Apex body of Hindu saints, sadhus splits

Leaders of seven Akharas elect new president

The new chief was elected at a meeting of the representatives of seven Akharas in Allahabad, about 225 km from here, according to Akhara Parishad sources. Altogether there are 13 Akharas in the country.

Sources said that Mahant Balwant Singh of Nirmal Akhara was unanimously elected president of the Akhara Parishad replacing Mahant Gyan Das, who was not present at the meeting.

Gyan Das, who is also the mahant of the famous Hanumangarhi temple at Ayodhya, termed the meeting in which the new chief was elected “illegal” and said he was still the president of the Akhara Parishad.

The split in the apex body of the saints and sadhus comes at a time when Gyan Das had been holding discussions with Hindu and Muslim religious leaders to arrive at a negotiated settlement of the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid ownership dispute.

The next Mahakumbh fair at Allahabad is also barely two years away. The Akharas play an important role in the Kumbha fair.

Gyan Das, who is based at Ayodhya, had been authorised by the oldest Ayodhya dispute litigant Mohammad Hashim Ansari to initiate dialogue with senior Hindu leaders to arrive at a consensus.

One of the main Hindu plaintiffs in the case is Nirmohi Akhara, which has staked its claim over the entire disputed site at Ayodhya and has vowed to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the Allahabad High Court’s order in this regard.

Disputes among the Akharas are quite common and at times their representatives also resort to violence to assert their supremacy, especially at the time of taking  the “shahi snan” (royal bath) during Kumbha fair. Akharas were established by Adi Shankaracharya for the purpose of protecting and preserving Hindu religion and culture.

Initially, there were only seven Akharas—Mahanirvani, Niranjani, Juna, Atal, Avahan, Agni and Anand—but now their number has gone up to 13 due to splits in the ranks.

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