Their means may be varied but the methods are the same - flamboyance, a dash of spirituality, thousands of besotted followers, sex dungeons, and all unworldly affairs. The latest in the array of the kings of the netherworld to have walked this country is the self-proclaimed godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim, now convicted of raping two of his disciples. Onmanorama looks at some of the other operators who had build their empires on copious quantities of spirituality.
Who: The 54-year-old Gangeshananda Theerthapatha, alias Hariswami, was a self-styled godman and had an ashram in Kollam, Kerala.
What: He was booked by the police in May 2017 for allegedly sexually exploiting a Thiruvananthapuram-bassed law student for 5 years on the pretext of conducting poojas. The woman took revenge on him by reportedly chopping off his genitals.
Final cut: Once the news of the genital chopping went viral, he said he had 'cut off his own penis as penance.'
Who: Santhosh Madhavan, alias, Swami Amritha Chaitanya.
What: In May 2009, the godman was convicted for raping three minor girls. He lured the minor girls, hailing from poor families, before assaulting them in confinement. He was also accused of filming the assault and for blackmailing the victims. He was sentenced to 16 years of rigorous imprisonment and a penalty of Rs 2 lakh. Madhavan is also accused of cheating a Dubai-based Indian woman of Rs. 40 lakh
Final cut: He was accused of filming his sexual acts.
Who: Swami Nithyananda, 40, the founder of Bengaluru-based Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, is currently facing a sexual assault case filed by Karnataka police in 2009. The petitioner, Aarthi Rao, his own disciple, accused him of raping her many times.
What: A video of a sexual act between the swami and a prominent actress pops up. He was arrested on rape charges in April 2010 and was granted bail on June 11. His supporters filed 14 complaints against Aarthi Rao in retaliation. Nithyanand approached the supreme court saying he was impotent. The court ordered a medical examination which concluded otherwise. The hearing is posted for September.
Final cut: Nithyananda insisted on 'seeking moksha through sexual union' with several female devotees. He claimed to be the incarnation of various gods. His foundations in India and the US face allegations of fraud.
Who: Asumal Sirumalani, 76, known as Asharam Bapu or just Bapuji by his followers, preaches chastity and worshipping one's parents.
What: Arrested in 2013 after a teenage devotee accused him of raping her at a religious retreat. Soon after, another female follower also accused him of rape. He has been in jail since 2013 on charges of rape and criminal intimidation. The guru still continues to 'inspire devotion' and thousands of supporters flock to court when he appears for hearings.
Final cut: The police are investigating the mysterious death of three witnesses in criminal cases against the godman.
Who: Asaram Bapu's son.
What: In jail for raping a Surat-based woman disciple of his father between 2002 and 2005. Sai, 40, is also accused of having assaulted eight other girls.
Final cut: Father and son at loggerheads on who is the spiritual ace
Who: 43-year-old self-styled godman.
What: A Mumbai court in April 2016 sent him to jail for life for raping seven girls. Kasim knew four women, siblings, who had mentally challenged sons and healthy daughters. He promised to cure the boys and asked the women to send their daughters to him for 'treatment.'
Final cut: He had promised the women that their daughters would not give birth to challenged children, the police charge sheet says.
Who: Premananda left war-ravaged Sri Lanka and moved to India in 1984 to set up an ashram in Tiruchirappalli.
What: In 1994, a young girl from the ashram alleged that she was pregnant after being raped by Premanand. In August 1997, Premananda and six of his accomplices were convicted of raping 13 minor girls.
Final cut: He was once hailed as an avant-garde spiritual leader
Who: He had spent 14 years in jail for three murders when he convinced a British family that their daughter was his ‘wife’ in previous birth.
What: He sexually abused and tortured the woman years. She managed to escape and complained to her parents and the police.
Final cut: Gnyanachaitanya was arrested again.