Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Santhigiri – nothing but business

All the media houses in the state were buzzing with huge pictures and news reports of the new Parnasala inaugurated at the Santhigiri Ashramam in Thiruvananthapuram the past week. Not a single of voice of dissent. No enquiries as to where they get so much money or influence.

“They tried to get American President Obama to inaugurate the thing”, a friend of mine who works there told me. A few years ago we would have laughed this off as a ridiculous comment. However, today it is evident that, this too is not impossible for them.

The name of Karunakara Guru has become as big as Mata Amritanandhamayi or Sai Baba. Rumours circulate about the divine powers he had. On the other side of the coin rumours are present too about his past, about how he was chased from his original village for immoral or illegal activities, and ended up here.

Anyway I used to visit the Ashramam when he was alive for the Annadanam – the free lunch they used to serve the general public on certain days (Well, back in those college days, we had an all-year-round list when free foodwould be given out anywhere in the district!). But, personally I think, it was ok when the guru was alive. People came to seek his blessings and we know the people have a tendency to seek blessings from godmen as a solution to all their problems.

Then he died. And Santhigiri started getting commercialized. Supposedly someone who completed his MBA and worked in US came to join the Ashramam and he spearheads the commercial activities. They have hundreds of industries going on in different locations. Whats wrong with that, some of you may ask. The thing is they are a charitable institution and they don’t have to pay tax. They have access to free money flow and they are above auditing. This virtually means they save crores on tax amount alone.

But more frightfully, they are buying up land by hundreds of acres in the surrounding areas. They are quickly developing a township with unaccounted money. In the blink of an eye, in the past few years, they had their own post office, petrol pumps, Medical College, a Panchayath ward exclusively for them – ‘them’ meaning people who may have come from any part of the state without proper identification and they are able to vote. This last issue is particularly causing concern because in a few years the entire area would be full of Santhigiri devotees who would be able to vote in all elections according to the orders issued by the Ashram authorities, thus creating a most powerful weapon – their own votebank.

I appreciate all the better initiatives taken by them – but remember they are not giving jobs to the public. And what goes inside the Ashram is a strictly guarded secret, strictly forbidden to outsider knowledge. And most worrisome is the lack of enquiring voices on the part of the media. Santhigiri Ashram needs to be audited (just like all the other godmen ashrams) and registered under the government as an industrial firm. Closing our eyes and blindly believing is easy – opening our eyes to see what is really happening is the difficult part.

P.S. - No, I don't have any proof to substantiate my claims... just like the claims about divinity and miracles.


  1. Really fantastic..One thing u forget..The people had lost the sense organs years back,,\Now they know what they r doing and will continue till the end..Sorry to say about it..But keep typing..With regrets..

  2. whoever you are, be careful while writing unverified facts and lies about a sage who is worshiped by millions of people. You have written blasphemous words about Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru which is a grave mistake on your part. Withdraw your words which are hurting to the devotees and disciples of Guru immediately from your site.


  3. @Mukundan, Santhigiri - You have a right to believe as much as I have the right to criticise...and i dont think my words would hurt true believers, if thats what you are.

  4. Well-researched write up. Maybe the media could follow up on this, especially since it concerns more than a little of the population.

    @Mukundan, facts mean real things - things that actually happened. So when you say 'unverified facts', you are actually implying that these are things which really happened, but not yet checked upon by anyone. Moreover, the author has very clearly written that he has heard rumours about the Guru, as opposed to 'facts' like you mention. So who is being critical or 'blasphemous' of the guru here?

  5. This is the funniest of all your post. And I must say I have read some of your other posts, and it’s better written. Somehow here, you managed to make a joke of yourself. But lets enjoy the fun.

    “Well-researched write up.” – Joke no.1

    Susheelan mentions visiting Ashram many times during his college days when Guru was there. He personally thinks it was ok then.

    But while he was never there afterward, he now chooses to go with all the judgments and concerns. What a approach to research!

    Not over. On basis of rumors .... On basis of rumors …. Oh, common, waiting for the word ‘fact’, but its never coming in this well 'researched article'.

    But then again, it still fun reading with all the innocent blunders.

    Wanna some more? “The thing is they are a charitable institution and they don’t have to pay tax “(Obviously need to wake up and read what’s going with countries tax norms).

    Ok, got better things to do.
    Anwz thanks Susheelan, Its nice a comedy.

  6. The fact that you are a critic seems fine but does exaggeration comes as a hot topic for critics,i have been to this places and i don't see any mba us returnee there and besides i am pretty sure of one thing no one from usa is running it.Gossip coloumns are fun to read i do read it but there is no mirracle worker at work in santhigiri as far as i know one get peace at that place and am pretty sure that is not a miracle.Plz note that "I came to santhigiri and i found peace" it was said by our former president Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam u say he is tricked too.There is no trick or magic besides the way of santhigiri has its own destiny and one canot just compare it with other institutions they have their own goals and destinies to fullfill.Obama is not such a big prodigy as it seems u said some of ur friends said obama is gonna dedicate the parnasala well parnasala is a symbol of the devotion of followers to Guru.And thats it and its open to all because all of them should get everything and not just a person or a clan .The goodness of believing in one god and to stand a fort for it is much a greater adventure than simply following the herd.All major institutions have commercial activities that does not mean its all bussiness and if one remember santhigiri had initiated a programme called karunyam a free medical camp giving treatment freely to all.And santhigiri have got three main pillars to fullfill and will do it 1.Annadanam-meaning free food to all who ever it may be ,2-Athurasevanam treating the sick guru has deviced a certain form to treatment were all doctors from different streams discuss and treat and it is said that ailments and thoose phenomenon that occurs to ppl that are a direct result of there bad deeds in previous births such as incurable diseases 3.Athmabodanam-spiritual quest that is different to different people but its our aim to tell what guru said that has to be found out individually and not through rumours.
    And as i mentioned before who says one has to be a MBA grad to run effective bussiness its some thing that happens by birth right or is in the genes(CHK out Tangal Kunju Musaliar)

  7. If Santigiri is not "sheer business" what else is that, visible in every town around Kerala)

  8. This appears to be criticism for the sake of criticism-probably arising out of lack of information.
    About Guru-
    there are many literature available in and outside the Ashram. Guru's background allegations against guru are very much described therein .Guru's humble beginnings, his search for an enlightened guru, his life in Sivagiri and branches, allegations of theft etc. mentioned there are all open and not a secret . It is appropriate to remember that mankind has not left out any great souls alone-right from Sree Krishna ,Jesus Christ to Sree narayana guru- not to mention-Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru-or any other great men.
    About Audit-
    Coming to Audit and paying taxes the allegation is totally baseless again arising out of ignorance. The accounts are being audited by a well reputed auditing Firm in Trivandrum.Tax audit/Cost audit is very regular. The Ashram files Income tax/Central Excise/Service taxes and sales tax returns regularly. Payment of taxes are also regular Even for Charitable Organisations Income tax has to be paid on all commercial activities. The Income Tax demanded for the last completed assessment is over 80 lakhs. The Ashram got the best tax payer award for central excise.
    The Central Government recognised the Ashram as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation-only after different levels of verification and audit.
    The Ashram has registration under section 12A of IT act for more than 2 decades.The donations to Ashram gets exemption Under Sections 80G,35(i)(ii)and 35(i)(iii) of IT act.The donors get exemptions up to 175% of donation from their income. It is the only institution in kerala which got this exemption. Central govt. is very meticulous and stringent in giving such exemptions.
    Physical Verification of each activity is carried out periodically before exemption is given.The source and utilisation of each rupee coming to the ashram is under strict verification by various enforcement agencies.
    About administration
    All the organisational matters are controlled by sanyasis.There are highly qualified engineers doctors and post graduates among them. The advisory board members includes Judges, civil servants ,doctors ,scientists,engineers,advocates,MBA’s,Doctrate holders,industrialists,experienced bureaucrats and social activists. The former Accountant General of Kerala is the present Chief Administrative of the Ashram You can imagine the level of control that exists in the Ashram A single imported MBA personnel cannot do anything in the ashram.
    The Basis of Ashram is spirituality based on the ideals of Guru. All other industrial, commercial, research activities are secondary All the activities are now carried on by the present spiritual. head as desired by the Guru.
    About Ashram
    Food is served free on all days to all those who visit the ashram, in the morning ,noon and in the night .During the dedication ceremony food was being served to lakhs of visitors for almot a month. Guru desired that this should be so always. It will always be so. You are always welcome
    Admittedly your comments are based on hearsay. As can be seen from the above facts- which are all verifiable-the allegations are baseless .Please verify the facts before making such sweeping comments Please visit the Ashram and find out for yourself

  9. dear suseelan plse take it as an advise ,becoz ur english is very poor.Plse try to acquire more skill in language.

  10. First of all let me make clear one thing that should throw a whole new perspective for the critics – and I should have mentioned this in the article itself – THE ASHRAM IS SITUATED RIGHT NEAR MY HOME, IN MY VILLAGE. So I don’t need to ‘go’ there like devotees to find out what is happening there. The place where devotees remove their footwear to show their pseudo respect is the place I ran about without slippers as a child, where I learnt how to ride a bicycle. My father and his father before him were born here and they lived here before any guru came. So first of all this is MY village I am talking about – and I have every right to do so.
    @ Phoenix Ryder – hehe…I sure can take a joke about myself – unlike godmen and their followers who get stingy and sarcastic when their divinity is questioned by someone

    @Hiden – Our beloved former President APJ Abdul Kalam would have found that peace anywhere in our village. It is because of the pristine beauty of our village and not the divine baloney of the ashram.

    @taxboy – the only true criticism so far and I accept it regarding the taxes. I doubt any of you outsider followers as read as much guru literature or listened to “guruvanees” as I have. I get to hear it all the time and free pamphlets are distributed to our homes. And I would also like to point out unlike most of you my relationship with the ashram isn’t limited to a few upper echelons. I know a hundred people at the ashram – neighbours, friends, shopkeepers, other people who work there – with whom I discuss and debate these points almost everyday.

    @Kannan - :D thanks for the “advise”. I’ll definitely try.

    So you can all gape at the marble wonder and leave – I know where the dirty waters flow. I didn’t criticize the guru because most weak minded people or those who don’t have a mind of their own (like Hidden) need someone to look up to – and ashrams all around the world exploit this weakness for their own growth. I never joined the Ashram because 1) My parents weren’t lunatics 2) I didn’t have huge debts and 3) My wife didn’t run away with my driver. What I am against is, is the expansionist policies and pure commercialization and the making of a god in the guru. How would you feel when entire areas around your home are being bought up by secret cults. The industrial activities of the ashram have annihilated the entire small scale industries in this village. The devotees who come to live in the lands owned by the ashram don’t participate in other social activities – they refuse to give donation to temples, churches, mosques, political organizations, youth clubs or any other organization. And these are not hearsay. I see and experience this everyday.

  11. also a word of thanks to all the clear headed friends who supported me - Exact-man, Cris and അനില്‍_ANIL - and others in Facebook, etc., too.

    thanks for all the comments

  12. please do follow up the matter in all earnestness, for you are in for quite a few surprises. would do more justice to the journalist in you. journalism deserves that.