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Features


Indian gurus and their Swiss watches

Indian gurus and their Swiss watches
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev wearing a Victorinox Swiss Army Cavalry watch

Bern, Apr 8 (UNI) Wealthy devotees often ensure that their spiritual leaders have the best of everything, Swiss watches included.

Here’s what five well-known Indian gurus and the Dalai Lama who lives in India wore on their wrists, according to a write up by Anand Chandrasekhar in the Swissinfo.ch.

Indian mystics were once famous for their scant material possessions. Their orange robes, deer hide mats and begging bowls were often the only things they had. They would travel on foot to different pilgrimage sites, stopping to rest and giving discourses on spiritual matters along the way.

Today, their flock is global thanks to the influence of pioneers who went to the West starting in the the late 19th century, as well as a growing Indian diaspora. Their schedule can often rival that of a head of state or Fortune 500 CEO. A good watch can help them navigate time zones and stay centred.

Osho (1931 to 1990): Osho, or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, famously referred to himself as the “rich man’s guru”. The Indian spiritual guru gained a following in Mumbai from 1970 onwards before relocating to nearby Pune where his followers built a retreat for him. He gained notoriety for preaching against religious orthodoxy when it came to wealth and sex.

It was his relocation to the US that upped the stakes on displays of extravagance. At one point he claimed that his followers had gifted him over 90 Rolls Royce cars.

Watches were another indulgence. In India, he wore relatively modest Swiss timepieces like an Omega Seamaster Memomatic and a Rado DiaStar. When he moved to the Rajneeshpuram Commune in Oregon he was seen sporting more extravagant watches. In 2015, a Rolex Oyster Perpetual worn by Osho sold at auction for CHF40,000. The dial and case were set with diamonds and rubies. The strap alone had around 31 carats worth of diamonds.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (1957): The founder of the Isha Foundation supervises over 200 centres around the world that transmit “inner engineering” training to seekers. Sadhguru travels the world to give discourses and is a regular speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos. A fan of motorcycles and colourful Indian textiles, he is recognised for his flamboyant style.

When it comes to watches, Sadhguru likes them sporty. At the World Economic Forum he wore a vintage Victorinox Swiss Army Cavalry watch. It’s not a pricey timepiece, as second-hand Quartz models go for as low as $40 (CHF40) on eBay. Occasionally, Sadhguru wears a more expensive watch: a Swiss-made Cartier Pasha Seatimer. The model was launched in 2006 and sold for around CHF4,500 at the time.

Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952): Yogananda is widely credited with spreading interest in meditation around the world. He left India for the US in 1920 and founded the Self-Realisation Fellowship there to disseminate meditation and yoga teachings. His book “Autobiography of a Yogi” has sold millions of copies and was even handed out at Apple founder Steve Jobs’ memorial on his instruction.

Yogananda possessed a Hamilton watch. Hamilton was an American company at the time but now belongs to the Swiss Swatch Group.

Satya Sai Baba (1926-2011): As a 14-year-old, he proclaimed himself to be the reincarnation of a famous mystic. Sporting an Afro, he attracted large donations from his followers which were funneled into charitable projects like schools and hospitals in India. One of his wealthy donors was Isaac Tigrett Burton, the co-founder of the Hard Rock Café. In 1991, Burton gave INR3 billion (CHF43 million) from the sale of his stake in the Hard Rock Café chain to Sai Baba for the construction of a hospital via his Zurich-based Rama Foundation.

Sai Baba did not wear watches, but his disciples claimed he had conjured Rolex watches from thin air along with other objects like ash, necklaces and other jewellery. Skeptics denounced his materialisations as a common sleight-of-hand trick used by magicians.

The 14th Dalai Lama (1935): Tenzin Gyatso, the exiled spiritual head of Tibetans, has been living in India for 60 years. Among the items that he brought with him from Tibet is a rare Patek Philippe reference 658 pocket watch that was given to him by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1943. It was one of the most complicated timepieces produced at the time with a chronograph, perpetual calendar with moon phase and minute repeater. A similar pocket watch sold at a Christies auction in Geneva in 2011 for CHF243,000.

His Holiness also wears Rolex watches. However, they are difficult to identify as he wears them with the dial side facing him. He also prefers Spiedel Twist-O-Flex watch straps instead of the original ones, making it even tougher to ID the watches.

UNI XC SNU 1728

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