From a public servant to a public swayer, Rampal Dass (63), the self-styled godman, whose arrest has been sought by the Punjab and Haryana high court in a case of criminal contempt, has climbed several ladders of fame as well as notoriety.
This former junior engineer of Haryana Irrigation Department came in contact with one Swami Ramdevanand, a follower of Kabir. Ramdevanand’s radical views on religious practices greatly influenced him. In 1994, he was ordered by Ramdevanand to initiate people into taking ‘naam’ following which he quit the government job in 1995.
Soon after, his journey as a bona fide ‘godman’ began on a four-acre plot at Karontha village, 15km from Rohtak. He has been a polarising figure for most part — even spent 18 months in jail on murder charges — though his early life brooked no signs of the fervent following and violent reactions that largely define him now.
Born on September 8, 1951 at Dhanana village of Sonepat, Rampal’s father Nand Lal was a farmer and his mother Indira Devi a housewife.
His profile on his official website — jagatgururampalji.org — says he was an ardent devotee of Lord Hanuman initially but later got initiated into Kabir Panth.
Rampal has been brazenly adept at questioning and challenging the origin and ancestry of gods and the popular interpretations of Hindu scriptures.
People who have attended his congregations say Rampal uses aggressive language and tenor, claiming that the “real truth” has been hidden from “the people” by gurus and intellectuals who have interpreted scriptures in the past. This draws people from middle-class background as well as the demography that has been persecuted in popular religions. His following is moderate, however, as compared to other such sects active in the region.