Ashram of horrors
A YOGA retreat with a dark past as home to a child-abusing sex cult is up for sale with hopes it will fetch $6 million.
The 99ha property at the foothills of Mangrove Mountain on the Central Coast grabbed headlines four years ago when it was revealed children of yoga patrons were drugged, raped and beaten in the 1970s and 1980s.
The owner of the property is not-for-profit organisation Mangrove Yoga, rebranded from Satyananda Yoga Ashram — the original group that established the controversial retreat in 1975. The group said it would direct proceeds from the Mangrove Creek property to a new wellness foundation after reportedly compensating victims of the sexual abuse last year.
The group sold off another property in 2016, allegedly using part of the $3.1 million sale price for the undisclosed payout to victims.
As well as the yoga retreat itself, the property includes about 35ha of farmland. The ashram features commercial kitchens, accommodation and multipurpose rooms.
In 2014, the child sexual abuse royal commission heard from 11 victims who said they were assaulted as children at the ashram.
The commission was told ashram leader Swami Akhandananda Saraswati (pictured right) inflicted sick sexual initiation rites on young girls in his care.
One victim described how she was stripped naked at seven years old and held down while her skin was cut by the swami, who later licked the blood and had intercourse with her.
The swami and his wife were said to have deliberately created wedges between parents and their children, surrendering their names and identities to transform themselves into disciples of the community. They then manipulated the children into becoming “sex spies” and having sex with the swami.
Akhandananda was jailed in 1989 for indecent dealing with four girls. The conviction was overturned in 1991 and Akhandananda was released. He died in 1997.
Mangrove Yoga said selling the property was part of a process of “exploring options to establish a new foundation with a focus on wellness”. Selling agent Peter Vines of CBRE Western Sydney said he was confident they would find a buyer who could “move on and create something positive”. “It’s had an unfortunate past but we are confident that we’ll find a buyer,” he said. “This is a stunning site in one of the most magical places in the world.”