Devotees of a dead guru who has been in a freezer in northern India since January won a court battle delaying his cremation for at least another seven weeks.
Supporters had approached the court in Punjab state seeking a delay on an earlier order for the cremation of Hindu “godman” Ashutosh Maharaj, whom authorities declared dead on January 29.
“The division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has stayed the cremation till February 9,” Swami Vishalanand, a spokesman for the guru’s ashram told AFP on Monday.
Followers have insisted their spiritual leader is not dead but in a state of deep meditation, and will eventually return to lead them.
Maharaj, reportedly in his 70s, was one of India’s many gurus and headed the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission) that claims to have millions of followers around the world.
Devotees have invoked the right of freedom of religion under India’s constitution as reasons against his cremation, which was originally sought in the courts by a man claiming to be the guru’s son.
A two-judge bench on Monday delayed the cremation order made by a single judge of the same court on December 1.
Ahead of its decision, thousands of followers massed at the guru’s ashram in Nurmahal at the weekend in a show of support for the guru whom they said should be allowed to continue his “samadhi”, the highest level of meditation.
The case is reminiscent of something similar that happened in eastern West Bengal state in the 1990s, when followers of another spiritual leader, Balak Brahmachari, refused to cremate him after he died, saying he would come back to life.The police then moved in and forcibly cremated his body.