Famous worldwide for its religiosity, Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur has now emerged as the new power centre in the Uttar Pradesh politics.
Headed by chief priest Yogi Adityanath, who has been appointed as the state’s chief minister, the temple has an illustrious past, both religious and political.
Religious History & Significance
It is believed that in 11 BC, the famous saint Guru Gorakhnath, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, visited the city and performed puja for long. The city itself derived its name from Guru Gorakhnath.
Every year on the eve of Makar Sakranti, the beginning of the Hindu year, thousands of devotees, even from neighbouring Nepal, visit the temple to offer khichdi and attend the month-long fair.
Academic and Social Ventures
The temple runs more than two dozen schools and colleges and hospitals. The Maharana Pratap Shiksha Parishad, the temple’s academic wing, runs 28 inter schools, five PG colleges, a polytechnic college, a PG college for Sanskrit (Sanskrit Vidyapeeth) a nursing college and a yoga centre in Gorakhpur and adjoining areas.
Apart from gaushalas (cow shelters) and regular yoga courses, the temple also runs different charity programmes, including financial help to the poor. On the conversion front too, the temple is said to have played a leading role in the past.
The temple’s political connection has been strong for more than half a century, even before independence.
The then temple chief Mahant Digvijay Nath started his political career in 1921 with Congress and was arrested for actively taking part in Chauri Chaura incident. In 1937, he joined the Hindu Mahasabha and was arrested for inflaming passion against Mahatma Gandhi which led to his assassination. He later represented Gorakhpur in Lok Sabha in 1967.
Digvijay Nath’s political legacy was carried forward by Mahant Avaidyanath, who took over as Gorakhnath temple chief from him. Avaidyanath, a key leader in 90’s Ramjanmabhoomi movement, was elected as MLA in1962, 1963, 1969, 1974 and served as MP later.
Yogi Adityanath, a five-time Gorakhpur MP and now the CM-designate, left his ancestral village in Pauri, Uttrakhand, to join the Nath Sect in 1997. After being anointed the successor of Avaidyanath, he went on to win Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat five times.
In September 2014, he took over as temple chief after Avaidyanath passed away. On Saturday, he was named the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.