A Tantrik who came to symbolize the seamy side of spiritualism

Author Bhavdeep Kang
It was 1975, a few months before the imposition of Emergency. Jayaprakash Narayan’s quarters in the near was abuzz - a crowd of students enthused by his call for “Sampoorna Kranti” or had congregated near a bench outside the great man’s room. A tall, youthful sadhu in white, with bushy hair, a frizzy beard and heavy gold amulet around his neck, appeared. The student leaders were astonished to see the sadhu ushered in and emerge half an hour later from his chamber to personally see him off. They wondered who he was and why he was so important.

The young swami, Nemi Chand Jain, impressed JP to the extent that he had written a letter (in 1974) recommending him to all his “personal friends” in India and abroad. The couldn’t have imagined that the youth he described as “an eminent spiritual seeker and devotee of Bhagawati” would, in a matter of two decades, become the most infamous godman of all time : Chandraswami.

He would be suspected of a hand in the murder of a prime minister and in the most controversial arms deal ever, the Iran-Contra affair. Famously pretty and accomplished women would flutter around him like exotic butterflies. So would International wheeler dealers and political fixers. Scandal through the 1980s and 1990s had another name : Chandraswami.

He would wield influence with heads of state lie Margaret Thatcher, the Sultan of Brunei, Muda Hassanal Bolkia Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sheikh Isa Khalifa of Bahrain, and two prime ministers of India. His birthday would be celebrated with pomp and politicians of all hues would fight to be seen with the godman. His fall would be as abrupt as his rise and in 1996, Tihar Jail would receive its most famous prisoner till date: Chandraswami.

The word “godman” would forever take on a dubious meaning as newspapers across the world lifted the veil on his caliginous world of sex, arms, drugs, money and power–broking . For an entire generation, he came to symbolize the seamy side of spiritualism. Gurus before him took meditation, yoga and Ayurveda to the West, the worst that could be said of them was that they were Charlatans. was seen as an unmitigated villain.
[ Excerpted with permission from “Gurus : Stories of India's Leading Babas” by Bhavdeep Kang, Westland Books, June 2016. Views expressed are writer’s personal ]
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