Prem Rawat aka Guru Maharaj Ji's Life and CareerEvery Bond super-villain must have a lair preferably under a volcano. Every charlatan guru must have a cult compound. Jim Jones drank his Kool-Aid in Jonestown in Guyana. David Koresh had his harem and his crematorium in Waco, Texas. Prem Rawat has his cult compound - which he calls Amaroo - in Peak Crossing in South-East Queensland. Where? As a potential money-making sideline it is also called Ivorys Rock Convention Centre.

In early 1991 Prem Rawat selected and purchased a large tract of rural land in South East Queensland in Australia for purchase and development. He named it Amaroo. It was intended, following a planned million dollar investment, to serve as an international meeting place for his devotees. By 1992 a conference centre was being developed at Amaroo. Over the subsequent decade, hundreds of premies moved to the region from all over the world to help with the project. A "Knowledge Hall" was built seating 400 and an outdoor amphitheatre for 4500 and office and bathroom blocks. Camping for several thousand people was established in a series of campgrounds. Some infrastructure was built by voluntary labour by premies but this proved uneconomic and local private contractors were used thereafter.

It is here Prem Rawat hosts his own special and unique greeting or reception lines. This greeting line is an updated, non-denominational renamed version of Darshan in which Prem Rawat's students file past but neither shake his hand, exchange greetings or do any of the normal human interactions. Instead, they reverently bow before him and kiss his feet, the holy Lotus Feet of the living Master. This is the peak experience for students of Prem Rawat, who they believe is the current Incarnation of God on earth otherwise why would they kiss his feet. Out of India this ritual is usually considered something of an abomination even when done voluntarily and eagerly by people who believe they are kissing God's feet. Prem Rawat aka Maharaji is trying to achieve public respect and recognition as an internationally renowned humanitarian leader and respected voice for peace even though he isn't, so to avoid criticism of the Kissed One, this is done secretly. Greeting Lines can occur wherever Maharaji is but it is only at Amaroo (aka Ivory's Rock Conference Centre) at Peak Crossing in South East Queensland that they occur regularly.

AmarooAmaroo became the number one project for Maharaji's western devotees. Amaroo's construction and infrastructure projects were funded by $US 10 million in unsecured loans raised from devotees. (Premie lenders were given a verbal promise that Rawat would personally repay them if the development was subsequently resold.) Under its operational name of Ivory's Rock Conference Centre, Amaroo also serves as an unsuccessful commercial conference centre for sporadic corporate, government and community group clients in an attempt to offset the running costs.

International events were held at Amaroo for Maharaji's disciples, in 1994 and 1997, and also an 'Australasian' event in 1994. Attendance ranged from 1700 to 4600. The atmosphere at these events reprised a little of the 1970s spirit, though you actually can't relive your youth when you're middle-aged. Whereas in the 1970s premies had sung en masse to their master, led by an exuberant live band on-stage, now the band lip-synched songs pre-recorded and selected by Maharaji, to which the audience listened respectfully. Maharaji rather incongruously wore a business suit in the southern Queensland heat and wilderness. For all this, many devotees left these events experiencing a chip off the old 'bliss', and with a renewed sense of commitment.

Neville Ackland A sceptical newspaper article about Millionaire cult leader Maharaj Ji published in Queensland's Brisbane Courier Mail in 1997 upset Prem Rawat and he held no further international events at Amaroo for several years. Other stories followed over the years. He was probably more upset when Neville Ackland, a disillusioned but very energetic premie took the opportunity of staging a public protest which even had him interviewed on Australian television and the centre of newspaper articles. This was something that Rawat himself had only ever achieved once in the early 1980s when under the protection of Johnny Young then one of the most successful figures in the Australian entertainment scene. Both Young's devotion and his success had ended in the interim decade.

Click here to see everything you always wanted to know that Prem preached about darshan - the "Greeting Line".