Discovery+’s docuseries ‘My Daughter Joined a Cult’ focuses on Swami Nithyananda, a self-styled Godman who has constantly been in the headlines, either for his bizarre claims or the controversies surrounding him. The story is told through the eyes of the people affected by Nithyananda. Over the years, he has been accused of many crimes, including rape and abduction, ultimately fleeing his home country, India. So, if you’re wondering what’s happened to Nithyananda and where he might be today, here’s what we know.
Who is Swami Nithyananda?
Born Arunachalam Rajasekaran in the Tiruvannamalai District in Tamil Nadu, India, he was noticed by a prominent yogi at the age of three. Nithyananda eventually settled in Karnataka, India, and in 2003, set up his ashram in the town of Bidadi. His following grew quickly, leading to a foundation in the sprawling city of Los Angeles, California. Apart from teaching meditation and public discourses, he has published many books and opened several spiritual centers.
Known for being a powerful orator, Nithyananda gained a cult following, so much so that his believers have had no hesitation discrediting accusers. Not just that, they are reportedly known to run propaganda websites in the supposed Godman’s name. Nithyananda has made several claims that can only be categorized as being “ridiculous.” He’s claimed to make animals speak Tamil and Sanskrit and asserted that he could open anybody’s third eye. Moreover, Nithyananda claimed that Albert Einstein’s mass-energy equation was wrong.
But by the 2010s, Nithyananda was accused of several crimes and was constantly part of scandals and controversies. In 2010, a leaked sex tape of Nithyananda and a female disciple caused much furor in India. Though he and the disciple claimed the video was fake, a forensic analysis by The Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Bengaluru confirmed that wasn’t the case. Furthermore, in 2010, an American woman named Aarthi Rao accused Nithyananda of raping her multiple times over the course of five years.
Aarthi claimed that she was led to believe that having sex with Nithyananda was the path to spiritual enlightenment. As per Aarthi’s account, Nithyananda convinced Aarthi that she was the “chosen one” and his only companion in this world. She had even moved to India to live at his ashram during that period, leaving her family behind. Aarthi further alleged that she later found out that Nithyananda had been sleeping with other disciples. In response, Nithyananda claimed that Aarthi approached him to cure her of a sexually transmitted disease.
Nithyananda further stated, “I am neither a male nor a female. My body underwent a psychological and physiological mutation. I am not capable of doing the acts I’ve been charged with. I am ready for any kind of tests on my body.” Later, he changed his story, claiming that the sex was consensual. After several delays, the case went to trial in August 2018, but the story was far from a conclusion.
In late 2019, four underage children alleged they were held against their will at an apartment in Gujarat, India. They claimed that they were tortured and forced to work. This rescue came on the heels of two more underage kids being rescued from a similar situation just days prior. The parents of the two kids further alleged that their two older daughters, 18 and 20 at the time, were abused at the ashram. Moreover, the parents alleged that the two girls were threatened with death.
Where is Swami Nithyananda Today?
While the legal proceedings for the rape case were still going on, it was reported that Nithyananda fled India in November 2019. The authorities traced him to Trinidad, an island in the Caribbean, from where he possibly left for Ecuador in a private jet. At the time, Nithyananda reportedly didn’t even have a valid passport. Soon after his escape, he announced the formation of a Hindu nation called Kailasa.
Nithyananda claimed that Kailasa had its own currency, a flag, and later, even a COVID-19 policy. While there have been rumors that it’s an island off the coast of Ecuador, the nation has denied selling land to Nithyananda. The country’s embassy further stated that he was denied asylum, after which he had left. Apart from that, the two sisters who were missing earlier claimed in videos uploaded online that they were being harassed by their parents and didn’t want to return home.
For now, Nithyananda’s location remains a mystery, and he is wanted by Interpol. Some believe he could be in Nepal, while others feel that Kailasa is only a virtual nation. Nevertheless, Nithyananda continues to have a large following and regularly uploads videos online from an undisclosed location. Recently, he’s made some more outrageous claims like COVID-19 ending in India only upon his arrival.
Read More: How Did Dr. James Ketchum Die?