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Who is Kalki Bhagwan Who Once Predicted Death of Organised Religions and Now Faces I-T Heat?

Taxmen have seized unaccounted cash worth over Rs 45 crore in Indian currency, another Rs 15 crore in foreign currencies and 88kg gold during raids at the godman's ashram spread across Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

D P Satish | CNN-News18dp_satish

Updated:October 22, 2019, 5:30 PM IST
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Who is Kalki Bhagwan Who Once Predicted Death of Organised Religions and Now Faces I-T Heat?
File photo of self-proclaimed godman Kalki Bhagwan; (right) cash seized by I-T department officials from one of his ashrams.

Bengaluru: He calls himself “Kalki”, the 10th and the last Avatar of Lord Vishnu. His followers call him “Kalki Bhagwan”. He has several ashrams and lakhs of devotees.

After almost a decade of him keeping a low profile, the spotlight is back on this self-proclaimed godman from Tamil Nadu. The Income Tax department has raided his ashrams in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

According to an official statement, they have seized unaccounted cash worth over Rs 45 crore in Indian currency, another Rs 15 crore in foreign currencies and 88kg gold. Being hailed as one of the biggest tax raids in recent times, the unofficial figures are said to be much higher.

Some say the I-T department has seized documents detailing his properties all over, including abroad. He may or may not be a godman with divine powers, but he is certainly a man with a remarkable business acumen.

The ‘Kalki’ was popular during the 1990s and early 2000s in south India. Strangely, his popularity started declining after that and there was not much talk about him.

In India’s overcrowded godmen market, Kalki perhaps lost the power to stay ahead of other new-age gurus. In the last 10 years, he had confined himself to his circle of followers and did not expand much.

However, the I-T department did not forget him. The recent raid and the ongoing investigation into the enormous wealth he has accumulated over the years have now turned the “godman” into a big economic offender raising several questions over claims of him being a ‘Bhagwan’.

Born as V Vijayakumar, the 70-year-old became a “godman” in the 1990s. In the mid-1980s, with the help of Sri Hari Khoday, a liquor baron from Karnataka, he had set up a residential school in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.

The school was an informal one loosely based on philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s Valley School concept. Before that, he was a clerk at the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC). In the early 1980s, he and his friend Shankar had briefly worked at the Valley School, Bengaluru, in the administration department. The school management had thrown out the duo in 1984 for undisclosed reasons.

In early 1990s, the students of his new school claimed that they had seen or experienced several miracles at the school and it became a big news within no time.

After the so-called miracle, Kalki shut his school and set up an ashram. Soon it grew into a mammoth “spiritual” centre spread over 50 acres. A 2002 media report claims that his ashram was worth over Rs 300 crore then. Between 1995 and 2010, he grew in stature as well as economically, attracting tens of thousands of new followers every year.

His wife Padmavathi started claiming that she too has divine powers and devotees call her Bhagwathi. His children claim that they also have divine powers like their parents. According to a former devotee from Bengaluru, it is a family business and no outsider has any say in the affairs of their ashrams.

Even though he claims that he is spiritual, Kalki preaches materialism. He tells his followers to enjoy life to the fullest and he sees nothing wrong in the material pleasures of life.

Like followers of many other godmen, his devotees believe that Kalki can cure anything — from cancer to kidney failure — through his miracles. Unlike others, he rarely gives darshan. Sometimes only once in six months.

He offers an enlightenment course to devotees for a fee and lakhs of people are said to have attended it. He once called himself a spiritual supermarket saying that he can show Jesus to a Christian, Rama to a Hindu and so on.

However, controversies are not new to him. During the height of his popularity, some people had alleged that Kalki was keeping their children at his ashram against their will, though nothing much had come out of it.

There were also some I-T-related charges, but all that was given a quick and quiet burial. A police officer from Karnataka who had received complaints against Kalki in the early 2000s said that in most cases, complaints were withdrawn or the children came out in public telling that they were staying at the ashram out of their own will.

“His wealth was quite visible even during those years, but the taxmen did not bother much,” he said.

In 2002, Kalki had famously predicted that all organised religions would die between 2005 and 2012 and only his sect will thrive. It is an irony that he has been proved wrong and the opposite is now happening.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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