DELHI: To his thousands of followers, Nithyananda Swami was nothing less than a true guru who could lead people to spiritual happiness.

A message from the young leader posted on the website of his organisation, Dhyanapeetam, or Knowledge Centre, says: "Be blissful."

But then a video emerged that appeared to show the leader getting a little too blissful with two shapely south Indian women. His followers were furious and his ashram in the city of Bangalore was attacked by crowds.

The 32-year-old has claimed there is a plot against him and said the video, which shows him frolicking with the women and was widely broadcast on Indian television, is "a mix of conspiracy, graphics and rumours".

However, he has now decided to stand down as the head of his organisation and instead lead a "life of spiritual seclusion for an indefinite time".

"I am resigning as the head of the Dhyanapeetam and from all the trusts associated with it," he said.

"Whenever, if required, I will return and talk about all that had happened as an independent witness to my conduct with a clean heart and pure soul, and also in a less prejudiced atmosphere. I thank you all. Be blissful."

The allegations about a man who claims movie stars and politicians among his followers have shocked thousands of people, coming amid a flurry of incidents involving religious leaders.

Police last month arrested one guru for running a brothel and charged another with kidnapping a minor.

In an interview with the Times of India, Nithyananda Swami insisted that he had been in a "state of Samadhi", or trance, when the footage had been recorded last year.

He claimed one of the woman was an ashram volunteer who had been looking after him because he was unwell.

"My personal life has been misrepresented and my privacy has been invaded," he said.

Police are investigating whether the spiritual leader had "outraged" the feelings of his followers.

- INDEPENDENT