Prayagraj: A flamboyant seer with a taste for expensive cars, fetish for foreign trips and a special love for his long locks is how disciples at the Baghambari Mutt in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj described yoga guru Anand Giri, a key accused in the alleged suicide of Mutt chief Mahant Narendra Giri.
Soon after Anand Giri’s name emerged in connection with the Mahant’s alleged suicide, his photographs atop luxury yachts, with expensive cars and even aboard a private jet began doing the rounds on social media.
And the disciples at the Baghambari Mutt concurred that the yoga guru’s lavish lifestyle was no secret, but it also got him into trouble with Narendra Giri, who was the head of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP), a prominent group of Hindu seers.
“His luxury lifestyle, his interest in money and all luxuries of life is no secret. Everyone knows how he loves his cars, trips abroad but when all this started to get a bit too much, he was pulled up too and that is what had irked him and he got into a tiff with his own mahant, Narendra Giri Maharaj,” said a disciple, who did not wish to be named.
“Have you ever seen a seer who keeps a French cut beard, blow dries his hair, (and) conditions it? We are saints, we have some rules, a certain kind of lifestyle, we do not aspire for these luxuries in life and follow a discipline. But he is different,” the disciple told ThePrint.
The police Tuesday arrested Anand Giri, along with two other disciples of the Mahant, Hanuman Mandir Pujari Addhya Tiwari and his son Sandeep Tiwari, in abetment to suicide case.
Close to Mahant Giri before relations soured
Hailing from a family of farmers in Bhilwada in Rajasthan, 38-year-old Anand Giri studied in a gurukul in Haridwar before he came to the Baghambari Mutt as a teenager and became a disciple of Narendra Giri, who inducted him into the akhara in 2007.
Anand Giri later became a deputy mahant of the Hanuman Temple, which comes under the Baghambari Mutt, and also came up as a yoga guru.
“He would often travel abroad to conduct yoga camps. He loved to travel to different countries. The purpose of those visits was to propagate the message of god and hold yoga shivirs,” said Ravindra Giri, adhyaksh of the Niranjini Akhada, which is part of the ABAP.
According to Ravindra, the yoga guru was extremely close to the mahant initially.
“He was the closest shishya of Mahant Narendra Giri, who always promoted him. He was the one who gave Anand Giri a platform to start his own ashram in Haridwar too,” he said.
Dispute over land
However, things between the two seers soured over a piece of land in Noida. Anand Giri wanted a petrol pump to come up on it, but Narendra Giri had refused.
The relations between the two strained to such an extent that Anand Giri wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind and asked him to investigate fraud allegedly committed by the mahant earlier this year.
“Which shishya (disciple) does this? He was so money-minded that he complained against his own guru when things didn’t go as he had planned. All he thought and ever wanted was expansion of his business, money to buy more luxury. Is that how saints live?” a second disciple said.
Swami Om Bharati, Mahant at an ashram in Noida, accused Anand Giri of “capturing his land to build a petrol pump”.
“I have a brahmachari kuti in Noida, which is the oldest here. In 2019-20, Anand Giri wanted to acquire the area of my kuti as he wanted this land to build a petrol pump. That man is no sanyasi (seer), and is only interested in money,” he told ThePrint.
“He and his associates, holding my shishyas inside the ashram, took away Rs 10-15 lakh, (and) their mobiles. I had to ask our seniors to interfere and get the matter settled.”
Anand Giri has refuted all allegations of corruption or his involvement in the suicide of Narendra Giri.
During interrogation, he told the police that he had patched up with the mahant in the month of May and the suicide note found in the mahant’s room was a conspiracy to frame him, said police sources.
‘Wrong to say he is less of a saint if he loves cars’
Speaking to ThePrint, Vijay Kumar Dwivedi, lawyer of Anand Giri, said his client was being “unnecessarily targeted for his pictures”.
“He is a young man who keeps the company of young people. He holds Yoga shivirs across the world and has his disciples everywhere, who too are young. When he travels to those countries like Singapore or Australia, his disciples take him around the place. How is that wrong? So what if he is moving around in fancy cars? It does not take away the fact that he is a seer,” Dwivedi said.
Dwivedi further said that most seers these days have fancy cars, so why should Anand Giri be singled out. “All young seers these days have good cars, own good clothes and travel to places. There are very few old-school sadhus who live a satvik (simple) life. Just because today Anand Giri’s name has been highlighted because of that suicide note, people have started commenting and judging him,” he said.
“He has disciples who live abroad. Many are even foreigners, so to mingle with them, he has that kind of a look. He is a well-read seer and knows his boundaries,” he said.
“Many are questioning his beard and hair. Why? Is it bad to look groomed? Moreover, that is not a French cut beard. Giri’s beard grows in this fashion only. He does not keep it like that intentionally” Giri’s lawyer said.
Speaking about the allegations of Giri trying to expand his business and make money, Dwivedi said, “Many are accusing him of wanting to open petrol pumps but did anyone ask why he was interested in those deals. To maintain the land of the akhara, to pay salaries, one has to generate revenue. For the generation of that revenue, he wanted a petrol pump on the land which Mahant Narendra Giri had kept aside. There was a tiff between the two over that land, which was later resolved, but that does not mean that Anand Giri is money-minded and is making some money to fill his own pockets.”
Arrested in Sydney
This is also not the first time Anand Giri has been at the centre of a controversy. In 2019, he was arrested in Sydney after two women had accused him of “inappropriate behaviour” but was acquitted by the court later.
“Narendra Giri had supported Anand Giri throughout at that time and had also helped with the lawyers,” a police source said.
He had visited the Australian capital earlier in 2016 and 2018 as well, to hold a yoga shivir.
(Edited by Rachel John)