Nithyananda feted at Mahakumbh
Tainted self-styled godmanís elevation by prominent akhara kicks up a row
Now, sex scandal-tainted Swami Nityananda can also take part in the “shahi snan” (royal bath) at the Sangam during the ongoing Mahakumbh with top saints from the “akharas” (different sects of sadhus) on the occasion of Basant Panchami on Friday.
The self-styled godman was clandestinely conferred the title of “Mahamandaleshwar” by the Panchayati Akhara Mahanirvani, a prominent akhara, at a closed ceremony in its camp on Tuesday.
The title enables Nityananda to sit atop a chariot and take the holy dip in the Sangam waters. The function in which Nityananda was anointed, was a closely guarded secret and the other akharas were not informed about it. Nor were the Mahakumbh officials invited as per tradition, according to sources.
The anointment triggered a wave of protests from other akharas and saints though the Mahanirvani akhara strongly defended its action.
“Nityananda may have been facing charges, but it is his personal life and we have nothing to do with that. We should keep in mind that the charges have not ye been proved,” Mahant Ravindra Puri, the secretary of the Mahanirvani akhara, said.
The mahant said Nityananda had been conferred the title to “bridge the North-South divide” among saints and sadhus. “The saints from the Southern India often complain that they are not conferred important titles and are ignored... we have tried to redress their grievances,” Puri said.
Many others, however, did not approve of the conferring of such an important title on a controversial saint like Nityananda and said that it would set a “bad precedent” and convey a “bad impression” of the saint samaj among the people.
“Though it is the prerogative of the akharas to confer the title of Mahamandaleshwar, one has to see whether the person is fit for the same. The title is given to the saints, who have selflessly served the mankind. Nityananda does not deserve the title,” said Narendra Giri, the mahant of Niranjani akhara. Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar also criticised the conferment of the title on Nityananda.
Nityananda landed in a major controversy after a video showing him hugging and kissing an actor from South was broadcast by a TV channel three years ago. He was later arrested in Himachal Pradesh and had to spend 52 days in jail before being released on bail. He is currently camping at the Mahakumbh and had also taken the holy dip on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya.