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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Sadhvi claims she is Pashupathinath temple’s shankaracharya, seers see red

The executive director of the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT), Ramesh Upretly, denied recognising sadhvi Hemanand Giri’s appointment as the first woman shankaracharya of the temple.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2018 18:48 IST
Sandeep Rawat
Sandeep Rawat
Hindustan Times, Haridwar
Devotees wait at the Pashupatinath Temple, in Kathmandu.
Devotees wait at the Pashupatinath Temple, in Kathmandu.(AFP File Photo)

Two Hindu bodies in India have contested the appointment of sadhvi Hemanand Giri as the first female shankaracharya – the chief exponent of Vedic philosophy – of the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, even as she insists her appointment is valid. Their contention is that there is no scripture in the Sanatan Dharma that allows women to be appointed to the top post and that India has traditionally been appointing a shankaracharya to the fifth-century temple shrine.

The executive director of the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT), Ramesh Upretly, denied recognising her appointment. “Who said so?” he told Hindustan Times, “we have not heard any such announcement from anyone. First, a woman cannot be the shankaracharya. Second, she cannot hold the post as she belongs to a certain caste. Also, there is no post of shankaracharya at the Pashupatinat temple.”

The Bharat Dharma Mahamandal Kashi Biddhat Parisad, Banaras, and the PADT issued a statement last month rejecting Hemanand Giri’s claim as the first female shankaracharya. The Hindu groups said such a practice is only possible in four dhams of India, and not Nepal. “There is a provision of appointing a saint to the post of shankaracharya only in four maths in India – Kachi, Dwarka, Puri and Badri. Her appointment is not permitted due to rules and regulations,” the two organisations said.

On the other hand, Hemanand Giri insists her appointment is legal.

“Both these bodies don’t have any right to oppose my appointment. I was appointed by the Akhil Bharitya Biddhat Sabha, which has a global presence,” she had told Nepali media.

She said the fifth math is in Nepal, which she is supposed to head. “The Bishow Hindu Mahasangh also supported my appointment,” she claimed.

Those opposing her appointment claimed that she was married, with a few Nepali media outlets publishing a photograph of her and her husband. A married woman or man cannot be appointed to the post, some saints have pointed out.

The Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad (ABAP) – the sole governing body of 13 akhadas of sanyasis, bairagis and nirmal akhadas – too sternly objected to the appointment of a female mahamandaleshwar as the shankaracharya. The national general secretary of ABAP, Hari Giri Maharaj, said the female seer has no right to claim the highest seat of authority among saints.

“A rigorous procedure is followed before any saint is appointment to the seat of shankaracharya; it’s a blatant violation of the customs of the sanatna dharma which have been followed for centuries. Even Adi Shankaracharya was given shankaracharya status only after he won the ‘shastrarth’, showing his superiority in the Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, Shrutis, Sanskrit and Vidhyat Parishad,” said Hari Giri Maharaj.

The ABAP has also decided to apprise the Nepalese government about the illegality of Hemanand Giri’s appointment.

Incidentally, Hemanand Giri, who is a mahamandaleshwar and heads the Vedic Surya Shivanay math in Gauriganj, Nepal, had also applied for the post of shankaracharya in the eighth-century Jyotirmath-Badrikashram Peeth in Joshimath back in 2017.

First Published: Aug 31, 2018 18:48 IST