Bengaluru: Self-styled spiritual guru V. Vijayakumar Naidu, or Kalki Bhagavan as he is popularly known, recently faced a series of raids by the Income Tax department. Tax sleuths found that his ashram had hoarded as much as Rs 93 crore in cash, while an estimated Rs 409 crore of unaccounted wealth was found at other premises in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
“US currency alone is about $2.5 million (approximately Rs 18 crore). This is apart from other foreign currency. About 88 kg of undeclared gold jewellery, valued at Rs 26 crore, and diamonds amounting to 1,271 carats, worth about Rs 5 crore, have also been seized. The undisclosed income of the group detected so far is estimated at more than Rs 500 crore,” the I-T department said in a press release.
There are numerous murmurs about the reasons behind the raids on Kalki Bhagavan’s properties — one political leader who did not wish to be identified told ThePrint that his proximity to an important political leader in Andhra Pradesh could be a prime reason, as could multiple allegations of money laundering.
ThePrint tried to reach Kalki Bhagavan and his disciples at the ashram for a comment through the lone landline number listed online, but there was no response.
Making of the ‘spiritual supermarket’
Kalki Bhagavan is usually seen clad in white, with a gold-bordered shawl draped over his shoulder. He and his family operate out of sprawling ashrams in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and have a huge following in India and abroad.
Born to S. Varadarajulu Naidu and V. Vaidarbhi on 7 March 1949, Vijayakumar Naidu started out his career as a clerk with the Life Insurance Corporation of India. But in 1984, he and his close friend Shankar left their jobs at a Bengaluru school, and within five years, he had transitioned to a godman, renaming himself Kalki after the tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu. His wife Padmavathi is considered the incarnation of Vishnu’s consort, and is called Amma Bhagavan.
Naidu and Shankar first started a residential school called Jeevashram in Rajupeta, stating they wanted to provide “alternate education and inculcate spiritualism” in the youth. But when that failed, Naidu and his wife started a spiritual movement, which gained popularity in a very short time.
The promise of “instant nirvana” seems to have attracted hoards of followers to Kalki Bhagavan and Amma Bhagavan’s world headquarters in Varadaiahpalem, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh — about 80 km from Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai. This is also where the Oneness University they founded is located.
As one disciple — who has interacted with the couple but did not want to be named — put it: “His following gained momentum as his discourses helped people discover professional and financial success and greater health.”
Seeking darshan of both Kalki Bhagavan and Amma Bhagavan costs Rs 5,000. But if it is a ‘special darshan’, it costs Rs 50,000, according to a Hindustan Times report.
Neither Kalki Bhagavan nor anyone from the ashram speaks to the media. But, in an interview to India Today in 2002, he had said: “If you ask me whether you will own an Opel Astra, I will shut my eyes and try to see you in one. If I see the image, I’ll tell you that you will own it within a given period. If I don’t see anything, I will ask you to help the poor so that you can move closer to the goal.”
He continued: “A man wanted to know if he would marry an Aishwarya Rai lookalike. I saw him marrying someone who resembled her. That’s exactly what happened. You can be a Christian and I will make you see Christ. You can be a Hindu and I can make you see Rama. I am a spiritual supermarket.”
The role of son Krishna
Some of his followers, on the condition of anonymity, said the 70-year-old Kalki Bhagavan has been suffering from ill health for a long time. So, when the I-T raids took place, Amma Bhagavan, their son Krishna Nemam Kurral Vijay Kumar and daughter-in-law Pritha were leading the operation.
“Bhagavan has not been coming to the ashram regularly since the last few years. He gives video messages to his followers from his home in Tamil Nadu. During this time, his son Krishna’s significance increased. He would not only translate Bhagwan’s messages but also took over the trust’s activities,” a report in The Week quoted a senior Andhra Pradesh police officer as saying.
“He is known to be a businessman more than a spiritual leader. Hence, he routed the huge donations and other income of the trust and invested them in various ventures. This has attracted the attention of the I-T,” the officer was quoted as saying.
However, I-T department sources told ThePrint that the raids were based on a tip-off about transactions made by Krishna in various real estate and construction firms.
Krishna manages the ‘Oneness Temple’, and also runs construction companies under names like While Lotus, Golden Lotus, Blue Water and Dream View among others. Along with the ashram, these companies came under the scanner of the I-T department.
Yet, that has not deterred his followers to flock to the ashram to attain “spiritual peace”, said a Bengaluru-based follower who visits twice a year.