Three Indian devotees kill themselves to 'join guru' who died last month

BANGALORE (AFP) - Three followers of an Indian guru committed suicide Monday by jumping on a burning wood pyre, saying they wanted to "join" their leader who killed himself over a month ago, police said.

The three devotees, aged 16, 30 and 50, lived at the Chouli monastery near Badar in southern India dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva, one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon, known as the destroyer of evil.

The men wrote in a suicide note that they were "leaving the world to join their guru Gyaneshwar", who monastery residents said killed himself at the end of February, police deputy superintendent Vijayanath Jyothi told AFP.

"Our guru is not here. There is no meaning in living anymore. We are voluntarily going to our god in heaven," read a note written before they jumped into "a heap of firewood they lit after midnight", Mr Jyothi said.

The deaths came as an another religious leader at the monastery, 670 kilometers (420 miles) from high-tech hub Bangalore, remains missing after being reported kidnapped in early March, police said.

"Monastery inmates say the Gyaneshwar, the senior guru, decided to end life on February 28 due to some unhealthy developments in his religious organisation," another senior local police officer Pandit Sagar told AFP.

Intrigue can be rife at Hindu monasteries where great wealth and property assets sometimes lead to deadly disputes.

Gyaneshwar, 58, was believed to be worried about "attempts by real estate agents to usurp the monastery's property in connivance with some monastery disciples who wanted a share of the deal", Mr Sagar said.

His successor, Maruthi, disappeared two days after his death and has not been seen since by the monastery.

The monastery lodged a complaint earlier saying "its senior swami, Maruthi, was abducted by unidentified people who were eyeing its valuable property and seeking to encroach on the land", Mr Jyothi said.

The monastery is a popular pilgrimage site and Jyothi said extra police have been deployed "to maintain law and order and prevent any untoward incident".

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