Women monks may have renounced the material world but they appear to have carried forward the concept of “ladies first” in their new life as well and want to implement the same at the ongoing Mahakumbh on the banks of the “Sangam” at Allahabad.
The women monks, who were recently bestowed the title of “Mahamandaleshwar” (a religious title bestowed upon senior and respected saints) now want preference over the male saints and sadhus in taking the second “shahi snan” (royal bath–bathing at the sangam by the saints and sadhus of the13 akharas) scheduled on the occasion of “Mauni Amavsya” on February 10 next.
“The concept of ladies first is there in the entire world... the male saints and sadhus, too, cannot ignore it,” say the women monks and add that only the “Acharya Mahamandaleshwar” (senior to them) may precede them in taking the “shahi snan”.
“Women have been accorded the status of goddess in the Hindu religion. They have to be given preference,” said Ma Anandmayee Puri, a Mahamandaleshwar in the Niranjani Akhara.
Puri concedes that the demand could create a new controversy at the Mahakumbh as it is against well-established traditions. Traditionally, the different “akharas” take a dip at the holy sangam in order of preference. The order of preference is decided among themselves and the authorities are informed about the same. During the “shai snan” the authorities strictly enforce the order as any change may cause resentment.
There have been violent clashes in the past over the order of preference during the “shahi snan” among the “akharas”.
The women monks however seem undeterred. “We are not going to back out... we will put forth our demand before the senior saints at the Mahakumbh and we hope that they will adopt a positive approach towards our demand,” Puri said.
Several age-old traditions have been broken at the Mahakumbh this time. Juna Akhara, the biggest in the country, has established a separate “maibara” (a place for women monks only).