The famous akhadas at Kumbh mela
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The famous akhadas at Kumbh mela

Millions participate in Kumbh mela, but it is the akhadas which steal the show with the pomp and pageantry.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2019 09:49 IST
akhada,Kumbh mela,Uttar Pradesh
Sadhus of Juna Akhara sit inside their tent at Kumbh mela in Allahabad.(AFP)

One of Hinduism holiest events, the Kumbh Mela, opens on Tuesday in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Millions are expected to visit the event, held at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers, until March 4. HT brings you a snapshot of the main akhadas (Hindu religious groups) taking part in the event.

Shree Panch Dashnaam Juna Akhada

Headquarters: Varanasi

Specialty: Largest of the 13 Akhadas

Following: Shaivites (Followers of Shiva)

Head: Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Swami Avdheshanand Giri

Juna is a Shaivite Akhada following under the Dashnaami Sampraday (sect) founded by Adi Shankaracharya. This akhada is attached to the four mutts established by Shankaracharya at Dwarka, Puri, Shringeri and Jyotirmath. The Juna Akhada worships Bhagwan Dattatrey and their 52-foot high holy flag.

Their greeting chant is Om namo Narayan. The administrative body of the Akhada is Shree Panch — the members of which are elected during the Kumbh and Mahakumbh Mela. The Akhada has a rich tradition of warrior ascetics (Naga Sadhus) who are ordained to this post only during the Kumbh and Mahakumbh Mela. The Juna Akhada also comprises the Astradhari (weapon-bearers) seers and Shastradhari (scripture-bearers) seers.

Shree Panchayati Akhada Niranjani

Headquarters: Daraganj (Allahabad)

Specialty: Educated. Has members with doctorate and post graduation

Following: Shaivite

Head: Swami Mahant Ravindrapuri

Shree Panchayati Akhada Niranjani has a strong base in Allahabad. While its headquarter is in Daraganj, the secretary of the akhada, Swami Narendragiri is the president of Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad, (ABAP) the apex body of India’s biggest monastic order. Niranjani Akhada worships Kartikeya (Son of Lord Shiva and Parvati). The Akhada is believed to be founded in 904 AD in Mandavi, Gujarat. After Juna, Niranjani is believed to be the second largest akhada. Niranjani Akhada also consecrates a 52-foot high holy flag in their camp in Kumbh and Mahakumbh Mela. The number 52 symbolises the 52 houses of seers to which the Shaivite akhadas belong.

Shree Shambhu Panchayati Atal Akhada

Headquarters: Varanasi

Specialty: One of three oldest Akhadas

Following: Shaivites (Followers of Shiva)

Head: Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Swami Vishwatmanand Saraswati

The Akhada is run by a 12-member administrative body with Shreemahant Swami Satyamgiri as the main head for the Kumbh Mela 2019 and claims to be among the three oldest akhadas. The akhada worships Lord Ganesha and the holy symbols of Surya Prakash Bhala and Bhairva Prakash Bhala. The seers of the Atal Akhada are also called Atal Badshah. In the Kumbh Mela, Atal Akhada conduct an ordination ceremony of Naga sadhus in the second Shahi Snan (Royal bath).

Shree Panchayati Akhada Mahanirvani

Headquarters: Allahabad

Specialty: Dashnami Akhada (An order set by Adi Sankara)

Following: Shaivite

Head: Governed by a five-member body

Shree Panchayati Akhada Mahanirvani worship Kapilmuni Maharaj and the holy symbols Surya Prakash Bhala and Bhairva Prakash Bhala.Shreemahant Yamunapurji Maharaj, secretary, and Mahant Ravsevak Giri are heading the administrative body of the akhada. Shree Panchayati Akhada Mahanirvani elects its administrative body through an election.

Shree Panchayati Akhada Bada Udasin

Headquarters: Allahabad

Specialty: Known for its grandeur

Following: Udasin (People who follow the teachings of Shri Chand, the elder son of Guru Nanak)

Head: Governed by members of Shree Panch (A high council of five senior seers who take decisions)

The Akhada was founded by seer Yogiraj Shree Nirvandev ji Maharaj in 1825 in Haridwar. The sect worships Jagatguru Bhagwan Shree Shreechandra Ji. They consecrate a 75-foot-high holy flag in Kumbh and Mahakumbh Mela. The Shree Panch members are Shree Mahant Maheshwar Das, Shree Mahant Raghumuni, Shree Mahant Durgadas and Shree Mahant Advaitanand.

Shri Panchayti Akhara Naya Udaseen

Headquarters: Haridwar

Specialty: Simplicity

Following: Udasin

Head: Governed by members of Shree Panch

The akhada was founded in 1846 after a dispute with the Bada Udasin Akhada. Mahant Sudhir Das was the founder
of the akhada. It follows different traditions, as compared most other monastic orders. Its royal entry processions have no acharya, no palanquin and no spears or arms. The akhada follows Shri Chandra Bhagwan, a saint from the 15th century.

Shree Panch Nirmohi Ani Akhada

Headquarters: Haridwar

Specialty: Hoisting a 52-foot high white flag

Following: Vaishnav (followers of Vishnu)

Head: Governed by members of Shree Panch

Shree Panch Nirmohi Ani Akhada is one of the three Vaishnav akhadas recognised by the Akhil Bharatiya
Akhada Parishad. Two members, who have been appointed by the Shree Panch, run the administrative body of the akhada. They are, Mahant Rajendra Das and Mahant Ramji Das. The Nirmohi akhada worships Lord Hanuman and was formed in Vrindavan, uniting 18 Vaishnav groups and four sects with common ideologies.

Shree Panch Digamber Ani Akhada

Headquarters: Haridwar

Specialty: Worship five colour flag

Following: Vaishnav

Head: Governed by members of Shree Panch

Like the other two Vaishnav akhadas, Shree Panch Digamber Ani Akhada also carries the title Ani, which means a group. The two administrative heads of Akhada are Mahant Krishna Das and Mahant Ramkishor Das. They have a particular way of greeting each other. The seers of the Akhada are generally dressed in saffron. They travel spreading the message of the ‘Sanatan Dharma’. They also worship ancient weapons.

Shree Panch Nirvani Ani Akhada

Headquarters: Haridwar

Specialty: Red colour flag

Following: Vaishnav

Head: Governed by members of Shree Panch

Shree Panch Nirvani Ani Akhada worships Lord Hanuman as its presiding deity. The members who represent the administrative body of the Shree Panch Nirvani Ani Akhada are Mahant Dharamdasji and Mahant Mohandas ji. They also represent the akhada in the Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad. The seers stand out in the way they apply tilak on their forehead.

Shri Panchayti Akhara Nirmala

Headquarters: Haridwar

Specialty: Linked to Sikhism

Following: Nirmal Sampraday (A separate sect of Hindus)

Head: Mahant Pt Gurudev Singhji Vendantacharya

The Akhara was founded by Durga Singh Maharaj in 1856 in Punjab. The akhada has close ties with Sikhism, especially Khalsi Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh had sent a batch of five saffron robe seers (Panch Nirmal Gaurik) to learn the Vedas, Vedang and Dharma-shastra to Varanasi. However, after learning, these seers are believed to have formed their own sect by the name of Nirmal Sampraday. The akhara was established at Kankhal near Haridwar.

Shri Shambhu Panchagni Akhara

Headquarters: Junagarh, Gujarat

Specialty: Known for anointing Brahmchari saints

Following: Shaivites

Head: Sabhapati Brahmchari Mukttanandji Maharaj

This akhada stands out in its customs and traditions as compared to other Shaivaite akhadas. They do not have Naga sadhus but their saints, who need to be Brahmins wearing janau or the sacred thread can later join other akhadas as a Naga if they so desire.
Saints of this akhada also do not practice the fire sacrifice or dhuni. Also the saints of this akhada do not consume any intoxicant. Saints of this akhada consume only self-prepared food.

Shri Panchdashnaam Aavahan Akhara

Headquarters: Haridwar

Specialty: Considered the oldest monastic order

Following: Shaivites

Head: Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Shivendrapuri Ji Maharaj

The deity of this Akhada is Dattatreya and it has offices and ashrams spread across the country including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, UP and Bihar. As the name ‘Aavahan’ indicates, the saints of this akhada were the first to respond to the call of the Shankaracharya to devote themselves to the defence of the Santan dharm.

Taponidhi Shri Anand Akhara Panchayti

Headquarters: Nasik, Maharashtra

Specialty: Known for its opulence

Following: Shaivites

Head: Acharya Peetadheeshwar Balkanand Giri Ji Maharaj

This akhada is considered the second oldest in the country and therefore commands respect among both seers and the followers. The deity of this Akhada is Dev Bhuwan Bhaskar Suryanarayan. It has offices and ashrams spread across the country.

First Published: Jan 13, 2019 08:08 IST