Do godmen (and women) have special powers bestowed on them or are they just bad tricksters as famous magician PC Sorcar had termed Sai Baba in 2000?
Following the sentencing of godman Ram Rahim for rape, the media has been full of articles and stories about similar self-proclaimed "messengers of god" who face serious allegations and legal cases against them.
Now, Kerala magician Gopinath Muthukad has put out a video on his Facebook which calls out the "magic tricks" that godmen (and women) use to convince the public about their powers.
Gopinath says that he got the idea for making this video from a comment that someone named Mohammed Shafi had made on his previous video.
"If only you'd set your mind, you could have become India's leading godman," Shafi had said. With a smile, Gopinath says that he could have indeed become so but that he'd not have been able to address people with honesty in that case.
The magician lauded the court for sentencing Ram Rahim for 20 years and went on to say, "In a country like ours where even governments are controlled by godmen, it is the verdicts delivered by courts that provide some consolation."
Gopinath recalled a little-documented fact about how India became an independent country at midnight on August 15: "Lord Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy, had finished discussions with Indian leaders and was coming out. He was asked the date when India would get its independence. He suddenly thought of August 15, the day when Japan had surrendered two years earlier (during World War II) and he was recognised as a hero."
Gopinath further said that as soon as the date was revealed, several astrologers from different parts of the country objected since the day would fall on a Friday, which is considered to be inauspicious.
"They, therefore, decided that India shouldn't get independence on that day. Further talks were held with Indian political leaders and astrologers. Please note that astrologers were consulted to decide when a nation should become free. That's how it was decided that freedom should be given at midnight on August 14, before August 15 began," said Gopinath.
He added that Lord Mountbatten had declared that India would never be free of superstition.
"No books documented this. But it is clearly documented in Freedom at Midnight written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre," observed Gopinath.
Pointing out that it was 70 years since India got its independence, Gopinath said that every nook and corner in India had godmen. Gopinath also added that such godmen mushroomed from different corners of the country all the time and that they had to be destroyed before they became too big.
"They will get a lot of money. It won't be sent through rightful channels either. If they are not removed, they will be able to shake even the government. Please remember that nothing can be done after that," he issued a word of caution.
Gopinath, like PC Sorcar, went on to say that godmen did not possess any superhuman powers and that every trick of theirs could be explained by science.
"I can perform miracles, too, but I have to tell you that I'm an ordinary man just like you," a smiling Gopinath asserted.
He said that godmen used the same tricks to pull wool over the eyes of the people and that we must call them out to save the future generations.
Gopinath explained that common godman tricks like lighting a lamp by pouring water, lying on a bed of nails, and producing 'sacred ash' out of thin air could all be done through science. He also went into the psychological tricks that godmen employ to win the devotion of ordinary people.
"Reading minds is what a mentalist does too," said Gopinath, pointing out that while people accept this as magic, they buy it as superhuman powers when a godman does it.
"I think it is my dharma as a magician to tell you all this," said Gopinath in conclusion. "We have only our lives to lose if we trust such people. These ashrams often have drugs on their shelves and we cannot move even a little finger against them. They have bought over governments. It is our duty not to fall for them and to safeguard our children from them."
The video has gone viral with over 40,000 shares and 685k views.