India’s Ayodhya, a Holy City, Is ‘a Living Hell’ Due to Violent Crime by Hindu Priests and Their Followers

Ayodhya is one of Hinduism’s seven holy cities in India. It is the birthplace of Lord Rama, and the setting of the epic folk tale Ramayana.

It also happens to be the scene of persistent, brutal gun violence between various factions of holy men.

(Pramod Singh – Tehelka.com)

Welcome to

… the sinister reality of Ayodhya. With bloody clashes over land disputes, murder of mahants [religious superiors, typically Hindu priests] and rape of minors, the “holy city” has turned into a living hell. … [M]any sadhus [wandering monks, usually yogis] are involved in criminal activities.

Most of the 7,000 temples and maths in Ayodhya have become centers of crime. Over the past few years, more than 250 sadhus have been booked for crimes, including murder; some have been killed in police encounters. …

The mahants of some temples are accused of illegally taking over the property of other temples, murdering their chief priests or expelling them by force. Many of Ayodhya’s “saints” are busy accumulating property.

Earthly possessions count, but status — as in, an official title — is just as desirable.

The main reason [for the violence] is greed for the title of mahant. “Many disciples are so impatient to get to the top that they cannot wait until the mahant is dead. They are ready to kill them,” says Sadhu Ram Narayan Das. Sheetla Singh, editor of the daily Jan Morcha, says many mahants have got their title after murdering their gurus. For instance, the mahant of Janaki Ghat Bada Sthan, Janmejai Sharan, was accused of the murder of his predecessor, Maithili Sharan Das. “Honor comes with money and power. Sadhus want all of it. And they want it fast,” says Singh.

Also fueling the bloodshed is — what else — rivalry of the theological kind.

“‘My god and my temple are more authentic than yours.’ That’s the mindset at work,” says Raghuvar Sharan, a sadhu.

Sometimes, murder is unnecessary, and a bribe will do. Praise Vishnu!

“A friend of mine was a priest in a temple. His guru passed away without appointing a successor and so a four-member selection committee was set up,” shares a local contractor. “My friend told me that he wanted to be the mahant even though there were other more deserving disciples. Two of the committee members were against him. I bought a new Nokia handset and approached one of them. I told him, ‘Only five sets of this model are in the market. I especially ordered the sixth one from abroad for you.’ When I told him that my friend wanted to be the mahant, he asked me to bring him a still newer version next time I came to see him. Finally, my friend was elected the mahant with three votes against one.”

Locals claim any sadhu can become a mahant by paying the right price. “The highest bidder gets the title,” says Mahant Yugal Kishore Shastri.

Murder or not, guns are usually part of the equation.

“There is a race among the sadhus for weapons and gunmen. Many of them have licensed pistols, though there is a greater demand for illegal weapons,” says a police officer. An intelligence officer claims that since the police do not search the temples, they have become the safest places to hide firearms. Many sadhus trade in illegal arms.

The rest of the article details illegal use of alcohol and narcotics among the clergy, plus sexual envy, cronyism, child rape, and, of course, baksheesh for the local cops.

Or, as it’s known in this most holy place, “business as usual.”

(Via Guruphiliac. Photo via Tehelka.com)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Amor DeCosmos

    …many mahants have got their title after murdering their gurus

    So basically Ayodhyad is where Sith Lords get their training.

  • the moother

    Why would anyone want to become a mahant if, chances are, the next asshole in line is probably going to murder you?

    • Richard Thomas

      I’m going to point you in the direction of “pretty much the entirety of human history and human nature in general, unfortunately” for the answer to that question.

  • EdmondWherever

    How… Klingon.

    • lovesalot
      • EdmondWherever

        This was the best TV show that ever filled a screen.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      My thought exactly when I read this post. Klingon First Officers kill their Captains when the Captains are no longer fit for command. (Or the First Officers are just tired of waiting.)

  • Mario Strada

    Wait, wasn’t there some idyllic video picturing hindus as this peaceful religion oppressed by the evil atheist college professor?

    Not to mention the comments from hindus in the youtube comment chiding the muslims for being hateful and spreading their religion by the sword (which is not far from reality but still).

    Thank Shiva I am an atheist. Nobody is going to kill me to be the leader of my temple.

  • busterggi

    At least Kali hasn’t been forgotten.

  • $925105

    It doesn’t matter what the religion is, all fundies are dangerous.

  • These Atheist

    Pretty much every Hindu god/goddess carry weapons…. that does say something about them… (Ssshhh they are equally violent)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Astonishing and chilling. I wonder if all this blatant corruption and homicidocracy will eventually wear thin on the common people, and they will begin to lose interest in supporting religion in general.

    But I’m a cockeyed optimist.

    • CottonBlimp

      As Jon Stewart said, people need religion to help them through the strife and hardships caused by religion.


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