Sadhus & Sanyasins at Kumbh

Rigorous discipline in the Sadhu Samaj!

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.

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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