Madurai: Controversial self-styled godman Nithyananda was on Friday sacked by the senior pontiff as his successor of a 1,500-year old Saivaite mutt in Madurai, an appointment which had attracted widespread condemnation from various quarters including Tamil Nadu Government.
Nithyananda is facing criminal charges, including rape, in Karnataka where his ashram near Bangalore was recently embroiled in a controversy after a US-based woman and some others alleged sexual exploitation, a charge he has denied.
Sri Arunagirinathar, the 292nd head of Madurai Adheenam, who had named Nithyananda as his successor to the highly revered mutt in April last, showed the door to him as pressure mounted from the state government and other Hindu mutts and outfits besides devotees against the appointment.
The move came a day after the state Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department moved a local court seeking removal of Arunagirinathar himself and opposed Nithyananda's appointment holding it violated rules and mutt traditions.
Incidentally, the Madras High Court on Friday reserved orders on a bunch of petitions seeking removal of Nithyananda.
Asked why Nithyananda was sacked, Arunagirinathar, who had earlier defended his action, said "You know better. I have sought police help because I feel my life is threatened due to the stay of the disciples of Nithyananda (in the mutt here)."
The seer told police that he was facing a threat from the disciples of Nithyananda after his sacking. Disciples of Nithyanandha who were staying in the mutt also came out.
Nithyananda's controversial appointment led to strong protests from the mutt disciples who opposed him on the ground that he was unfit as he faced serious criminal charges including sex scandal and filed petitions in courts.
The self-styled godman had first courted controversy after TV channels telecast sleazy visuals purportedly showing him in a compromising position with a Tamil actress, leading to his arrest in 2010. He was subsequently released on bail.
In its plea before the sub-court, HR and CE Commissioner had sought removal of Arunagirinathan as the head of mutt charging that he had failed to perform his duty and had formed a trust along with Nithyananda with the ulterior motive of selling the mutt properties, worth several hundreds of crores.
This is the second time Arunagirinathar sacked a junior pontiff. He had dismissed a young boy whom he had appointed as the junior pontiff two years ago.