Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating

The family and followers of one of India’s wealthiest Hindu spiritual leaders are fighting a legal battle over whether he is dead or simply in a deep state of meditation.

His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, the founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious order with a property estate worth an estimated £100 million, died in January, according to his wife and son.

However, his disciples at his Ashram have refused to let the family take his body for cremation because they claim he is still alive.

According to his followers, based in the Punjab city of Jalandhar, he simply went into a deep Samadhi or meditation and they have frozen his body to preserve it for when he wakes from it.

His body is currently contained in a commercial freezer at their Ashram.

The late – or living – guru, who was in his seventies, established his sect in 1983 to promote “self-awakening to global peace” and to create a world “wherein every individual becomes an embodiment of truth, fraternity and justice through the eternal science of self-realisation”.

Today the group has thousands of followers around the world and owns dozens of large properties throughout India, the United States, South America, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, including its British headquarters in Hayes, Middlesex.

While he is thought to have died from a heart attack, his devotees believe he has simply drifted into a deeper form of the meditation he promotes as a pathway to self-realisation.

A statement on the group’s website reads: “His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj ji has been in deep meditative state (Samadhi) since 29th January 2014.”

According to one of his aides, who asked not to be named, “Maharaj has been in deep meditation. He has spent many years meditating in sub-zero temperatures in the Himalayas, there is nothing unusual in it. He will return to life as soon as he feels and we will ensure his body is preserved until then”, he said.

His body is held in a guarded room in a deep freezer on his 100 acre retreat in Nurmahal, Jalandhar, where only a few elders and sect doctors are allowed to enter.

Although Punjab Police initially confirmed his death, the Punjab High Court later dismissed its status report and local governmental officials said it was a spiritual matter and that the guru’s followers cannot be forced to believe he is dead.

Now his wife and son have filed a court application calling for an investigation into the circumstances of his death and for his body to be released for cremation.

Worshippers pray to aubergine vegetable that resembles Hindu God Ganesh


Worshippers are gathering to pray to a vegetable that looks like a Hindu god.

More than 80 people have so far visited a small temple at a catering company in Leicester where an aubergine that resembles Lord Ganesh – the elephant- headed deity – was discovered. Praful Visram, owner of 4 Seasons Catering, in Buckland Road, Northfields, placed the vegetable in a small temple he has at work for himself and staff to pray in.

Mr Visram, 61, of Oadby, said: “One of my staff found the aubergine in a box of 20 or so we got from our wholesalers in Leicester. He thought it looked a bit odd, then my wife, Rekha, saw it and recognised the similarity with Ganpati Bappa – Lord Ganesh.

“We immediately placed it with reverence in the temple at work. It is a blessing for us to have this.”

Ganesh is the Hindu god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.

Mr Visram said he, members of his family and staff had been praying to the vegetable twice a day. He said that the word has spread and other people are turning up at his workplace to pray in the temple and to see the aubergine. Mr Visram said: “There have been at least 80 people who have come to pray at the temple and to see the aubergine. It is spreading good feeling throughout the community.”

Hina Chodai, who runs a neighbouring company called Khushi Food, said the resemblance to Lord Ganesh was remarkable.

Hina, of Rushey Mead, said: “As soon as I heard about the aubergine I had to see it for myself. It is indeed a blessing for all of us. I am hoping it will bring prosperity to all who pray there. I have prayed there a few times and all of my family have come along to pray, too.”

Bacash Laxman, 44, of Belgrave, who works at the catering company, said the resemblance to Lord Ganesh was remarkable.

He said: “It is very unusual indeed. there is no doubt that it looks like the God. I pray in the temple at work every day and it gives me a good feeling.”

Mr Visram said the vegetable was deteriorating and once it got too decomposed to display he would put it in a local river in a ceremony.

He said: “That is the way things like this should be treated. It has been a blessing for us and I hope will bring us luck and prosperity. This has been sent to us and we shall treat this with the respect it deserves.”

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