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Akharas aim to safeguard Sanatan Dharma

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Sounds good, "to form a band of religious warriors (Dharma Sainiks) who would protect and safeguard the Sanatan Dharma from social evils."


<table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tbody><tr><td valign="top" width="100%"><arttitle>Akharas aim to safeguard Sanatan Dharma</arttitle>

16 Jan 2009, 1846 hrs IST, mrigank tiwari & abbas ali, TNN

</td> </tr> <tr> <td height="10">http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Allahabad/Akharas_aim_to_safeguard_Sanatan_Dharma/articleshow/3986289.cms

</td></tr></tbody></table>ALLAHABAD: The origin of akharas (religious sects) dates back to the earlier Kumbh Melas organised at Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. In Hindu religion, Akharas have their own significance and form an integral part of Sanatan Dharma.


Broadly speaking, there are around seven Dashnami Akharas of `sanyasis' set up by Adi Shankarcharya to safeguard Hindus from forcible conversion and infuse new life into Vedic religion, as per Indian traditions.


The first step in this direction was the establishment of four `maths' at Puri, Shringeri, Dwarka and Badrinath, each headed `acharyas'.


The seven Dashnami akharas are Nirvani, Atal, Niranjani, Anand, Juna, Awahan and Agni. Adi Shankaracharya conferred the titles of Swaroop, Prakash, Anand and Chaitanya on his `acharyas' and instructed them to work hard for reviving the Vedic Dharma and set up the Sanatan Dharma, Shankaracharya of Puri Swami Adshokanandji Maharaj said here on Thursday.


He added that the basic purpose behind setting up of akharas was to form a band of religious warriors (Dharma Sainiks) who would protect and safeguard the Sanatan Dharma from social evils.


He said that every year thousands of young sadhus take `sanyas' at different Akharas at Sangam. `Sanyas' is the final destination of knowledge and the banks of Ganga is the best place for it. The most auspicious occasions for this ceremony are Makar Sankranti and Mauni Amavasya when hundreds of teenagers are admitted into the `sadhu' fold by Akhara chiefs.


Swami Narendra Nandji Maharaj of Kashi prant said that after conversion, the young `sadhus' affirm to serve their `gurus', who pronounces the `guru mantra' after receiving the `diksha' (sacred knowledge) on the banks of Ganga.


The akharas are divided into the following categories:


Shaiva akharas: These are the followers of Lord Shiva, although some also show respect for Lord Vishnu. Some of these are also known as `Nagas'. They are known for their celibacy and renunciation of material possessions and are good in the use of arms for the defence of religion. The `Nagas' lead a very austere life and are naked. The Shaiva sects are divided into further groups or Akharas which are called Dashnami Akharas. These are Mahanirvani, Atal, Niranjani, Anand, Bhairav, Awahan and Agni.


The Vaishnava or Vairagi Akharas: These are the wandering mendicants. They are the followers of Lord Vishnu and see themselves as parts of the Supreme Lord and live a life of service and dedication to the Lord. They are above the concept of liberation or merging with the Brahma or non-dual aspect of the Supreme. The initiator of these is said to be Shree Balanand Jee. The religious preacher and the head of the `akharas' of ascetics is popularly known as Mahamandaleshwars. They are held in high esteem by the inmates of the `akharas' and are carried around in beautifully decorated palanquins during the procession of the Shahi Snan (royal bath).


Lastly come the Kalpwasis who perform Kalpavaas during the auspicious month of Magh. Kalpa means a day of Lord Brahma. It is believed that if one spends the whole month of Magh at the banks of the Ganga leading an austere life in thatched huts (these days tents) and sleeping on the sandy river bed listening to discourses, giving alms, bathing thrice daily in the holy confluence, eating once in 24 hours, they purportedly can be freed from the cycle of death and rebirth (moksha).

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