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.
The Akharas are calling
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.
An Akhara is further divided into 8 davas (divisions) and 52 marhis (centers).
The central administrative body of the Akhara is Shree Panch (the body of five), representing Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Ganesha.
Each marhi performs its spiritual activities under a Mahant.
The five-member body governing an akhara is elected during every Kumbh Mela for a period of 4 years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.