed three boys, two of them allegedly his illegal sons, only to drive them away from the precincts of the mutt citing non-adherence to the tenets of the religious institution.

The current pontiff had no compunction in going all the way to Bangalore to perform the coronation which was followed by a gala ceremony in Madurai. Curiously enough, this followed Nityananda’s offer of Rs 1 crore to the mutt during a recent visit. He subsequently raised it fivefold. “Is there a deal?” is the question most people in Madurai are asking. Nityananda seems to be using the backing of the religious order to cleanse his sleazy image.

As the saying goes, every saint has a past and every sinner a future.  – MSN News, 3 May 2012

Nithy and Ranjitha

Sex and the godman – Venky Vembu

In one of his satsang discourses, which he typically infuses with levity to sustain ‘devotees’ interest, self-styled spiritual guru Swami Nityananda narrates a joke about God and Adam.

God approaches Adam and tells him, “I have good news and I have bad news for you.” Adam asks to be told the good news first, upon which God says that He has endowed Adam with a brain — with unbounded capacity to think and reason — and a sexual organ, which would open the gateway to limitless pleasures.

Adam is, of course, overjoyed at being the recipient of the best of both worlds, and wonders what the bad news might be.

To which, God responds: “At any given time, only one those faculties will work.”

For a self-styled ‘godman’ who was himself at the centre of a scandal that revolved around video footage of him allegedly disporting sexually with a Tamil actress, the joke may seem a little too close to home for comfort.

But evidently Nityananda reckons that the seedy events of two years ago — which he contests — have been buried six feet under. He claims that the video footage was morphed (a defence that Congress politician Abhishek Manu Singhvi too recently invoked), although he still has cases of sexual misconduct and rape pending against him. After a period of “spiritual seclusion” (and trouble with the law), he is out on bail, and back to offering sermons from his golden throne at the Bidadi ashram near Bangalore.

And in his sermons, he even makes references to a “time when bad people were around me and there was too much abuse” that almost sound confessional. The dark days are gone, he appeared to tell his worldwide audiences to whom the sermon was being live-streamed.

Yet, the karmic deeds of a past when kundalini forces — and the hormonal urges to which all men are susceptible — played havoc with a spiritual practice aren’t proving so easy to bury.

And last Sunday, when Nityananda was anointed pontiff of the Madurai Adheenam, a 1,400-year-old monastic order of Shiva worshippers, at an over-the-top lavish ceremony (where he was ‘coronated’, complete with a golden crown and a sceptre) in the temple town of Madurai, the old ghosts returned to haunt him.

A controversy has erupted over the appointment of Nityananda as the 293rd pontiff of the spiritual order, with heads of other Saivite spiritual orders taking strenuous objection to his appointment, citing the criminal cases still pending against him.

On Thursday, the Madras High Court ordered notice of admission on a writ petition seeking a direction to the State government to declare Nityananda’s appointment as illegal and to prevent him from acting as the guru.

The petition claimed that Nityananda, who had several cases (including case of sexual abuse) pending against him, was “absolutely incompetent” to hold the post that was venerated by Shiva devotees worldwide.

A second, PIL petition has been filed by M. Solaikannan, a local politician, claiming that Nityananda had appointed himself the spiritual head after taking the previous (292nd) pontiff into his illegal custody by deploying “henchmen” from Karnataka. The petition sought a direction to the State government to take control of the Madurai Adheenam.

Solaikannan alleged that Nityananda “does not practice celibacy and is not a sanyasi” — in the sense that he had nor relinquished worldly pleasures — and was therefore ineligible to head the spiritual order.

More damagingly, he alleged, Nityananda had “clandestinely and in a well-planned manner” usurped the Adheenam administration, which had 1,250 acres in its possession in addition to numerous temples and other properties in India and abroad worth in excess of Rs 1,200 crore. Sub-caste identities also are at the core of the opposition to Nityananda’s appointment; his detractors alleged that Nityananda hailed from the Arcot Mudaliar community, and was therefore ineligible to hold the post, which was open only for those belonging to the Saiva Vellalar sub-caste.

Nityananda refutes these allegations, and has threatened to launch defamation suits against those who are “slandering” him at the behest of “vested interests” that had encroached on the Adheenam’s property.

The whole episode shows up the fault lines that test the faith of the numerous followers of spiritual orders when their gurus are knocked off the pedestal. The faithful still turn up in droves for Nityananda’s sermons (where he claims to demonstrate that his followers can levitate by invigorating the Kundalini chakra). Evidently, with all his faults, he still fills some spiritual void in them.

Yet, there is something indecorous about the coronation of a ‘spiritual guru’ by an ancient revered spiritual order even though he still has cases of sexual abuse and rape pending against him. Nityananda defends himself by saying that the “rape case” filed against him was passing strange, since it cited no victim of the alleged crime. “There are many cases against people in public life, and this case against me has no basis.”

Much the same kind of defence is trotted by politicians caught with their hands in the cookie jar. But just as we demand greater accountability of our political leaders, don’t practitioners of a faith feel the need to hold their gurus to account? Particularly when the gurus themselves have failed to channel their kundalini forces in the manner that they sermonise?

Is nothing sacred any more? Or is spiritual salvation just as easily secured as political rehabilitation? – First Post, 4 May 2012


Earlier posts

  1. Nityananda-Ranjitha Video – Nakkheeran
  2. Madurai Aadheenam: Hindus outraged at Nithy’s appointment as pontiff – Media Reports  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/madurai-aadheenam-hindus-outraged-at-nithys-appointment-as-pontiff-media-reports/
  3. Nithyananda gets Paramacharya Swamigal title, gives Madurai Aadheenam one crore rupees – Media Reports  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/nithyananda-gets-paramacharya-swamigal-title-gives-madurai-aadeenam-one-crore-media-reports/
  4. “Nithyananda insulting judiciary, Hinduism” – Hindu Makkal Katchi  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/nithyananda-insulting-judiciary-hinduism-hindu-makkal-katchi/
  5. CID charges Nithyananda with rape, sodomy, cheating, conspiracy, and criminal intimidation – Media Reports    https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/cid-charges-nithyananda-with-rape-sodomy-cheating-conspiracy-and-criminal-intimidation-media-reports/
  6. Nithyananda-Ranjitha sex tape not tampered – CID  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/nithyananda-ranjitha-sex-tape-not-tampered-cbi/
  7. Nithy arrested in Himachal Pradesh – Media Reports  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/tantrika-nityananda-arrested-in-himachal-pradesh-media-reports/
  8. Sex, lies, a feature film, Nithy & Ranjitha – Kunal M. Shah  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/sex-lies-a-feature-film-nithy-and-ranjitha-kunal-m-shah/
  9. Nithy resigns from ashram and associated trusts – Media Reports  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/nithy-resigns-from-ashram-trusts-
  10. Nithy’s Defence Team: Sexist, Racist, and Xenophobic – Ishwar Sharan  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/hindu-activists-sexist-racist-xenophobic-ishwar-sharan/
  11. The Nithyananda Mea Culpa Interview? – Rajiv Malhotra  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/video-the-nityananda-mea-culpa-interview-rajiv-malhotra/
  12. Debutante Dharma-Gurus: Violating a civilizational patent – Sandhya Jain  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/debutante-dharma-gurus-violating-a-civilisational-patent-sandhya-jain/
  13. Nithyananda videos:  A testing time for Hindus – Radha Rajan  https://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/nityananda-videos-a-testing-time-for-hindus-radha-rajan/
  14. All videos available at  http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nithyananda+ranjitha+videos&aq=1&oq=nithyananda+ranjitha