What is a CULT? What are Some Notorious Cult Practices in India?

A cult is a group or movement united by a shared dedication to an inspiring leader or philosophy. Such groups have a belief system that strictly adheres to the leader’s rules and claims to have all the solutions to life’s problems.

In other words, a cult is an organized group whose goal is to control its members by coercion and psychological manipulation. Typically, a strong leader who separates disciples from the community leads cults.

How a Sect Differs from a Cult?

Religion plays a significant role in society. Numerous cults and sects have developed from religions all throughout the world. Sects and cults are offshoots of a specific religion.

Many individuals believe they are similar but not identical. However, there’s a major distinction between a cult and a sect. A cult is a group of individuals who have no affiliation with religion since they are founded by non-religious people.

They rigorously follow the instructions of their leader and prefer to lead a non-social life, specifically separate from their families. Also, they usually don’t receive acceptance from the government or religious people. Cults include groups like the KKK or the Osho movement.

Whereas a subcategory of religion is a sect. The sect members live typical lives in society. The public and the government both embrace sects.

Sect followers are not brainwashed. For instance, Sunni and Shia sects are subsets of Islam, much as Vaishnava and Shaiva sects that are subcategories of Hinduism. Furthermore, Lutherans and Baptism are subtypes of Christianity.

What are the Practices Involved in a Cult?

The term “cult” refers to ceremonial practices that occur to particular objects within a set of physical and temporal parameters.

Prayer, sacrifice, adherence to the leader, celibacy, rigorously following the rules, consecrated offerings, battles, processions or parades, and the installation of memorials are all examples of rituals, but they are not the only ones.

Why do People Join a Cult?

Humans have emotional needs that are not necessarily logical. At first, they might not be aware that they are joining a cult. They seek spiritual or personal growth and look for a place or a community where all their worldly questions are solved.

Individuals more likely to join a cult suffer from severe mental stress and anxiety, especially forlornness. Many people have attachment insecurities before joining. Because of their fears, they can seek a group that offers acceptance before judgment. 

The other prominent idea concerning why people stay in cults is primarily societal. Cult leaders frequently make members feel special in some way.

They can assure them that they would advance in the cult, or they might persuade them that something truly positive will occur to their particular community.

Given that they are frequent targets of psychological manipulation techniques that lead them to make hazardous decisions, including suicide in some situations, they eventually become “victims” and not “the members.”

Notorious Cults Of India

Dera Sacha Sauda

On April 29, 1948, the ascetic Mastana Balochistani founded the Dera Sacha Sauda as a non-profit social welfare and spiritual organization. Its primary headquarters are at Sirsa (Haryana), in India’s northern region.

Following the death of Mastana Balochistani, his movement was divided into three factions, with Satnam Singh commanding the Sirsa faction, which chose Gurmeet Ram Rahim as his successor. The organization maintains 46 ashrams (divisions) in India and other nations.

The Naam method of meditation was taught to members who agreed to follow the cult’s three precepts for the rest of their lives. Consumption of meat, eggs, wine, drugs, tobacco, and other similar substances, as well as unlawful sex or adultery, were all prohibited.

Furthermore, the members were not to engage in ritualism or make monetary or religious gifts. In a way, they were forced to cut off from the spiritual practices they were doing, like worshipping God and following the path of their Gurus. 

Ironically, the cult’s leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, broke all of the restrictions and was charged with rape and murder.

In 2017, this notorious leader was found guilty of sexually assaulting two of his Dera sadhvis (female followers).

Brahma Kumari 

The Brahma Kumari cult is a spiritual organization founded in Hyderabad by Lekhraj Khubchand Kripilani, a wealthy diamond dealer. This group was previously known as “Om Mandali” because members would chant “Om” together before discussing spiritual subjects.

Kripilani, also known as “Om Baba” by the group’s adherents, claimed to have had a series of visions and other transcendental experiences around 1935, which constituted the basis of his lectures.

Women’s roles eventually became a significant component of the cult. Moreover, women were urged to assert their rights in this organization.

The central tenets of the Brahma Kumari cult are abstaining from alcohol, cigarettes, and non-prescription medicines, maintaining celibacy, and eating a lacto-vegetarian diet. There were allegations against Brahma Kumaris for overturning other people’s marriages and causing families to disintegrate.

Its proliferation has only occurred due to individuals abandoning their families or families converting to it. Throughout its history, the BK Leadership has been actively encouraging and instructing its followers on how to end heterosexual and homosexual relationships. This progresses from ceasing physical and sexual contact to altering sleeping arrangements.

For example, people have avoided skin-to-skin contact, slept in separate rooms, refused to consume meals prepared by family members, shunned social interactions and other religious gatherings, and more.

In some instances, this has involved senior sisters giving followers guidance on when and how to satisfy their spouses’ sexual needs until walking away from them and even suggesting abortions to avoid the distraction of having children.

Nithyananda’s Cult 

Hindu godman Swami Nithyananda, also known as Paramahamsa Nithyananda, is the founder of Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, which is situated in India but has followers, temples, gurukuls, and ashrams worldwide.

His followers believe him to be an avatar by the name of Mahasadashiva. He has been implicated in various controversies, including one involving an actress and a sex tape.

According to Nithyananda’s organization, he and the followers possess spiritual abilities, such as third-eye and kundalini awakening.

He asserted that there are 400 exceptional spiritual capabilities that people can manifest and that he had introduced his followers to 60 such abilities. Additionally, Nithyananda and his followers claim to have paranormal powers such as extrasensory perception, materialization, body scanning, distance vision, and the capacity to locate lost goods.

To flee the accusations, he flew to Ecuador, where he allegedly established the country of “Kailash,” with its own government, currency, and citizenship. There is also a thorough documentary about Swami Nithyananda on Discovery+ OTT.

India’ Renowned CULT Practices


Aghori is a word derived from the Sanskrit language (aghor) which means no fear or fearless. It is an austere Shaivite Sadhu Monastic order situated in Uttar Pradesh, India. The aghoris often worship Lord Shiva, as Shiva is also considered an Aghori.

He performed sadhana as an Aghori while sitting on a corpse. Ghora means “terrible.” Aghori refers to something that is “beyond dreadful.” Shiva is an Aghori, which means that he is beyond terrible. Despite what you might prefer to believe, he is an all-encompassing sort merely because he is like life.

The Aghoris are adherents of a Hindu sect that has been around for at least 1000 years. Aghori typically lives close to cremation sites, most notably in Varanasi. However, they can also be found in other, far more isolated places, such as the scorching deserts of Gujarat, the dark jungles of Bengal, and the icy caves of the Himalayas.

Cannibalism is among the most well-known Aghori customs. When bodies are transported to the cremation grounds, they eat the flesh of the deceased. The majority of the time, this human flesh is consumed raw, but it can also be roasted over an open fire.

The Aghori believe that distinctions are merely illusions preventing a person from attaining spiritual enlightenment. They consequently do not distinguish between good and evil or between the flesh of humans and animals. As a result, eating meat is a confirmation of the Aghori belief system.

Daayan Cult 

Daayan, located in the village of Harangul in Maharashtra state’s Latur district, was another cult to form in India. The group was thought to contain witches who were home to evil spirits. 

In India, they majorly worship the goddess Kali or Durga. 

According to local lore, they were also called Dakinis or Yoginis and thought they were the handmaidens of these Goddesses.

In the fifteenth century, many occurrences were encountered and considered to bring bad luck.

According to mythology, a lady becomes a Daayan if her family treats her scathingly or if she passes away unexpectedly. She will be the one to come back to terrorize the male members to the point of consuming their blood in an effort to exact revenge.

They are supernatural beings with energy stored in their hair who speak in a coded symbolic language, which humans have not yet deciphered.

Potraj Cult 

Another prevalent cult that practices penance in the name of God is “Potraj.” The word Potraj is a Tamil word for “Potturaju.” He is a brother of the “seven sisters,” a group of local deities. Potraj worships the rural or tribal goddess called Mariaai or Laxmiaai. 

They are also known as “Kadaklaxmi” because of the name of the lash they carry, “Kadak.”

The Potraj Cult revolves around a man typically bare-chested and wearing a knee-length skirt. He always sports kumkum and haldi on his forehead and wears his long hair in a knot.

His wife follows him while holding a closed Devhara that has an idol of Mariaai. She also carries a peacock feather brush called a Kunchi.

Scholars claim that women have served as priests for tribal and local deities since ancient times. Since men eventually took over the priesthood, they now dress as women to adhere to the same tradition.

When the Potraj travels to the villages, he and his wife dance while chanting Mariaai, Laxmiai, or Ambabai’s praises. For Mariaai to unlock the Devhara’s door, he whips himself with the lash he is carrying.

In other words, he punishes himself for appeasing the goddess, who opens her chamber door and responds to the queries posed by the Potraj on behalf of the community populace.

Rural people believe that epidemics result from Mariaai’s wrath, and Potraj is the channel of her worship. It continues to play a significant role in the cult of rural social life today.


So, these were some notorious and acknowledged cults of India. What are your views about Cult Practices? If you have anything to share, you can drop your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

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Tanya Verma

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