ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Long History of Priestly Debauchery

In 1862, Bombay High Court ruled in favour of a journalist accused of libel for writing articles about the sexual exploitation of women by the head of a Vaishnava sect.

More than 150 years ago, a case that came to be called the Maharaj Libel Case was filed in Bombay High Court against a series of articles that had appeared in the reformist Gujarati newspaper Satya Prakash, written by its founder–editor, Karsandas Mulji. The case reveals the long history of sexual exploitation of women by leaders of religious sects and cults, the Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh being the most recent. Singh was convicted in August of raping women followers. But, gratifyingly, the case also reveals that many influential voices spoke out and took action against such crimes.

Mulji’s articles, some titled, “Debauched Maharajs,” were critical of the maharajs, or hereditary high priests, of the Vallabhacharya sect, a Vaishnava order also called the Pushtimarg. The Gujarati trading community of Bhatias, to which Mulji himself belonged, were a part of this sect. Mulji caused a flurry with his articles because he accused the high priest, Jadunathji Brijratanji Maharaj, of sexual impropriety. Not only did the maharaj have sexual relations with his women disciples, Mulji wrote, but he also expected his male devotees to offer their wives for his sexual gratification.

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Updated On : 12th Sep, 2017
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