- In January 2014, Ashutosh Maharaj, revered by many as an enlightened soul and spiritual leader, was declared dead by doctors following a heart attack. However his followers of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission which is thought to have over 30 million followers) were of the belief that their Guru was in a state of deep meditation or Samadh. They and have thus far refused to perform a cremation in the expectation that it is possible to revive him and we now have the curious case of the Frozen Baba.
- The Guru has been frozen by followers and kept in a specially made, double bed sized freezer in Nurmahal a small town close to Jalandhar in Punjab. According to the spokesperson of the spiritual organisation Swami Vishalanand, “He is not dead. Medical science does not understand things like yogic science. We will wait and watch. We are confident that he will come back.” Another devotee, Lakhwinder Singh said, “He has assured us that he will come back.” (Source – BBC).
- According to many locals in Nurmahal, this is less a case of spiritual faith and more a case of a battle for succession. It is estimated that the properties of the Guru are in region of Rs 1500 crores. Mohinder Pal Singh and Dinesh Chander, also followers of the Guru, have challenged the freezing in Court, asking administration of the properties and a CBI inquiry.
- A person called Dilip Jha, claiming to be the Guru’s son is also asking that the body be permitted to be cremated. Pooran Singh, claiming to be the former driver of the Guru has filed habeas corpus writ, seeking the release of his guru’s body. (Source – Mumbai Mirror)
- Given the insistence of some disciples that their Guru is not dead, there were bizarre reactions from politicians too. Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh and former Union minister Manish Tewari, who had earlier sent condolence messages then went on to retract their condolences.
- The court, which earlier took the view that it was up to the followers to do what they wanted with the Guru’s body, has directed vide an order of 1st December that the body be cremated within 15 days.
- In a detailed order, the court has observed – “Exhibition of his (Ashutosh’s) body in a transparent refrigerator appears to be not in consonance with any tradition or ritual of Hindu religion. Exhibition of a dead man for any purpose except for `last darshan’ would be an insult to the dignity of the dead person.” They have also said that religious freedoms are subject to “public order, morality or health.” (Source – First Post)
- Predictably the Twitterati are sharply divided on the matter of the #FrozenBaba. On the one hand people have taken umbrage at “interference from courts” in matters of faith, saying that the Guru will be “back”. Some are offering the example of the embalmed body of St Francis Xavier which has been preserved in a Goa cathedral for centuries. On the other the Tweeple have come down heavily on Godmen and their followers who choose to disobey and subvert the law.
#frozenbaba , every media channel want to cremate Ashutosh Maharaj’s body saying he’s clinically dead. Same for Xavier’s corpse in Goa ?
— vijay pai (@paivijay) December 3, 2014
Ashutosh Maharaj will be back soon like Shankaracharya. #frozenbaba
— Gaurav M (@Gaurav00079) December 3, 2014
#FrozenBaba would never have been imagined wht his followers wl do wid his body aftr death using his own principles of faith,belief&worship
— Couch Potato (@neeharika25) December 3, 2014
— mohan murti (@mohanmurti) December 3, 2014
New Flashpoint in the making. #FrozenBaba issue gets big. When will followers learn to follow law of the land.
— My Robinhood FM (@02SaMe) December 4, 2014
#FrozenBaba in winters.? That’s apt.
— || Koki || (@kokeesachdeva) December 3, 2014
#frozenbaba If baba is in samadhi then y he has been frozen
— Manoj Gulati (@manojgulati12) December 3, 2014
— Sunil kumar verma (@mrsunil58) December 3, 2014
Image source DDSJ