Fakir attracts huge birthday crowds Sunday 20 February 2005, 10:43 Makka Time, 7:43 GMT A Russian politician is among those travelling to meet Singh Thousands are flocking to the northern Indian farmlands of Gadaipur on the outskirts of New Delhi for spiritual fulfillment at the feet of a rustic Punjabi-speaking Indian mystic who dispenses tea and wisdom. Baba Virsa Singh, known to his followers as Maharaj or Babaji, is hosting a conference on the "spiritual approach to peace and resolving terrorism" at his sprawling ashram, or spiritual home, to mark his birthday on Sunday. Russian opposition leader Sergei Glaziev is among those attending the event, which began on Thursday. Organisers believe that in the coming days about 15,000 people will join the celebrations. Religious leaders, teachers, government officials, students and business people from all over the world including Bhai Mohan Singh, the founder of India's top drugs company Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, are scheduled to attend. Among those already there are Indian parliamentarian and Kashmir royal Karan Singh, a prominent Hindu leader Ashok Singhal and Saudi Arabia-based Muslim preacher Muhammad Rafiq Shariq Warsi. Background Singh was born to a poor family in the northern Indian farming state of Punjab. He refused school and then marriage, preferring to meditate. He found devotees at a young age. In the 1960s Singh founded an ashram or spiritual home in Gadaipur to receive followers. "In April 1966, a disciple gifted him seven acres (three hectares) of land. There was this massive wilderness over which we trekked with boulders and bricks building outhouses and halls," said Promilla Chand, a philosophy lecturer. "Babaji fed us dry chapattis (bread) and love while we built the ashram with our own hands. Today, we have added 70 acres of land to the original piece and look at what a paradise it is with wheat fields, a dairy and orchards," she added. Landowner Singh now presides over thousands of acres of farmland on the outskirts of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh which sustains the commune. "Babaji's crops grow very tall. He talks to his plants and finds out what they need. Once he found out that the soil was deficient in zinc so he gave them zinc and they thrived," said disciple Churchill S Chaddha, a Delhi-based exporter. The Russians, meanwhile, are convinced that not only plants reveal their mysteries to him, but so does the universe. "In 1989, he visited Russia and predicted the break-up of the Soviet Union on national television. That is exactly what happened in 1991. I am lucky to be here to learn about Indian spirituality from this grand old man," said Yuriy Ageshin, president of the Russian Chamber of Law. Modest miracle Singh himself said he only knew of one miracle. "Don't you think it is a miracle that all these wise men and women have come to listen to an illiterate country bumpkin?" he said laughing. "Life is a mystery to me. But as a farmer I like to turn "bekar" (useless) land productive, if I can help people be more productive then that is good too."