Ashutosh (spiritual leader)

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Ashutosh during one of his preaching sessions

Ashutosh, born as Mahesh Kumar Jha and also known as Ashutosh Maharaj (1946–2014), was an Indian spiritual leader, preacher, satguru, and founder head of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS), a non-profit spiritual organisation. On 29 January 2014, he was declared clinically dead by a team of doctors. His followers believe him to be alive and in the state of a samadhi or deep meditation. As of 1 December 2014 his body has been kept in a freezer by the management of DJJS, with a firm belief that he will come out of meditation.

Early life[edit]

Ashutosh was born as Mahesh Kumar Jha in 1946 at Lakhnaur in Madhubani district, Bihar into a Hindu Brahmin family.[1][2][3] There are claims that he married Anandi Devi and that the couple had a son, although this is disputed.[4] Ashutosh left his family post completing masters from Germany in search of a satguru or perfect master so as to attain self realisation.[5][6] He was believed to have visited many gurus in Himalayas, Varanasi and had posted questions in line with what our Rishis had posted since time immemorial. [7][citation needed]

Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan[edit]

Ashutosh founded Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan as a non-profit spiritual organisation in Nurmahal, Punjab, India in 1983.[8] It was registered as a socio-spiritual society/non-governmental organisation in 1991 under the Societies Registration Act with its head office in New Delhi.[1] The organisation claims to have about 30 million followers. It has 350 branches spread across 15 countries and the value of its property has been estimated to be above 10 billion rupees (160 million USD).[3][9] According to the organisation's website, their mission is "To usher into a world wherein every individual becomes an embodiment of truth, fraternity, and justice through the eternal science of self-realization – 'Brahm Gyan', uprooting in its wake all social evils and threat".[10]

As the head of the organisation, Ashutosh is seen as a controversial figure among the Sikh community, who have alleged him to be hurting Sikh religious sentiments.[11] He has been accused of distorting Sikh teachings, called Banis, and making negative comments about Sikhism and the Sikh gurus.[12][13] Various Sikh bodies demanded a ban on his activities.[14] There have been several violent clashes between his followers and some Sikh groups, including one in Ludhiana in December 2009 that resulted in a death.[15] He was provided "Z+" security by the Indian government, which was later lowered to "Z" class.[2]

Death[edit]

On 29 January 2014, Ashutosh suffered a heart attack and was declared clinically dead by a team of doctors. His followers believe him to be still alive and in a state of deep meditation called samadhi.[16][17] Since then, his body has been kept in a freezer by the management to create Himalayan-like environment suitable for meditation.[1][18][19][20]

Pooran Singh filed a habeas corpus writ, seeking the release of Ashutosh's body. After the writ was rejected, he petitioned the court for a post-mortem examination of the corpse.[21] A person named as Dilip Kumar Jha, who claims to be the son of Ashutosh, also appealed to court, demanding that the body be brought to his home town in Bihar for cremation according to local rituals. The DJJS management have claimed that Ashutosh was single and had no family.[22] On 1 December 2014 the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered that the last rites for Ashutosh be performed in 15 days. The ruling was later suspended, with further hearings postponed to 9 February 2015.[23][24] Almost three years later, in July 2017, the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted permission for the followers to preserve his body in a freezer, although it was unclear whether the court had agreed with the sect's argument that its founder was still alive.[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "The curious case of Ashutosh Maharaj". The Tribune. 27 July 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Bihar-born Ashutosh had face-offs with radical Sikhs". Hindustan Times. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Is Guru Ashutosh Maharaj dead or just meditating? Indian holy man with a £100m legacy". The Independent. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  4. ^ "The curious case of Ashutosh Maharaj". The Tribune. 27 July 2014. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  5. ^ "Bihar JD (U) MLC writes to Punjab CM, wants seer's body back". Hindustan Times. 10 February 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  6. ^ "Ashutosh Maharaj: A dead seer kept alive by blind faithfuls in Punjab village". India Today. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  7. ^ "Police guards Ashutosh dera". The Tribune. 30 August 2002. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  8. ^ "Dead or alive? Mystery shrouds sect head Ashutosh's health". Hindustan Times. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  9. ^ "मरने के बाद गुरु को शिष्यों ने फ़्रीजर में डाला" (in Hindi). BBC. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  10. ^ "About Us". DJJS. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  11. ^ "Ready for dialogue, even at Akal Takht: DJJS chief". Hindustan Times. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  12. ^ "Khalsa panchayat to confront Ashutosh followers". The Tribune. 5 August 2002. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Deciphering dera politics". The Times of India. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Sikh bodies want ban on Ashutosh". The Tribune. 6 October 2002. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Punjab orders probe into Ludhiana violence, 1 dead". Zee News. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  16. ^ "Submit report on Nurmahal Dera head by Feb 5: HC to Punjab govt". Hindustan Times. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  17. ^ "Ashutosh Maharaj's 'samadhi': Senior officials visit Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan headquarters". The Times of India. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  18. ^ "Dead Indian guru frozen by devotees". BBC. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  19. ^ "Ashutosh's body in 'freezer'". The Tribune. 4 February 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  20. ^ "आशुतोष महाराज की मौत और समाधी को लेकर सस्पैंस बरकरार" (in Hindi). Punjab Kesari. Hind Samachar Group. 24 July 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  21. ^ "Sleeping Booty". Mumbai Mirror. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Villagers join Ashutosh family's fast". The Tribune. 9 February 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  23. ^ "HC directs Punjab govt to conduct last rites of Ashutosh Maharaj". Zee News. 1 December 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  24. ^ "Ashutosh Maharaj's body to remain in freezer till Feb 9". The Indian Express. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  25. ^ "Followers win fight to keep guru in freezer". BBC News. 5 July 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2017.