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Sadhus & Sanyasins at Kumbh

Romola Butalia broadly classifies the various sampradayas according to the separate dwelling places that are generally allocated in the Kumbha Kshetra.

The chief activities at a Mahakumbh, Kumbh and Ardhkumbh is darshan of the saints and mahatmas, satsangh, and the sacred ritual bath on special auspicious days. While the colour, the traditions, the flamboyance as well as the unique lifestyles and actions of the various holy men at the Kumbhas, invariably draw attention, the presence of the sages and saints at the Kumbha has a deep spiritual significance.

More on Kumbha
Nashik Kumbha 2015
Ujjain 2016
Legends of Kumbha
Practical Guide
Sadhus at Kumbha
Photo Gallery 1
Photo Gallery 2
Photo Gallery 3
Kumbh Haridwar 2010
Kumbha Allahabad 2013
Ujjain 2004
Notes from the Kumbh
Friend to Sage

Kumbha Cities
sadhus at Kumbha There is a rigorous discipline in the Sadhu Samaj, which may not be apparent to the casual observer. Born in the 8th Century AD, Adi Shankaracharya propagated the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. During the course of his life, he established the Dashnami Sannyasa tradition in order to unify the various diverse groups of sannyasins, bringing them under the banner of Sanatana dharma. Adi Shankaracharya classified the Adwaitvadi Sannyasins into ten groups : Giri, Puri, Bharti, Tirtha, Wan, Aranya, Parwat, Ashram, Sagar and Saraswati. This organisation is known as Dashnami Sangh. Dashnami Sannyasins still continue to convey his eternal message of the synthesis of all beliefs culminating in Advaita, the monistic vision of reality in which all things are understood, ultimately, to be one.

The four ashrama or stages in life are defined as Brahmachari ashrama, the life of a student, the grihastha ashrama as a householder, intended to fulfil aspirations and desires, vanaprastha ashrama or social retirement and sannyasa, to discover the nature of the self, experience wholeness and strive for enlightenment. This was in order to achieve the four goals of artha, kaam, dharma and moksha. Everyone went through this transition. Later, because many people got involved in artha and kaam and lost the clarity to transit to later phases within the life cycle, some people renounced the world in order to focus on dharma and moksha and be able to develop techniques for balanced living for society. Such thinkers were known as vidwans and they devised the social code of conduct and devised the Sankhya philosophy.

Adi Shankaracharya brought together all such groups and gave them an identity, creating the Dashnami sannyasa - in which ten different groups with varied ideologies and following particular philosophical paths came together. These ten different groups excelled in their own philosophies, beliefs and practices. So for instance, the order of Saraswati excelled in Advaita, Vedanta and Yoga. The Giri tradition mastered Hatha Yoga, Tapasya and Tantra. The Puri tradition focused on the Sankhya system of thought. Each of the ten different sampradayas followed a belief system, and propagated particular techniques to act as catalysts on the path of enlightenment. The Buddha established his own tradition of sannyasa in the form of bhikshus and bhikshunis. Lord Mahavira established his form of sannyasa as Digambar. Later there were the Swetambaras, dressed in white. Again, the Tantrics have their own system of sannyasa using the colours of red and black.

Naga sadhus at Kumbha Apart from the categorisation of the Dashnami Sangha, Ramanujacharya later established seven Maths. Madhavacharya, Shri Ramanandji Nimbark, Vallabhachrya Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also established their own Maths. These Akharas were formed to safeguard the Hindu religion at a time of invasions. Other than these, there are also separate distinct groups who follow their own traditions, like the Nath Sampradaya.

To cater to the sentiments of each of the major sects, arrangements for stay are made separately for the different Akharas. They are allocated different camp sites according to the following broad classification:

Shaiv Sampraday

  • Shri Panchadashanam Juna Akhara
  • Shri Panchayati Mahanirwani Akhara
  • Shri Taponidhi Niranjani Akhara
  • Shri Panchayati Atal Akhara
  • Shri Taponidhi Anand Akhara
  • Shri Panchadashnam Awahan Akhara
  • Shri Pancha Agni Akhara

    Vaishnav Sampraday

  • Nirmohi Ani
  • Digambar Ani
  • Nirawani Ani

    Udasin Panth

  • Bada Udasin Akhara
  • Naya Udasin Akhara
  • Nirmal Panchyati Akhara

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  • Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.