Known as a "godman" in India, Singh is the leader of a powerful sect called Dera Sacha Sauda and is no stranger to controversy. Last week, Singh convicted of two counts of rape which angered thousands of his supporters and led to deadly protests.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh heads a social welfare and spiritual group and commands a following that he claims is in the millions.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh heads a social welfare and spiritual group and commands a following that he claims is in the millions. (AP)

After Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of two counts of rape, India erupted into deadly violence as his supporters took to the street to protest his innocence. 

"Our father can never do any sin," devotee Trilok Insaan said, at a shop in Sirsa adorned with posters of the heavily-bearded Singh.

So, who is the glitzy father-of-three who is known in some circles as the "guru of bling," and others as the "rape guru"?

Heads the Dera Sacha Sauda sect

Born in Haryana, an Indian state bordering the capital New Delhi, to Sikh parents, Singh began heading the Dera Sacha Sauda movement when he was 23. 

The sect campaigns for vegetarianism and against drug addiction. It has also taken up social causes such as organising the weddings of poor couples. 

Claims to have a large following

Singh commands a following which he claims stands at 60 million, many of them elderly men and women in the countryside, drawn by his social welfare programmes such as medical camps and disaster relief. 

An estimated 200,000 people from Singh's sect had gathered in a show of support for the guru a day ahead of his sentencing.

Convicted of rapes; acquitted of murder

A court found Singh guilty of raping two followers in a case dating back to 2002 at the headquarters of his Dera Sacha Sauda group in Sirsa, Haryana. 

Singh's conviction is the latest in a series of cases involving spiritual leaders who have been accused of sexually abusing followers, amassing untaxed money and finding favour with politicians.

Besides the rape charges, he is also under investigation over allegations that he convinced 400 of his male followers to undergo castration, allegations he denies. 

He also stood trial for the murder of a journalist in 2002 but was acquitted. 

A "holy" man

Singh's verified Twitter profile calls him a saint, philanthropist, sportsman, actor, singer, movie director, writer, lyricists, and autobiographer.

In his spiritual avatar, Singh dresses in plain white traditional clothes, giving sermons or planting trees. In the movies, he dons bejewelled costumes, rides motorbikes and sends bad guys flying. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies