The news that Karnataka Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda had ordered the arrest of self-styled godman Nithyananda in connection with an alleged attack on journalists by some of his devotees at his Bidadi ashram near Bangalore appeared to have come as a shock to many of his followers here.

Nithyananda was recently anointed successor to the present head of the Madurai Adheenam, evoking protests by sections that feel he is not competent to head the ancient Saivite institution in view of allegations that surfaced two years ago against him through video footage.

Not many were willing to comment on the developments in Karnataka, even though officials at the Mutt maintained routine activities were going on as usual. When contacted on Tuesday for their comments on the turn of events, sources in the Madurai Adheenam said only senior pontiff Arunagirinadhar was present. Meditation classes, lectures and annadhanam for the general public went on as per schedule, they said.

The mood in the institution, which was quite upbeat in recent days, with Nithyananda and the reigning pontiff addressing the media frequently and answering questions about the appointment, turned a little sombre, as fewer devotees were seen visiting it in the last two days. The turnout for the annadhanam came down by a few hundreds from the figure of around 2,000 over the last month or so.

Asked whether the senior pontiff could be contacted, the Mutt authorities said, “He is resting. Please do not disturb,” they added. “Our Swamiji [Nithyananda] is expected this week in Madurai. There is no apprehension at all, and devotees visited as usual. Pujas are being performed with the usual fervour. Police security is here to ensure that anti-social elements do not force their way in, as we fear trouble from some quarters who have been staging demonstrations in the guise of ‘retrieving the Adheenam,' a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the Adheenam Retrieval Committee members led by different groups in Madurai have threatened to intensify their stir after the tough stand by Karnataka.