Ram Bomjon, the 15-year-old "Buddha boy" of Nepal, has gone missing from the spot where he has been meditating, supposedly without food or water, for the last 10 months.
Devotees noticed his absence when they arrived for worship at 6am on Saturday and went looking for him.
Police began searching but stopped after one day when foul play was ruled out.
Bed Bahadur Lama, Ram's uncle, and president of the pilgrimage site committee, said: "I realised that we are human beings and the meditator is a god, and human beings cannot find him".
Ram's long vigil beneath a sacred pipal tree in the jungle of southern Nepal attracted thousands of pilgrims a day and has made him famous around the world because of the resemblance to an episode in the life of the Buddha.
His claim that he had neither eaten nor drunk throughout his meditation added to the fervour. But it worried his parents, who now long for his safe return.
Yesterday, Mayadevi Bomjon, Ram's mother, was fasting and praying at the site, her face racked with anxiety.
One theory was that Ram had been driven away by the noisy crowds who flocked to see him. According to Prem Lama, the boy monk who was Ram's closest attendant, Ram said he needed more peace.
In the eyes of many, this theory was confirmed by the arrival of a new mystic, 51-year-old Hira Maya Lama, from Kathmandu, who is now known as "Guru Mother", after the boy's disappearance.
Mrs Lama says the boy had to move "because it is unholy here and he is being disturbed". She also said he intended to wash in a lake. Ten months without moving from his chosen spot had left Ram caked in dirt. Mrs Lama has said that, if rituals are carried out to purify the site, he would return after three days.
There's news of further iconoclasm at work in the Times:
THE traditional wigs and gowns worn by judges and advocates for 300 years could be scrapped for civil and commercial trials under a review by the Lord Chief Justice..
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, a moderniser who dislikes his own five different costumes, intends to reopen the long-running debate of horse-hair headdress when he takes over as official head of the judiciary next month.