At a time when self-declared godmen and "saints" are in the public glare, the famed "Falahari Baba" in Rajasthan has been charged with raping a 21-year-old woman at his ashram.
Kaushlendra Prapannacharya Falahari Maharaj, 70, is in a private hospital in Alwar over "high blood pressure". A police team searching for him tracked him down to the hospital and are now waiting to be allowed to speak to him.
Dubbed "Falahari" because of his reported fruits-only diet, the Baba has been seen in photographs with top political leaders and celebrities.
The woman, whose parents have been followers of Falahari Baba for years, has alleged that she was assaulted at his lavish ashram in Rajasthan's Alwar on August 7. She was allegedly told that the Baba couldn't meet anyone during an "eclipse" and asked to stay the night. The woman has told the police that the Baba called her at night to his room and assaulted her.
Warned against telling anyone, the woman broke her silence when another high profile guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was facing rape charges in court. Ram Rahim is now serving a 20-year jail term for raping two followers.
Falahari Baba had been visiting the woman's home for some time, investigations so far have revealed.
"There is a conspiracy to defame saints, I cannot say anything on the charge. Babaji is currently hospitalized," said the Baba's main sewadar or aide.
The woman, a law intern, had visited the ashram to donate some money. It was apparently on the baba's recommendation that she secured an internship under a senior lawyer in Delhi, for which she received a stipend of Rs. 3,000.
"Her family told her to give it to the Baba. When she went to meet him he told her to wait and then raped and threatened her. The parents came to us after the woman told them everything and we registered a case," said Archana Jha, a police officer in Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur.
The 'Godman' has devotees in India as well as abroad, the police say.