Shankaracharya, Akhara head enter Kumbh amid controversies

Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth Swami Swaroopananda Saraswati and President of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad Mahant Gyandas entered camps at ongoing Maha Kumbh amid controversies surrounding them.

Updated: Feb 01, 2013, 22:04 PM IST

Allahabad: Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth Swami Swaroopananda Saraswati and President of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad Mahant Gyandas on Friday entered their respective camps at the ongoing Maha Kumbh amid controversies surrounding them.
The Shankaracharya, camping at the Mankameshwar temple along the banks of Yamuna for the past one week, entered his camp in a grand procession.

The pontiff was perched atop a chariot as musical bands played devotional tunes and supporters chanted hymns.

The Shankaracharya had been miffed at administration`s refusal to allot land for a "Sankaracharya Chatushpad" with camps of the Shankaracharyas of all four Peeths located close to each other and around a statue of Adi Sankara.

On December 30, Swaroopananda took the unprecedented step of leaving the city vowing to stay away from the 12-yearly congregation.

He relented later when an emissary of the Uttar Pradesh government met him at his ashram in Madhya Pradesh with a personal letter from Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

However, on entering the Maha Kumbh ground, the Shankaracharya made it clear he had agreed to take part in the congregation "just because I do not wish to sadden my supporters".

He, however, said he was sticking to his demand for a Sankaracharya Chatushpad "which is aimed at helping the people distinguish the real Shankaracharyas from the self-styled ones".

Earlier in the day, Mahant Gyandas, who had been away at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal, was accorded a tumultuous welcome by his supporters at the railway station from where he was taken to the Maha Kumbh in an impressive procession.

His visit came two days after a Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court had ruled that he be "acknowledged as Adhyaksh of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad".

The Akhara Parishad had suffered a split in 2010 when a breakaway faction declared Mahant Balwant Singh as its president.

Traditionally, elections of the Akhara Parishad are held at Kumbh congregations. However, when elections could not be held at the Haridwar Kumbh in 2010, a breakaway faction - claiming to enjoy the support of some of the Saivite akharas besides the Bairagis - met at Allahabad in November 2010 and elected its office-bearers.

The dispute threatened to cast its shadow on the ongoing congregation with one of the Vaishnavite akharas threatening to boycott upcoming "Shahi Snan" festivals in the month of February if their leader was not accorded due respect.

The supporters of Gyandas are upbeat in the wake of the High Court judgement of January 30 which stated "if Akhara Parishad feels to hold an election to elect new executive body, it can do so during the Kumbh Mela itself after proper intimation to all akharas".

However, his detractors who comprise a section of the akharas belonging to the Saivite and the Bairagi sects, have struck a defiant note saying "the court order has only directed the administration to recognise Gyandas as Akhara Parishad chief and it has nothing to do with the sadhus".

On his arrival in the city, Gyandas said he had come to the Maha Kumbh "to promote peace and harmony among sadhus and resolve all differences".