Dead guru 'just sleeping' a freezer

Last updated 15:21 29/05/2014
HOLY MAN: Shri Ashutosh Maharaj.

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Followers of an Indian guru thought to have died of a heart attack insist he is just meditating and are refusing to let his family take the body away for cremation.

They say Shri Ashutosh Maharaj is not dead, he is just meditating deeply and they are keeping him in a deep freeze to preserve him until he wakes up.

The matter is now before India's courts, with the Hindu guru's wife and son saying he died in January.

Son Dilip Jha said the real reason the followers would not release his father's body was to keep control of his financial empire.

The Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious order, founded by the guru in 1983, had a property estate estimated to be worth nearly $200 million, The Telegraph reported.

The group has thousands of followers around the world and owns dozens of large properties throughout India, the United States, South America, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.

The guru's body is being kept in a commercial freezer at the group's 40-hectare ashram in the Punjab city of Jalandhar. It is in a guarded room which only a few elders and sect doctors are allowed to enter.

His followers said guru, aged in his 70s, had drifted into a deeper form of meditation he promoted as a pathway to self realisation.

An aide, who asked not to be named, said Maharaj had spent many years meditation in sub-zero temperatures in the Himalayas. "He will return to life as soon as he feels and we will ensure his body is preserved until then," The Telegraph said.

Punjab police had confirmed his death, but the Punhab High Court later dismissed that status report. Local government officials had said it was a spiritual matter and the guru's followers could not be forced to believe he was dead.

A court application from the guru's wife and son is seeking an investigation into the circumstances of the death and for the body to be released for cremation.

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