Jai Gurudev (1896? - 18 May 2012) was the name used by Tulsidas Maharaj, a religious leader in northern India. He was imprisoned for 20 months during a period of political unrest in 1975 and led the Doordarshi political party in the 1980s and 1990s, unsuccessfully campaigning for election to the Indian national parliament. He died in 2012 at an unconfirmed age of 116.
No firm information is available on Baba Jai Gurudev’s birth date or early life. A hagiography has grown around him including stories that hold special meaning to his devotees and are considered evidence of his divine nature. Jai Gurudev is said to have been born in a Yadav family in Khitora, a small village in the Etawah district in Uttar Pradesh, India. His father was a landlord. When he was a child he lost his parents. As she died his mother is said to have asked him to find Lord Krishna and avoid being ensnared in transient worldly pleasures.
On 29 June 1975, during the Emergency, he was imprisoned. He was first kept in Agra central prison and later on moved to Bareilly Central Jail. Due to the crowds of followers he attracted, he was moved to Bangalore Central Jail then Tihar prison near New Delhi. He was released at 3:00pm on 23 March 1977. Every year his followers celebrate this day as Mukti Divas, fasting until 3:00pm.
He entered Indian national politics in the 1980s and 1990s with his Doordarshi Party.
Baba Jai Gurudev led a non-profit organization named JaiGuruDev Dharm Pracharak Sanstha that operates from his ashram in Mathura, with a mission to spread the messages of the Sant Mat doctrine.
JaiGuruDev died at 10:30 pm Indian Standard Time on 18 May 2012, at the unconfirmed age of 116. After death, his assets were estimated at 120 billion Indian Rupees (approximately US$2.15 billion), including 250 luxury cars. His trust owns hundreds of acres of land beside the Delhi-Agra national highway.
"Jai" translates to "victory", "Guru" to "teacher" and "Dev" means "always/who remains always".
He specifically said that JaiGuruDev was neither his name nor that of another object such as animal, tree or river. His followers believe the phrase "JaiGuruDev" to be a representation of "Anami Purush", the nameless supreme being, and use it when greeting each other. They maintain that a soul sent from Satya Lok (the place of truth), the perfect realm where enlightened souls dwell, can designate an indicative name for Anami Purush just as Kabir used the name "Sahib", Goswami Tulsidas used "Ram" and Guru Nanak Dev used "Wahe Guru". Such names are believed to have had miraculous powers during their lifetimes on this earth.
Devotees proclaim that JaiGuruDev is the only name that can liberate the soul from the negative powers of kal (mortality) and maya (illusion).
They believe that the soul resides between our eyebrows and its power spreads to the entire body to make it work. The soul has an eye, an ear and a nostril but all these are closed at present due to past good or bad deeds. Through meditation and mercy of the guru, these can be removed so the soul can see the divine light and hear spiritual sounds. The divine sound, the word or "Naam", enables the soul to see the spirit world and reach sat lok, the perfect realm, true home of animal souls.
JaiGuruDev's ashram and his followers have had confrontations with local farmers, landowners, with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC).
- Archaeological Survey of India: The ASI stated that JaiGuruDev's disciples damaged 14 mounds of historical importance by digging in search of ancient artifacts or constructing the ashram, and have not handed over any artifacts found to the ASI.
- UPSIDC: The UPSIDC filed 16 cases in the Mathura court accusing the ashram of encroaching on hundreds of acres of industrial land.
- Farmers: The Mathura district magistrate received 23 complaints from farmers, alleging that their land had been taken over forcefully by the ashram.
A report from the Sub-Divisional Magistrate indicates that the JaiGuruDev ashram is spread over 33 hectares, of which more than 13 hectares do not belong to them. Of this encroached land, 11 hectares belongs to the UPSIDC and the rest are common land owned by the local village council (gram samaj).