An Indian court must decide whether a wealthy Hindu spiritual leader is dead or merely meditating.

The Daily Telegraph in England reports His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, the founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious order with a property estate worth an estimated £100 million, died in January, according to his wife and son.

However, his disciples at his Ashram have refused to let the family take his body for cremation because they claim he is still alive.

According to his followers, based in the Punjab city of Jalandhar, he simply went into a deep Samadhi or meditation and they have put his body in a commercial freezer at their Ashram.

The late – or living – guru, who was in his seventies, established his sect in 1983 to promote "self-awakening to global peace" and to create a world "wherein every individual becomes an embodiment of truth, fraternity and justice through the eternal science of self-realisation".

According to the Daily Telegraph the group has thousands of followers around the world and owns dozens of large properties throughout India, the United States, South America, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, including its British headquarters in Hayes, Middlesex.

While he is thought to have died from a heart attack, his devotees believe he has simply drifted into a deeper form of the meditation.

Although Punjab Police initially confirmed his death, the Punjab High Court later dismissed its status report and local governmental officials said it was a spiritual matter and that the guru's followers cannot be forced to believe he is dead.

Now his wife and son have filed a court application calling for an investigation into the circumstances of his death and for his body to be released for cremation.

His son Dilip Jha, 40, claims his late father's followers are refusing to release his body as a means of retaining control of his vast financial empire.

The West Australian

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