India "holy man" resigns over sex scandal

Tue Mar 30, 2010 8:48am EDT
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BANGALORE, India (Reuters Life!) - A Hindu holy man with thousands of followers across India resigned as head of a religious organization on Tuesday after police began investigating his role in a sex scandal, officials said.

Video footage allegedly showing Nithyananda Swami, head of Dhyanapeetam, or "knowledge center," frolicking with two women angered hundreds of devotees who tried to ransack his center outside the southern city of Bangalore this month.

The 32-year-old has denied any links to the women and said the tapes were doctored, but the police are investigating and have asked people to come forward with evidence.

This month has been particularly bad for India's self-styled holy men with Indian police arresting one for running a brothel involving air stewardesses and college students, while charging another with kidnapping a minor.

Nithyananda Swami, who has big politicians and movie stars as devotees, announced his resignation in a statement.

"I have decided to live a life of spiritual seclusion, for some indefinite time...," he said on his website.

Nithyananda Swami has spiritual centres in Europe and United States and Dhyanapeetam runs free medical centres and supplies food to the poor.

(Reporting by Habib Beary; Editing by Bappa Majumdar)