An Indian guru declared dead by doctors after a heart attack six weeks ago has been kept in a freezer by zealous followers who claim that he will come back to life to lead them.
Devotees placed Ashutosh Maharaj, who was pronounced dead on January 29, in the freezer and have been watching over his body, Aljazeera.com reported.
Maharaj, who was reportedly in his 70s, led the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission) -- which he claimed has more than 30 million followers.
“He is not dead,” spokesman Swami Vishalanand told the BBC. “Medical science does not understand things like yogic science. We will wait and watch. We are confident that he will come back.”
According to his believers, Maharaj is in a state of samadhi – the deepest form of meditation – and is sending them messages.
"Mahara-ji (a Hindi term of respect) is still sending messages through followers in their meditative stage to protect his body till he returns," Vishalanand said.
The decision to keep him in the freezer was challenged in court by a man claiming to be his former driver, who claimed that followers were not releasing the body because they wanted to share the guru’s properties, local media reported.
But the court rejected the man’s claim.
“The court rejected his pleas after the Punjab government said that the man is clinically dead and that it is up to his followers to decide what they want to do with the body,” said Reeta Kohli, a legal official of Punjab state.
According to Oneindia News, Maharaj was a controversial religious leader, allegedly preaching against the religious text of Sikh groups.
Maharaj’s website, which says the mission was established in 1983, aims to “achieve world peace.” It claims to have 350 branches in 15 countries.