Chennai, March 3: His website claims he is an enlightened master who can lead you to inner bliss. Unfortunately for the swami, a hidden camera has apparently caught him experiencing a very different kind of bliss.
Swami Paramahamsa Nithyananda, a Tamil Nadu seer with a big following in several states and abroad, has landed in a storm after a news channel telecast video footage purportedly showing him in a sex romp with an actress.
While Sun News played the footage over and over again, the Tamil magazine Nakkeeran has published photographs of the alleged romp.
On the Net, the footage, shot over two days, soon became one of the most viewed on video-sharing website YouTube while others searched Google through the day.
Neither Nithyananda, 32, nor the actress, Ranjitha, ó a second-line heroine of the 90s who is not active in films now ó was available for comment.
But a spokesperson for Nithyanandas headquarters in Bidadi, Karnataka, said the whole thing is a combination of conspiracy, graphics and rumours. We will respond legally in due course.
Protesters from a Right-wing Hindu party and the atheistic Dravidar Kazhagam today ransacked Nithyanandas ashrams across Tamil Nadu. In many towns, his pictures were burnt after being garlanded with slippers.
As the protests spread, police deployed forces around the self-proclaimed god mans ashrams in Tiruvannamali, his birthplace, and a few other towns.
There has been no formal request from the ashrams but we have deployed forces to maintain law and order, a police officer said.
A leader of the political party Hindu Makkal Katchi in Coimbatore said Hinduism did not need fraudulent seers like Nithyananda.
It is time Hindus banished the likes of him through their own fatwa, Senthilnathan told reporters.
Nithyananda had become popular through his column Open the door, let in the breeze in the Tamil weekly Kumudam.
His feel-good columns had caught the imagination of Tamils worldwide.
The swami set up his headquarters ó Nithyananda Dhyanapeedam ó at Bidadi on the Bangalore-Mysore highway and ashrams across Tamil Nadu and in Varanasi and Puri as well as meditation centres in a dozen countries.
His website says: Paramahamsa Nithyananda is an enlightened master living amidst us today. With a worldwide movement for meditation and inner bliss, Nithyananda continues to offer solutions for things as trivial as everyday stress to something as profound as enlightenment.
But after the alleged sex romp, even the website of Kumudam, the weekly that carried his columns, started hosting the video with a statement that his actions have made devotees view even upright spiritual leaders with suspicion.
Some of Nithyanandas followers said the video, which shows the actress in a sari and in a white kurta-churidar, may have derailed his image and jeopardised the future of his movement and ashrams.
His movement had become a multi-crore business empire within a decade by taking donations from the public, said K. Sethuraman, a chartered accountant and a keen follower of the seers discourses. It remains to be seen how he is able to retrieve himself from this mess.
In Chennai, Rama Sivasankar, an advocate, lodged a criminal complaint with the police commissioner, saying Nithyananda had defamed Tamil culture and insulted Hinduism by his act and had also swindled crores of rupees through fraudulent means.