Narendra Giri’s death: Why mutts are facing wars from within

Akhara Sadhus during the 'Bhoo Samadhi' (burial) of the mortal remains of Narendra Giri at Baghambari Mutt in Prayagraj on September 22. Photo: PTI

Never trace the origins of a river or a rishi, so goes a Tamil saying (Nadhi moolamum rishi moolamum eppodum thedathei). Yet lives of ascetics are inevitably dug into when controversies surface and muck spreads. Until then, they remain people who are revered for renouncing worldly lives.

Not many, including his ardent followers, knew that Mahant Narendra Giri of Baghambari Mutt in Prayagraj was a bank peon who found it hard to keep the job given his poor educational background. His meteoric rise within the mutt made his origin irrelevant. His alleged suicide, however, put the spotlight back on the life he had renounced and the power games that seem to mar many in mutts across India.

Rise to prominence

Narendra Giri left home as a child and took refuge at his maternal grandfather’s house. It was the grandfather who helped young Narendra find a job at the bank. Unable to keep the job, Narendra Giri had a spell of vagabond life roaming around as a sadhu. His meandering landed him in Praygraj in 1983. It was here that Narendra Giri came under the guidance of Divyanand Giri of Niranjani Akhara, a constituent of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, which is a conglomerate of 13 monastic orders, known as akharas. It was Divyanand Giri who initiated Narendra Giri into sannyas and that's how he became a mahant in 1985. Narendra Giri quickly rose to prominence and came to head the Baghambari Mutt, which fell under the Niranjani Akhara, in 2006.

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