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A brief biography

D Govardan, Nov 24, 2019: The Times of India

He is Lord Shiva for his Saivite followers, Krishna for his bevy of young dreadlocked gopikas who literally dance to his tune, an alleged rapist and abductor for the devotees whose trust he broke, and a comic villain for those who’ve watched his viral videos rubbishing Einstein and claiming that he could make cows speak Sanskrit.

Nithyananda is many things to many people. But there’s not too much known about his phenomenal rise except the carefully scripted story that he has cleverly marketed over the years.

Born A Rajasekaran in 1977 (some say it’s 1978) to humble Mudaliyar parents, who ran a small eatery in Thiruvannamalai, the spiritual town of Lord Arunachaleswara, he did his schooling over there. Being home to several ashrams and ‘Siddhars’ (Yogis), he took a liking to spiritualism at an early age though even this could be part of his concocted script. After schooling, he joined a polytechnic in Gudiyatham in neighbouring Vellore district, only to drop out mid-way. Reason — an astrologer or a swamiji found a ‘perfectly placed’ mole on his back and predicted that he would attain great levels in spiritualism.

He then joined the Ramakrishna Mutt in Chennai to attain sanyas, which needed years of waiting. A restless Rajasekaran wanted to jump the queue for getting ‘deeksha’, which the mutt refused. He left the mutt, travelled widely to various ashrams and mutts in North India and used the time to hone his spiritualism and communication skills.

He returned to Tamil Nadu, either in the late 90s or early 2000s as Nithyananda with “healing touch”. He set up a temporary base in the Thiruchengode–Erode belt in West Tamil Nadu and came in touch with Tamil writer cum politician Valampuri John, who was impressed with him and got him a column in a leading Tamil weekly ‘Kumudham’ to promote him. It ran a column ‘Kadhavai Thira, Kaatru Varattum’ (Open the door, Let in the air) under his name for two years from January 2003. While the column itself was written by ghost writers, it got the self-styled godman a following in far off Australia and the US. There was no looking back. The number of his ashrams grew to 15 in just Tamil Nadu alone as rich industrialists (Vellala Gounders in the Kongu belt and Naatukotai Chettiars in the Karaikudi region) vied with each other to “gift deed” large land parcels in his name.

A rich Bangalorean helped him to open branches in Karnataka too, where he networked with politically connected seers. Soon Nithyananda Dhyanapeedam was established at Bidadi, a nondescript industrial estate which also had the Toyota’s passenger car facility.

As his wealth and fame grew, it also created fissures amongst his disciples, one of whom planted a hidden camera in his bedroom. It resulted in the ‘sex tape’ expose of an actress and him in 2010. In 2012, rape allegations by a devotee emerged. Nithyananda claimed he was impotent but a test proved that to be untrue in 2014.

“He will go to any level to get his things done,” says a journalist who was associated with him for a few years. “The courses offered in his ashrams were well-designed, especially the two-day induction course, which covered universal thoughts and scientific facts. While higher level courses helped to brainwash people, the special courses were designed to convince pretty women that there was an aspirational value in sleeping with him. He called them spiritual interventions or spiritual experiments,” he said. There were also reports of followers being made to sign contracts where they agreed to “sexual learning” from the master. Ahmedabad police, who are investigating him after allegations of illegal confinement of minors were levelled against him, say the ashram near the city had six foreign hairdressers and make-up artists who gave the gopikas Shiva-style dreadlocks and beauty makeovers for 3am dance performances.

Such were his powers of persuasion that even after the sex tape expose, he could convince Madurai Aadheenam (Seer), who controlled vast Saivite assets, to incarnate him as his successor. However, ‘Saiva Pillai’ devotees did not accept him and drove him away. Since then he busied himself in Bidadi, making video discourses which showed his special ‘Kundalini’ powers. He even went on to make outrageous claims that he would soon make lions and tigers, monkeys and cows talk like human beings by creating a special software.

The software didn’t happen but the ‘baba’ seemed to have done a timely disappearing act just when the law was catching up with his deeds.

English-speaking ‘yoginis’

Ashish Chauhan, Nov 25, 2019: The Times of India

AHMEDABAD: The personnel of Ahmedabad rural police investigating the Nithyananda ashram case cannot understand the fluent English spoken by the two arrested yoginis, said a police official.

The yoginis, Harini Chellappan alias Maa Nithya Pranpriya Nanda, 30, and Riddhi Ravikiran alias Maa Nithya Priyatattva Nanda, 24, were arrested on November 20 in connection with the alleged illegal confinement of two children of a Tamil Nadu man. The yoginis are the administrators of Nithyananda’s ashram in Hirapur in Daskroi taluka of Ahmedabad.

Police have the yoginis’ remand for five days and have begun interrogating them. But the progress in the case has been blocked by the language barrier.

On Sunday, four police officials including a woman cop continued to interrogate the yoginis. But more the yoginis spoke, the more the cops became confused.

A police official probing the case said that the yoginis can speak only English, a language that the interrogators can’t understand. “The yoginis are perhaps using the language barrier to their advantage,” said the official.

The official in charge of the Vivekanandnagar police station, sub-inspector R B Rana who was present during the interrogation, was seen taking breaks from the interrogation because he found it difficult to understand the yoginis.

At one point, a videographer was brought in, but he was soon sent away because the cops wanted to maintain the secrecy of the interrogation.

Police officials said that the yoginis had allegedly forced children at the ashram into hard labour and to get alms or donations. Children who did not perform the tasks to the yoginis’ satisfaction were allegedly beaten and locked up in the ashram or in the house at Pushpak City in Vivekanandnagar.

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