Pudgy Guru, 14, Controversy Center in India
NEW DELHI (UPI) - A 14 year-old guru hailed by his American devotees as lord of the Universe and castigated by his critics as a smuggler, has become the center of a controversy which reportedly has interested even Prime' Minister Indira Gandhi.
Customs officials have yet to decide whether to prosecute the pudgy teen-age guru, Maharaj Ji, onallegations-that he tried to bring in about $50,000 worth of undeclared currency, precious stones and watches.
Maharaj Ji arrived in India from the United States on Nov. 7.
Government officials no longer will talk on the record about his case. According to some press eports, Mrs. Gandhi has taken a personal interest In the case.
The guru's young followers are at Hardwar, about 100 miles northeast of here, acquiring what they describe as their guru's perect knowledge.
The controversy swirls around a briefcase Maharaj Ji brought with him on his return. His critics say.it contained the undeclared valuables. His followers maintain the contents of the controversial briefcase, seized at the airport, were part of his divine bank and belonged to his devotees, not him.
"Why should Maharaj Ji smuggle anything?" said Arthur Brigam, 22, the guru's public relations man from Denver. "He is a saint who needs nothing."
Before leaving for Hardwar, headquarters of the guru's Divine Light mission, Brigham claimed customs officials had cleared Maharaj Ji, but the officials still have not announced the results of their investigation of the case.
Some 3,000 Western youngsters, mostly Americans, bought tickets on chartered jumbo jets to come to India to celebrate the Hans Jayanti festival in honor of the late Hans Ji Maharaj, father of the child yogi and founder of the mission.
The American devotees are beaming, freshly scrubbed youngsters who disclaim interest in liquor and drugs. Some claimed it was the guru who got them off drug trips.
The guru was born in Hardwar, where at the age of 2, according to his press releases, he began to deliver spiritual discourses on God realization,
Now he preaches with a decidedly American accent and urges one and all to accent his ultimate word, which he describes as really fantastic.