The Akharas are calling

An akhara is literally a wrestling arena. At the Kumbh, it is an organization of the different sects of saints, vairagis, and yogis who participate immersively in the festival and form its human identity.

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Some facts about the Akharas

Presently, there are 14 prominent Akharas in India. Akharas are divided into different camps according to the concept of God they worship. Shaiva Akharas are for followers of Lord Shiva, Vaishnava or Vairagi Akharas are for followers of Lord Vishnu and Kalpvasis are for the followers of Lord Brahma.

Adi Shankaracharya was the founder of seven major Indian Akharas known as Mahanirvani, Niranjani, Juna, Atal, Avahan, Agni and Anand Akharas.

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Subdivisions

An Akhara is further divided into 8 davas (divisions) and 52 marhis (centers).

Administration

The central administrative body of the Akhara is Shree Panch (the body of five), representing Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Ganesha.

Leadership

Each marhi performs its spiritual activities under a Mahant.

Election

The five-member body governing an akhara is elected during every Kumbh Mela for a period of 4 years.

Organization Structure

The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad or ABAP is the apex organisation of Hindu Sadhus and Sants who work for the preservation of Hindu religion and culture, seen together especially during the Kumbha Mela. All Akharas are managed under this body.

Inception

Constituted to protect dharma. Trained sadhus in combat skills and religious scriptures.

Discipline

Strict discipline is observed in the Akhadas, transgressions are severely punished.

Duty

Amid political turmoil in Indian history, the Akharas were independent defenders of religion.

Conclave

Atal and Nirvani Akhadas are paired during Kumbh. Similarly, Anand and Niranjani Akhadas stay together.

Mission

Akhada members reside together at Kumbh to discuss future plans for sustained religious development.

Hierarchy

There is a hierarchy of Mahamandaleshwar, Mandaleshwar, Mahant in each Akhada.

Historical Impact

Protecting freedom of the land

In 1666 CE, the Akharas thwarted an attack by Aurangzeb on the Haridwar Kumbh mela. Their valour emboldened the Marathas in Aurangzeb’s army to join the sadhus under the saffron flag.

Display of Courage and Valour

Ahmadshah Abdali launched an offensive in 1748 and on Mathura in 1757. The ascetics, again, took the attack head on and despite overwhelming odds, made a formidable display of courage and valour to resist the aggression.

First War of Independence

In the Haridwar Kumbh in 1855, Umanandji (Guru of Swami Dayanand Saraswati) and His Guru Purnanandji prepared a blueprint for the First War of Independence and disemminated it via Ascetics who had gathered from the entire country.

India's Freedom Battle

During the Prayag Kumbh in 1858, Nanasaheb Dhundhu-pant, Balasaheb Peshwa, Tatya Tope, Ajmulla Khan and King Kunvarsingh of Jagadishpur took an oath in the camp of Dashanami Ascetics in the presence of ‘Dast’ Baba to drive the British out of India.

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