Factional feud among the orders of ascetics has come to the fore at the ongoing Maha Kumbh congregation in Allahabad with one of the "akharas" threatening to boycott the upcoming "Shahi Snan" festivals if a religious head revered by it was not allowed to take part in the ritual bathing.
The Nirmohi Ani Akhara, which belongs to the Vaishnava sect, has issued a statement demanding that Mahant Gyandas, who is currently away at Gangasagar in West Bengal, be allowed to take part in the "Shahi Snans" of Mauni Amavasya (February 10) and Basant Panchmi (February 15) failing which its sadhus will boycott the bathing festivals.
Presence of "akharas" is given paramount importance during the Shahi Snans and refusal to participate by any of the orders of ascetics is considered a major let down for the administrative machinery entrusted with conducting a Maha Kumbh.
The controversy is rooted in a split in the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad that had taken place during the Haridwar Kumbh of 2010.
While one of the factions enjoying the support of seven Saivite "akharas" has announced Mahant Baldev Singh as its head, the other group comprising three Vaishnava "akharas" reposed its trust in Gyandas, who headed the council of ascetics before the split.
The Vaishnava akharas -- Digambar Ani, Nirvani Ani and Nirmohi Ani -- had taken part in the first Shahi Snan of Makar Sankranti (January 14) notwithstanding resentment over Gyandas not being invited for the occasion.
Situation seems to have worsened following a recent spat between sadhus of the Nirmohi Akhara and Swami Narendra Giri, who heads the Niranjani Akhara of the Saivite sect.
At a meeting with administrative officials on Saturday, sadhus of the Nirmohi Ahara had pressed the demand for bringing Gyandas for the upcoming "Shahi Snans", which was opposed by Giri who pointed out that a majority of akharas were backing Mahant Baldev Singh and hence the other faction must not be given recognition.
The Nirmohi Akhara, slighted by the larger faction, has charged Giri with "misleading the administration" and threatened to boycott the upcoming Shahi Snans if their demand was not accepted.