The story of Asumal (now infamous Godman Asaram Bapu) is nothing short of a Hindi Bollywood potboiler. A rag to riches story that started in a family of refugees. Victims of the great purge post independence they had to start their lives all over again. To make the matter worse, Thaumal (Asumal’s father) died, and Asumal was forced to leave his studies and start doing odd jobs to make ends meet.
But then when Asumal was ten, struck by a spark of inspiration (or madness,) he ran away from his home on a spiritual quest to the Himalayas. This was a sign of a man who wasn’t going to be satisfied by the life handed over to him. He wanted to do something, achieve more. And it was here that he met Lilasha Maharaj. A Spiritual Guru of the Ashram he had found refuge in.
And this would become the defining moment of his life.
At first, Lilasha was amused seeing a young boy in his ashram. Even though touched he was, he convinced him to go back home. The ten-year-old agreed and returned to his home. But only for some time. At the age of fifteen, he ran away from again, this time for good.
And this time Lilasha saw a prodigy, his successor in the young boy. He accepted him as his disciple. Soon he was christened him as ‘Sant Shri Asaram Bapu Maharaj. – the name by which he is known among thousands of his followers.
At his prime, Asharam Bapu owned wealth estimated at Rs 10,000 crores. This doesn’t include the vast tracts of land still in his name. His operations were global with over four hundred ashrams across the world. His gatherings attracted thousands in person. And his televised sermons were watched by hundreds of thousands all over the world. In Rajasthan school textbooks, he had been hailed as a “Saint.”
Still, even after achieving all this, creating this empire in a span of four decades which is a feat in itself, Asharam entangled himself in one controversy after another. Death of his two cousins in his own ashram. Land grabbing cases. Complaints of extortion, assault, and illegal confinements from many. Cases of injuries due to black magic and finally rape case of a minor which marked his real downfall.
More women have come forward narrating tales of how the godman sexually exploited this woman in the name of spirituality. A godman, not for the first time, had proved to be a scoundrel of the first rate.
The story of god man turned goon is not new now. Many such cases have surfaced. Cases which show how many fake saints are building empires at our costs. Exploiting innocent men and women in the name of providing the spiritual need. This godman preach asceticism but themselves live a life of grandeur and splendor. (Gurmeet Ram Rahim a recent example)
This has always surprised me. How badly we are looking for someone to guide us in our lives. A shepherd to herd us in this life journey. So desperate is our need to find a god that the moment we find someone who could recite sermons we raise him to a pedestal and give him the power to abuse us – financially, physically, spiritually. Why we give the reins of our lives to someone who is no different than us.? No more special than we are? And instead of believing in us, in our abilities, look for his validation of our lives?
How more proofs we need – Radhae Maa, Gurmeet Singh, Nirmal Baba – the list of saints who faked their ways into millions and our hearts are endless. It is high time we stop being sheep to these fake saints and ensure that no other man exploit a minor in the name of God.
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Also published on Medium.