He glides through the air dressed in pink robes in his promotional videos and in real life is known to ride powerful, souped up bikes to congregations, the persona as flashy as the vehicle itself.
But Friday was judgement day for Gurmeet Ram Rahim, head of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, who was convicted in a rape case and left two states in a state of siege. Some of that tinsel aura may fade for the ‘baba of bling’, who is not the regular godman in saffron but a curious amalgam of reel and real defying easy description.
His Twitter profile describes him as “Spiritual Saint/Philanthropist/Versatile Singer/Allrounder Sportsperson/Film Director/Actor/Art Director/Music Director/ Writer/Lyricist/Autobiographer/DOP.”
For his followers, who gathered in the thousands in Panchkula ahead of the verdict in the case of rape and criminal intimidation, their leader is all this and more. The bejewelled head of the Sirsa-headquartered sect, who turned 50 this Independence Day, holds sway over millions in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.
As curiosity grew about the man at the centre of the frenzied storm, Gurmeet, who drove to Panchkula in a large convoy of scores of vehicles, put out a tweet appealing for peace and saying he would go to court even though he had a backache.
It was the familiar blurring of lines between the larger than life image of the man of bling who would be god and superstar. For somebody who commands so much attention, the personal details are just a few.
The only child
He was born in Sri Gurusar Modia village in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar district on August 15, 1967, to a landlord father. An only child, Gurmeet helped his father in the farm in his early years.
Gurmeet, it is said, was always spiritual. When he was seven, he was picked out by Shah Satnam Singh, then head of the Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa, who anointed him Ram Rahim.
Sixteen years later, in 1990, Satnam Singh invited his disciples from all over the country for a grand satsang where 23-year-old Gurmeet Ram Rahim was chosen as his successor.
The Dera chief, who completed his high school, is married to Harjeet Kaur. They have two daughters, Charanpreet and Amanpreet, both of whom are married, and a son Jasmeet. He also adopted a girl.