When seven judges including a former chief justice and an acting chief justice of the Karnataka high court recuse 14 times - by giving a reason or refraining from doing so, from hearing cases involving a powerful spiritual head, like the head of the influential Sri Ramachandra Math in Karnataka, justice has failed. It failed because the legislature was unable to enact a law to curb such godmens’ sensuality presuming their spirituality transcends their purview. And gullible women learn too late that such Mathadhipathis whom they revere, use spirituality as a tool for sexual gratification.
This has significance to our tiny state of Goa which has innumerable temples and maths. The Goa legislative assembly has not enacted a law to make the mahants of these temples accountable for the donations they receive from devotees all over India. To name just a few, the Shree Saptakoteshwar Temple at Maem, the Maruti Temple at Altinho in Panjim which the RSS chief Subhash Velingkar visits frequently, the Mahalaxmi Temple at Ponda, the Mahadeva Temple at Sanguem and the Naguesh Temple at Ponda are some of the old temples which have reportedly survived Portuguese rule.
And what happens throughout India takes place in Goa as well. The Mangueshi Temple priest, Dhananjaya Bhave, was arrested in July 2018 for molesting two young Goan girls inside the temple. The victims, a Goan-origin student studying medicine in the US and a Mumbai-based Goan girl, had complained to the police separately that the priest had allegedly molested them by hugging and kissing them near the sanctum sanctorum of the Mangueshi temple, while they were on a temple visit and while their parents were praying.
But to return to neighbouring Karnataka, just as Goa does not have a law to regulate the huge donations given to renegade priests like Dhananjaya Bhave, the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act, 1997 which repealed the earlier Mysore Religious and Charitable Institutions Act, 1927, was struck down by the Karnataka high court.
This has left a vacuum in regulating Maths and temples throughout Karnataka which allows such diabolical godmen to mix sex with spirituality to satiate themselves. And so, 42-year-old Sri Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji, earlier known as Sri Harish Sharma, has proved he transcends the law because as an incarnation of Lord Rama, all are certainly not equal before the law. At least that is what a PIL filed in the Karnataka high court alleges this Mathidhipathi claims.
This godman was discharged in 2016 for allegedly raping a devotee while a second of allegedly raping a minor girl and an abetment to suicide case against him are still pending. The Karnataka high court acting chief justice recused from hearing one case of the Jagadguru because the senior advocate who argued the case, was the judge’s own senior when he was a practicing lawyer.
India has exported a long line of godmen to the West since 1910. Some godmen who are literally worshipped by some Hindu groups in Karnataka like Lingayats and Brahmins, play a vital role in swinging votes for the Congress or the BJP. And whether it was Chandraswami whom the late Indira Gandhi consulted, or child rapist Asaram Bapu whose blessings were sought by two prime ministers H D Deve Gowda and the late Atal Behari Vajpayee, godmen like Sri Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji or the 36 th Pontiff of the Sri Raghaveshwara Bharathi
Swamiji Math in Karnataka proliferate unchecked. His alleged carnal appetites have come up before the Karnataka high court to adjudicate.
And so, some devotees of the influential Sri Ramachandra Math which was set up in the eighth century earlier known as Raghottama Math, following the tradition of Sri Jagadguru Adi Shankara Bhagatpadacharya, have accused its Mathadhipati who was anointed the 36 th Pontiff, of appeasing his carnal instead of spiritual desires. For Mathadhipatis are supposed to have renounced sex and wealth to merge their souls with Brahman instead of merging their bodies with women, as this PIL alleges.
These devotees include a 69-year-old Sanskrit scholar, Edurkala Ishwara Bhat, an artiste of the Math, Mayuri Gajanan Upadhyaya, and a philanthropist like K T Mahabalagiri Hegde, are among the six reputed petitioners who have approached the Karnataka high court. Their opponent is Sri Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji the 36 th Pontiff of the Math, who earlier had the mundane name of Sri Harish Sharma, before he performed the shraddha ceremony to signify the funeral of his carnal self. But perhaps, that shraddha was unsuccessful because the Shankaracharya, continued to be profligate.
These petitioners have alleged in the Karnataka high court that the 36 th Pontiff had sexual encounters with a devotee who claimed she was mesmerised after he gave her prasadam. According to this PIL, the Pontiff asserted he was the incarnation of Lord Rama, who promised to liberate the woman if she surrendered her body to him because sexuality and spirituality are intertwined, or so Sri Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji may have us believe. On his part, the Pontiff’s devotees alleged the woman and her husband who was a Math employee, were blackmailing him to step down. Whatever the truth, the revered Pontiff had to seek anticipatory bail from the courts when the brother-in-law of this woman who was reportedly a prime witness for the offence was allegedly forced to commit suicide by the Pontiff’s devotees. But before that, the seer announced he would retire to the Himalayas by relinquishing his lofty titles after the woman alleged he sexually assaulted her 40 times. But seers can change their minds, which is why he registered a complaint against his victim and her husband at the Honnavar police station in Karnataka in 2014. A day after her arrest on an allegedly trumped up charge, the woman complained of rape before the JMFC, on the date she was produced before the magistrate. The order sheet states after she filed a rape complaint, the Honnavar magistrate noted the same and ordered it be kept in safe custody instead of ordering a police probe, which roused the ire of the high court judges.
With Lord Rama failing to rescue his representative on earth, the case was investigated and the seer charge-sheeted, arrested and released on bail. Nevertheless, the seer managed to have the rape case dismissed without conducting any trial, without examining any witnesses by explaining his physical relationship with the victim as not rape but “ill-intimacy” whatever that may mean.
Another rape case was filed by another victim alleging rape when she was a minor and in this case also he managed to get anticipatory bail and the charge-sheet has been filed. Another charge-sheet has been filed in the suicide case also. But still, the godman continues to discharge his spiritual obligations to his devotees without any hindrance.
And so, despite being accused of raping a minor, the seer continues to officiate from his pontifical seat without retiring to the Himalayas as he promised he would do. The stringent provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 was not applied to the seer because he allegedly raped the minor girl before the law was enacted. In that respect at least, God saved his representative.
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