Rampal Dass, a former engineer and controversial head of the Haryana ashram at the centre of a showdown, enjoys a seer-like status among his loyalists who swear by an analogy to one of Nostradamus’s prophecies.
The blog run by his Satlok Ashram says Rampal, born in 1951, obtained spiritual instructions on amavasya (the dark fortnight of a lunar month) in Falgun (February-March) from Swami Ramdevanand, a follower of Kabir, the 13th-century saint-reformer.
“The day of initiation is considered as the spiritual birthday … and Rampal’s spiritual age thus became 18 while the age of his body was 55.
The description fits Nostradamus’s prediction which says: ‘The time when the spiritual birth of the world leader will happen it will be a dark (amavasya) night. At that time his spiritual age will be around 16, 20 or 25 years and the age of his body will be between 50 and 60.”
If astrology played its part in making this former junior engineer in the irrigation department and popular bhajan singer a cult figure, it was his acerbic tongue that galvanised people towards him.
He brazenly challenges established religious orders, drawing people from the middle-class background and those persecuted in popular religions.
As his clout grew, so did his wealth in the form of donations that eventually translated into Satlok Ashram, a sprawling campus spread over 12 acres and ringed by 20-foot-high walls.
From inside his fortress he continued his attack on other sects unperturbed until he took on the Arya Samaj in 2006.
It led to a fatal gunfight in which a man was killed apparently by Rampal’s private militia.
His loyalists comprise retired army and police personnel and they have been instrumental in imparting weapon and tactical training to the militia, the so-called “Rampal’s Army”.