The rise & fall of the Or­ange Peo­ple

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Real Life -

Led by mys­ti­cal In­dian guru Bhag­wan Shree Ra­jneesh, the San­nyasin spir­i­tual move­ment cap­tured Aus­tralians by the thou­sands dur­ing the 1980s. Fol­low­ers stood out for their dis­tinct earthy coloured cloth­ing, and be­came known as “or­ange peo­ple”.

Mem­bers would wear a neck­lace of 108 wooden beads called a “mala”, which fea­tured an im­age of their guru. Each bead rep­re­sented a med­i­ta­tion tech­nique.

It’s un­der­stood rock star David Bowie and his wife Iman were devo­tees, even spend­ing time in the sect’s Fre­man­tle Ashram.

The free-sex cult even­tu­ally fell apart, with be­liev­ers leav­ing en masse af­ter a fall­out be­tween the guru and his out­spo­ken lieu­tenant Ma Anand Sheela at their US cen­tre in Ore­gon in 1985.

Bhag­wan ac­cused Ma Sheela of at­tempted mur­der, poi­son­ing, wire-tap­ping and even a bioter­ror at­tack – the first of its type in the US – in an at­tempt to sway lo­cal elec­tions.

Or­ange Peo­ple in Fre­man­tle, one of the cen­tres of the cult.

Bhag­wan Shree Ra­jneesh, as­sisted by Ma Sheela, had 250,000 fol­low­ers dur­ing the 1980s.

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