Dera Sacha Sauda

A spiritual organization intertwined with controversy and humanitarian efforts.

Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) is a non-governmental organization and spiritual commune founded on April 29, 1948, by Mastana Balochistani in Sirsa, Haryana, India. It was established as a center for religious learning and is often described as a religious cult. Over the years, DSS has grown into a vast organization with millions of followers worldwide, primarily in India. The organization is currently led by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who became its head in 1990 at the age of 23.

Founding and Growth

The foundation of Dera Sacha Sauda was laid by Mastana Balochistani, an ascetic follower of Baba Sawan Singh, the second Satguru of Radha Soami Satsang Beas. The organization aimed to promote spiritual learning and humanitarian efforts. Dera Sacha Sauda has expanded significantly since its inception, establishing numerous ashrams across northern India.

Teachings and Practices

Dera Sacha Sauda’s teachings emphasize the recitation of sacred words, achieving transcendence, and living a life of morality. Followers are encouraged to abstain from alcohol, follow vegetarianism, maintain marital fidelity, and live truthfully. The organization also discourages ritualism and monetary donations for religious purposes. During satsang gatherings, the Guru of Dera Sacha Sauda is presented as a unifying figure of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and Christian beliefs.


Initially attracting followers from Sikh backgrounds, Dera Sacha Sauda’s membership has predominantly come to consist of working and middle-class Hindus from the rural regions of Haryana and Rajasthan. As of 2009, the organization claimed to have over a million devotees and operated 38 ashrams primarily in northern India.

Funding and Autarky

Dera Sacha Sauda is self-sustained, generating income through various businesses including supermarkets, petrol pumps, factories, and recreational facilities. These ventures are aimed at benefiting the organization’s devotees, underlining its principle of self-reliance and non-dependence on monetary donations.

Political Activities

Dera Sacha Sauda is unique among spiritual organizations for its open involvement in political activities, often endorsing political parties that seek its support. The organization has played a significant role in various elections, particularly in the state of Punjab. Its political endorsements are based on the preferences of its leadership, which has shifted alliances over the years.

Welfare Activities

Under the leadership of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Dera Sacha Sauda has initiated numerous welfare programs. These include drug rehabilitation, environmental conservation, blood donation camps, and efforts to integrate marginalized groups such as sex workers and transgender people into mainstream society. The organization’s humanitarian work has garnered both national and international recognition.


Despite its humanitarian efforts, Dera Sacha Sauda has been mired in controversy. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the current head, was convicted of rape in 2017, leading to widespread riots and violence. Allegations of murder, castration of followers, and other criminal activities have also surfaced over the years, casting a shadow over the organization’s spiritual and social work.


Dera Sacha Sauda represents a complex blend of spirituality, humanitarianism, and controversy. Its vast follower base and extensive welfare initiatives stand in stark contrast to the criminal activities associated with its leadership. The organization continues to play a significant role in India’s religious and social landscape, despite the legal and societal challenges it faces​​​​.

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