Asia-Pacific, India

Court Ruling on Dead Indian Guru Ashutosh Maharaj

Ashutosh Maharaj, the leader of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (DJJS), died of a suspected cardiac arrest in 2014. Immediately after, four doctors declared that he was dead, though devotees of the religious sect claimed the opposite; instead of burying or cremating him, his corpse was frozen.

They were convinced that their “baba” is not dead, but rather in the state of samadhi – the highest form of meditation.

Three years and his body remains frozen.

Here Lies Ashutosh Maharaj

A 100-acre ashram (an Indian monastery) stands home to Ashutosh Maharaj’s frozen body. Along with the belief that he is in deep meditation, his chamber was installed with a cooling system to imitate the near-zero temperature in the Himalayas, the place of solace for traditional gurus and yogis. Only doctors are allowed in the room where 36 Swamijis stay all day to conduct prayer rituals. Outside these walls, a big iron gate secured by plenty of guards is what welcomes casual visitors, accompanied by a public announcement system proclaiming Maharaj’s come back on repeat.

Maharaj’s spokesman, Swami Vishalanand, has articulated that before Maharaj’s samadhi, he has sent pronouncements that he would be gone for a long time and that they should have a grasp on how to manage their organization. He further claims that the body of Ashutosh Maharaj did not decompose for a week before they placed it in a freezer. Although embalming was presented as an option, they decided against it as they were told that their guru would have a smaller chance of recovery if they did so. He also claimed that the medical science has no understanding of the yogic science — a medical approach which is bounded on naturopathy and yoga therapy.

Petitions and Dismissals

Dalip Khumar Jha, who claims to be Maharaj’s son, stood strongly against the decision of his devotees and dragged his disapproval to court. He filed a petition seeking for an investigation surrounding the death of Maharaj and pled that the body of Ashutosh Maharaj is to be released for cremation, following the Hindu tradition. Assuming that their guru did not have any family, the devotees refused to believe the claims despite the willingness of Jha to undergo a DNA test.

In addition to this, a man named Puran Singh, who claims to be the former driver of Maharaj, also challenged the devotee’s decision saying that they would not let go of the body as to ensure that they maintain jurisdiction over his financial wealth which is allegedly amounting to over one hundred million US dollars.

Preservation of Law and Order

On December 1st, 2014, after concluding that Maharaj is indeed dead, a cremation was ordered by a judge in Punjab. According to the court which issued the order, the dead guru has to be given his rights of dignity. Interestingly, however, on December 15 of the same year, the same court issued the postponement of the order which lasted up to the present year. The Punjab Government has previously cited that law and order is one of the major concerns they have. If they go against the rights of the sect members, it might stir up a problem, so it is important to pay respect to the beliefs of the devotees.

Court Ruling

In July of this year, the Indian court ruled in favor of the followers of Maharaj, lawfully allowing them to preserve the body of Ashutosh Maharaj and putting an end to the three-year legal battle between the Maharaj’s devotees and his son, Jah.

The guru’s followers and the son both invoked their rights to freedom of religion and the latter, apparently still lacking proof that he is the son of the guru, made the court side with the devotees. The followers cited their constitutional rights based on Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) and Article 26 (Freedom to manage Religious Affairs) or, in simpler terms, the “freedom of religion,” and the “lack of cremation laws.”

Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan

Born in the northern state of Bihar, Ashutosh Maharaj was said to have left his family so that he could become a religious preacher. After completing his Master studies in Germany, he was believed to have visited many gurus in the Himalayas in search of a master to help him realize his purpose.

Maharaj established the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan in 1983 at Jalandhar, the oldest city in the Indian state of Punjab. The aim of the sect is to promote “self-awakening and global peace” when Punjab was caught in armed conflict and violence.

Claiming to have over 30 million followers, it has 350 branches in 15 different countries and properties amounting to over 160 million US dollars in India, the United States, South America, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.

About Macey S. Saavedra

Macey is a wife and a mom who is at the learning curve of juggling parenthood and her professional career. Along with the challenges of raising a daughter, she currently works as a Marketing Executive in the Philippines and holds a Master's Degree in Communication. She loves reading, watching films, and is a huge fan of author Haruki Murakami. Through writing, Macey aspires to create and disseminate relevant content that will help shape a well-informed society.

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