Godmen, soothsayers and astrologers are much sought after in India at the time of the coronavirus pandemic. Astrology says the effects of Zodiac signs cause such mass distress.

Now the believers claim that the French apothecary, astrologer and seer Michel de Nostradamus wrote in the year 1551: “There will be a twin year (2020) from which will arise a queen (Corona) who will come from the east (China) and who will spread a plague (virus) in the darkness of night on a country with seven hills (Italy) and will transform the Twilight of men into dust (death), to destroy and ruin the world. It will be the end of the world economy as you know it.”

Others quote the Bible prophecy, which says devastating disease pandemics are on the horizon. The religious conspiracy theorists claim that the pandemic is the punishment from god. One website, ganeshaspeaks.com predicts that after 30 March, people are expected to get some relief from the virus.

Astrologer Acharya Vinod Kumar in an Instagram post has predicted that coronavirus will end in India between September and November. For many the current position of the celestial objects is the reason for the global pandemic.

People also look to the daily astrological predictions published by newspapers. Facing the countrywide lockdown, many people are seeking solace from religion, mantras, lucky charms and their chosen gurus. The spiritual gurus have much more influence on their devotees.

People in India turn to gurus for spiritual and moral sustenance as many view their gurus as the reincarnation of god. Miraculous stories of their healing power are circulated as the gurus represent the power of faith. India’s fascination with godmen is probably as old as its history.

There is a massive upsurge of Swamis, Bapus and gurus – both genuine and fake – with cult followings and these cults are working at local levels. More enterprising gurus operate at the national and international levels also. Some of them have had an unblemished record of spiritual and social service while others have sullied their names and even gone to prison.

From Ram Rahim to Asaram Bapu to Nityananda, to name a few, some of these cult figures have been convicted of crimes including fraud, rape and murder and are languishing in jail. It is normal that when you suffer from poor health, or are physically or emotionally stressed, your faith is shaken and you look for outside support.

This is the time they turn to gurus. The modern spiritual gurus like Juggie Vasudev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar are powerful and flamboyant personalities. These English-speaking, globetrotting gurus with huge international following talk about yoga and meditation and of spiritual elevation. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, three prominent gurus, known to be close to the establishment have been quite vocal in advising their disciples.

Voicing support to the lockdown, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tweeted: “I welcome the decision of Hon [email protected] This lockdown is the only way out. Take it as a tapasya & let’s keep our spirits positive. I appeal to everyone to religiously follow the guidelines.”

Claiming that isolation is a blessing in disguise he said, “Improve your immune system by changing your food habits, practicing yoga and meditation. Meditation is the savior at this time.” Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has advised his devotees to use the lockdown as an opportunity to spend more time with family.

He added, “This is the time to sit back, look at our lives, reflect, strategize the trajectory of what we want our life to be and above all, realise the fragile nature of our existence.” The controversial yoga guru Baba Ramdev, with a huge business empire, has said that coronavirus can be prevented through yoga asanas such as Surya Namaskar, Pranayam and Kapal Bhati.

The yoga guru said that it is extremely important to have good immunity in order to stay away from all types of diseases including coronavirus. The Hindu nationalist outfits too have jumped into the coronavirus debate.

Recently a right wing group called Hindu Mahasabha organised a gaumutra (Cow’s urine) party. Its president Chakrapani Maharaj claims that gaumutra and incense sticks made of cow dung can drive away the Coronavirus. Some BJP MLAs too have jumped in with their advice on gaumutra. This is also the time for charms and other superstitions for gullible people while enterprising charlatans make money out of the pandemic.

No doubt these things look silly to nonbelievers but the believers are many and they get some solace from these crutches. As the film ‘Oh my God’ ends with a dig at non-believers, these gurus are here to stay for the good and bad times.