Just a pat on the back by preacher "Bhole Baba," and Ramkumari said a stone in her kidney had vanished.

The 85-year-old gave no proof, but this story and countless others of similar "miracles" led to Baba's following rocketing in India's northern states.

A gathering addressed by the former police head constable in a crowded field last week drew a quarter of a million people and caused one of the deadliest stampedes in the country.