The death of Akhil Bharatiya Akhada, president of Parishad, Mahant Narendra Giri, highlighted the intricacies and internal conflicts of the Mathas, Akhadas and their organizing bodies. Mahant Narendra Giri, in his suicide note, alleged that one of his disciples Anand Giri blackmailed him.
Mahant Narendra Giri was the Mathadheesh (chief) of the Baghambari Gaddi Math located in Prayagraj. Anand Giri had previously accused Mahant Narendra Giri of having sold the land of the Baghambari Gaddi Math and had written a letter to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath.
WHAT IS A MATHEMATICAL?
A Math is a monastery literally meaning “to live” and “to grind”. Mathas have their origin in India in the efforts of the religious guru Shankaracharya in the 8th century.
HOW MANY MATHAS ARE THERE?
Shankaracharya, also known as Adi Shankar, established four Mathas for the religious unification of the country in four regions of India:
These Mathas were established on the basis of four Vedas:
WHAT IS AN AKHADA?
The Akhadas are of later origin and emerged to ward off threats from enemies. These Akhadas are affiliated with different sects of Hinduism.
They came as an army of sadhus (Hindu saints) to defend their sects and Mathas. They increased in number during Mughal rule although their origin was pre-Mughal.
An oft-cited example of fighting between Akhadas dates back to the early 14th century when sadhus of the Ramanand sect and Mahanirvani Akhada clashed at a Mahakumbh event in Prayagraj.
In 1954, the Akhadas formed an umbrella organization, Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad, to organize the events of Kumbh and Mahakumbh. The decision was made following a stampede in Allahabad during the Kumbh congregation, resulting in the deaths of around 800 people.
HOW MANY AKHADAS ARE THERE?
In Adi Shankar’s time and in the early years of Akhadas, there were maybe only 10 as they are also called Dashnaami. Their number has increased to 13.
These Akhadas mainly belong to one of the three main sects of Hinduism. Seven Akhadas belong to the Shaiv sect, three to Bairagi Vaishnav and three to the Udaasin or Nirmal sect.
Another Akhadas was recognized two years ago by Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad, whom Mahant Narendra Giri headed as president. The fourteenth Akhada is called Kinnar Akhada, who was only recognized during the Mahakumbh 2019 event. However, the Kinnar Akhada takes out his procession with the Juna Akhada of the Shaiva sect.
1. Taponidhi Niranjani Akhada Panchayati
2. Panchayati Anand Akhada
3. Panchadashnam Juna Akhada
4. Panch Ahvan Akhada
5. Agni Akhada
6. Panchayat Akhada Mahanirvani
7. Panch Atal Akhada
8. Nirvani Akhada
9. Digambar Akhada
10. Nimrohi Akhada
11. Panchayati Akhada
12. Udaasin Panchayati Naya Akhada
13. Nirmal Panchayati Akhada
HOW IS AKHADA ADMINISTERED?
The seer who leads an Akhada is considered to be Acharya Mahamandaleshwar. The descending hierarchy includes Mahamandaleshwaras, Mandaleshwaras and Shree Mahants.
For the management of their affairs, the Akhadas are divided into eight davas (or divisions) and 52 marhis (centers). Each Marhi is managed by a Mahant and an administrative body of Shree Panch.
HOW DO THE AKHADAS DECIDE IN THE ESTATE?
The governing body of Marhi, Shree Panch comprises five seers representing Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. Shakti and Ganesh.
Under normal circumstances, this five-member governing body is elected every four years during the Kumbh congregation. The members of the board of directors are elected by the members of the relevant Marhi.
Likewise, the Akhadas elect the leader of Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad during the Kumbh congregation. The 13 Akhadas usually make a decision by consensus. However, differences of opinion are not unheard of.
Mahant Narendra Giri was elected president of Akhada Parishad in 2016 and re-elected in 2019. His death created three vacancies: the positions of Mahant de Baghambari Math, secretary of Niranjani Akhada and president of Akhada Parishad. The leadership of Baden Hanuman Mandir of Prayagraj has already been entrusted to Amar Giri Pawan Maharaj.
A meeting of Akhada Parishad will be called soon to decide on the name of Mahant Narendra Giri’s successor.
In his suicide note, Mahant Narendra Giri recommended Balbir Giri’s name as Mahant of Baghambari Math. However, the recommendation of the former chief may not be the only deciding factor in determining who runs the Baghambari Math.
PROPERTIES OF AKHADAS
There is no concrete estimate of the amount of money or property these Akhadas have. But all Mathas and Akhadas are known to have immense wealth in the form of land. It was about a land dispute which would have opposed Anand Giri to his guru Mahant Narendra Giri.
All of these Mathas and Akhadas have their own configuration in Prayagraj. They have their dharmashalas (guest houses) in Prayagraj and also donation centers. These Mathas and Akhadas receive huge funds in the form of donations and charity from the devotees.
While a Math or Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad does not stand for election, the sadhus exercise immense political power thanks to the loyalty of their followers, many of whom are in politics.
The Parishad supported Ram Mandir’s campaign and aided the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when the party pledged in the elections to build a temple in Ayodhya. The Nirmohi Akhada of the Bairagi Vaishnav sect was a petitioner in the Ayodhya title suit which was settled in his favor first by the Allahabad High Court and then by the Supreme Court.