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HomeThePrint EssentialSadhus lynched in Palghar were affiliated with this UP akhara, the largest...

Sadhus lynched in Palghar were affiliated with this UP akhara, the largest in India

As the case takes a political colour amid communal allegations, ThePrint takes a look at the history and organisation of Juna Akhara the sadhus belonged to.

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New Delhi: Two Hindu ascetics, who were lynched along with their driver by a mob in Maharashtra’s Palghar district last week, were affiliated to Shri Panch Dashnam Juna Akhara in Varanasi.

On Monday, Prem Giri Maharaj, the international president of Juna Akhara said sadhus from across the country would gather in Nashik after the lockdown is lifted to demand a probe into the lynching, and march all the way to Mumbai to make their demands of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The CM has, however, already announced a probe into the case. Over 100 people have also been arrested for the same.

The incident, which has created a massive political row, took place when a group of villagers stopped the men while they were on their way to a funeral in Silvassa and attacked them with stones, logs and axes. 

The sadhus – 70-year-old Kalpvrush Giri and 35-year-old Sushil Giri – belonged to the Gosavi nomadic tribe. 

As the case acquires a political colour amid communal allegations, ThePrint takes a look at Juna Akhara, its history and membership.

Also read: No communal angle to Palghar, strict action against those fuelling hate: Uddhav Thackeray

What is an Akhara?

Hinduism philosopher Adi Shankaracharya believed the understanding of religion could only be spread through worship. Around the time when India was invaded by foreigners in the eight century, he inspired his followers to study weaponry because he believed it strengthens the mind. 

This created the concept of an akhara. Traditionally, akharas are known as wrestling pits but through Shankaracharya’s teachings they came to be seen as the centre of debates and religious discussions. 

Shankaracharya established 7 akharas in 722 AD – namely, Mahanirvani, Niranjani, Juna, Atal, Aavahana, Agni and Anand. 

The number of these akharas later increased to 13.

Juna Akhara

Shree Panch Dashnam Juna Akhara’s headquarters are in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Out of the 13 akhadas which participate in the Kumbh Mela, Juna, meaning old in Gujarati, is the largest. 

There are over 4,00,000 ascetics in this akhara. It is Shaivite body, which means its members are followers of Lord Shiva. This akhara is attached to the four mutts established by Shankaracharya at Dwarka, Puri, Sringeri and Jyotirmath. 

Juna Akhara is a traditional body wherein families of 52 lineages are represented by their elders in a grand council, which is in turn represented by elected secretaries and a sabhapati (president). When someone is elected to a position, their appointment stands for life.

All matters concerning the council are divided into two categories, samaj (dealing with society) and ghar (concerning the sadhu families). 

The council members are all Naga sadhus (warrior ascetics) who are appointed during the Kumbh and Mahakumbh Mela.

Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj is Juna Akhara’s current Acharya Mahamandaleshwar – the chief religious authority. He was appointed in 1998.

On Monday, he condemned the Palghar lynching incident and tweeted, “The brutal violence against Juna Akhara Sadhus in Palghar is shocking and highly condemnable. Strict action must be taken to address this inhuman act.”


Also read: Most Muslims in Punjab’s Malerkotla have Tablighi link. But that’s not their big Covid worry


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  1. The BJP Government celebrates Shankara Jayanthi by presiding over the lynching of Shankaracharya founded Juna Akhada mendicants: To prove British-Naiker-Ambedkar-Nehru-Gandhi-Marx-Mao Credentials?

  2. What a mass of distorted, wicked misinformation, beginning with foolish words like

    “Hinduism philosopher Adi Shankaracharya believed the understanding of religion could only be spread through worship. Around the time when India was invaded by foreigners in the eight century, he inspired his followers to study weaponry because he believed it strengthens the mind. ”

    Is your reported completely INSANE, or are you so alienated and pathologically ANTI-HINDU, that you allow such idiotic mischief to crop up on your pages?

    How deeply evil can THE PRINT become?

    I am sure this will not pass your censors, sinc e not one of my comments, made over months have been allowed by your so-called moderators. Please keep indulging in very sinful activity, Gupta & censors, but negative karma will not cease thereby. Can you escape death and its consequences, is the question you need to think out for yourselves. Study what Sri Bhagavatpada Shankara wrote.

    Would you dare to address Muhammad as ” Islam philosopher”,? Note how your reporter is mischievous and does not know how to write in English, or both. Look at the use of ARTICLES, “a/the”. What garbage you convey, and you feel it does not evoke fury in the hearts of MANY BHARATIYAS? FURY.
    Remember Charlie Hebdo, and the defense launched for the assailants?

  3. Regarding the lynching of 2 sadhus and their drivers is inhuman and brutal. All the accused should be punished in public including the useless police of the Maharashtra who were present at the scene including those forest officials, they say it not communal, I totally disagree with this. They are dressed in orange dress of sadhus, nobody is blaming muslims but why it can’t be Anti Hindus, Christians, Dalits , Communist and Marxist people.. All this people hate Brahmins and people in orange dress.

    • Why why why the double standard by mainstream media? Why there is no outrage by intellectuals? Have they got sudden lost of memory? Be fair or shut up forever.

  4. Third class news write up. Also Shankar’s lived in 7th century BC and not AD. He established five mutts only. Dwarka. Sringeri, Puri, Haridwar and kanchi

  5. Upon reading, I was moved to post this response. It’s terrible. The Print, you can do better than this. It purports to be an “explainer” for the lynching episode in Palghar. The section “What is an akhara?” marks the point from where the article goes all downhill.
    1. I’ve never seen Adi Shankaracharya referred to as “Hinduism philospher.” It is not even grammatically right. This is the first time, I’m hearing about Adi Shankara inspiring followers to “study weaponry”. Highly idiosyncratic phrasing.
    2. Also, did Shankara believe that studying weaponry strengthens the mind? Seriously? References please.
    3. You claim Shankara established akharas “in 722 AD.” He was born in 788 AD and died 820 AD.
    4. Thanks for letting us know that “Shaivite” means followers of Lord Shiva.

    • Really disgraceful and what should we feel proud of for living in a country where human lives are not valued? Those behind this heinous murder of innocent sadhu and their driver should be punished and hanged to death. They deserve no mercy. Such a disturbing video shown by media. Shame to police men who couldn’t even save them. It seemed that they were also a part of the conspiracy.

      Thanks for highlighting this issue. We should FIGHT FOR JUSTICE for their soul to rest in peace. This is as big a crime as Nirbhaya and should not be ignored or forgotten. I stand by media and urge them to fight for the justice of these poor souls.

  6. Where is the award wapsi gang with their Congress era awards and sinecures? Can you even fathom what they would have done had this happened in a BJP run state and the three lynched were from a minority community?

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