x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Top religious trusts are big players

Spiritual groups are among the wealthiest organisations in India


India's spiritual empires include:

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Estimated turnover: 350 billion rupees (Dh28.91bn)

His Art of Living Foundation is considered one of India's slickest spiritual movements. It owns a sprawling ashram outside Bangalore in southern India. It boasts an artificial lake, a helipad, dining halls, cyber cafes, a bookshop, pharmacies, residential quarters and a dedicated station on satellite radio. The movement is not cheap to sign up to: its "corporate executive programme" costs 300,000 rupees a person and is aimed at stressed senior managers.

Swami Ramdev

Estimated turnover: 380bn rupees

The yoga guru is well known for introducing the masses to kapalbhati, a form of breathing exercises that he claims can heal ailments including diabetes, heart blockages and obesity. His trust, the Pitanjali Yogpeeth, is known to possess property worth 10bn rupees in Hardwar, a Hindu pilgrimage site in northern India where his ashram is situated. "Ordinary" membership of the trust costs 11,000 rupees while a "reserved" membership costs 250,000 rupees. The guru recently signed up with Tetra Pak to package a new range of ready-to-drink health beverages. The trust has set up two of the company's package-making machines - each capable of manufacturing 32,000 units an hour - near his ashram in return for an investment of 250 million rupees.

* compiled by Anuj Chopra