The Interesting tradition of Akharas at Kumbh

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On arriving at Prayagraj we also got down to our dedicated research on Akharas and tried to know as much as possible during three days of stay. Akhara in common man’s language is the wrestling arena where wrestlers try out each other’s strength in freestyle wresting and also use the guidance and facilities attached with Akhara. In context of religious congregation this translates into a group of Sadhus and Saintly persons following Lord Shiva , Vishnu and Brahma gathered under one leading personality.

The saints and ascetics  stay together and follow respective religious rituals.According to apex body Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad now there are 14 Akharas which gather at Kumbh Mela. Their  entries in Mela arena are in shape of majestic processions accompanied with elephants and horses with  pomp and show. Mela authorities mark out respective areas of stay . Akharas come out in processions when they proceed for bath dressed in traditional Sadhu attire which in several cases is smearing of bodies with religious ash only.The movements and activities are meticulously organised and controlled to obviate chances of any clashes or conflict.

On talking to Dharam gurus and old friends we came to know that among the faithful the common belief is that Akhara tradition originates from 8th century BC when venerated Adi Shankaracharya organised seven major Akharas  known as   Atal, Avahan, Agni and Anand Mahanirvani, Niranjani, and Juna Akharas. It is said that the Akharas were assigned twin role of spreading and preserving religious knowledge flowing from ancient scriptures (designated as Shastradhari) and that of promoting marital arts (designated as Astradharis) to form a protective cover for religious institutions. The Akharas were reportedly conceived to act as bulwark against assault on religious institutions specially in those turbulent times when country had to face onslaughts from invading armies.

In modern times the Akharas are categorised as followers of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu  besides followers of Brahma. In the Kumbh held in 2018 an all female Akhara comprising of Sadhvis known as Pari Akhara joined the group of famous Akahras. From the  present Kumbh Akahra Parishd  has reportedly added Kinnar Akhara to cover transgender Akharas . The faithfuls who chose to stay at Mela grounds as part of religious and devotional duties are known as Kalapwasi Akhara.

Below are links to some interesting processions by famous Akharas (available on U tube ) for those readers who prefer to enjoy the winter from comfort of their quilts.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-_yF8bGm_EE

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HyWdO2aT-Yc

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Jab Jodhaa met Akbar

In every civilized society which cares for individual sentiments there is some law for protection of certain heritage sites and buildings since these are considered to be the collective property of the humanity and there is a recognition of the fact that every one has a right to share the unspoilt beauty of an architectural monument or a natural formation in an unaltered fashion. Unfortunately there is no legal protection in respect of an icon of history whose image cultivated over generations is mercilessly butchered by a buccaneering film producer unrepentantly and with the simple excuse that it is merely a work of fantasy and has no historical basis!

Aushutosh Gowrikar of Lagaan fame has done precisely that to the image of Jodha Bai a Rajput Queen of middle ages and the Mughal King Akbar who is remembered as one of the few benevolent despots who have given this country a symbol of administrative reforms and spirit of religious tolerance .

Having failed to meet success at the oscar nominations for his period film Lagan , Gowrikar has come out with a more calculated assault on the Oscar battlefield through Jodah Akbar romance which the film claims is not reported in history ( the name of the princess and her relation ship with Akbar is also doubted) but the expensive film with lavish squandering on objects of visual pleasure appears to be attempting to become a historical magnum opus. Nobody wishes to join the issue of historical credibility with Mr. Gowrikar but pray Mr. Gowrikar why did you thrust this plastic beauty of Indian screen to wipe out the memories of Jodha Bai so powerfully projected by the legendary Durga Khote. And your Akbar…although young , but can he ever be expected to adorn the throne occupied by powerful personae of Prithviraj Kapoor in Mughal-e-Azam which is etched in the memory of generations of cinegoers .

A good documentary for Rajasthan Tourism or chalu stuff for a good tear jerker TV serial to be watched by Saas Bahus in the afternoon , or a modern presentation of Vikram Betal stories is what you have produced Mr. Gowrikar with so much fanfare. Your bundle of mini stories of religious hysteria , Saas bahu tussle ,wimpish Rajpoot princes , plotting brother-in-law, fanatic ulemas and incognito visits of young emperor to see the status of his praja could have created a long running TV serial because each episode is a mini thriller but not the part of a story of any interesting substance. The only tears which come to the eyes of an intelligent cinegoer are due to strain of spending 200 minutes in the theatre for witnessing your mediocrity.

And there was a feeling of relief after coming out of the hall for one more reason. That was for the realization that the romantic excitement of Madhubala, Dilip Kumar pair in Mughl-e-Azam would remain beyond the reach of producers for all times and the movie would remain the true Moughal amongst the movies as tribute to the genius of it’s producer and Director.

Madam Ashwarya Rai may now try her luck with some other fake piece of history because this one again seems to have floundered like remake of Umrao Jaan…despite the hidden support of dad-in-law by way of unworthy praise of a dance sequence filmed on Hrithik Roshan. Cinegoers having seen the Mughal movies like Anarkali and Mughal-e-Azam will have to recall the emotional thrill of “Pyar kiya to darna kya “ dance number performed so tantalizingly by Madubala and the Quawalis of the films produced in sixties when they want to think of a piece of art which is highly entertaining and also intellectually satisfying , while the likes of Aishwarya and Aushotosh will fade away from the scene in no time.

And now last but not the least, the latest news  reports say that Mayawati Ji Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has chosen this occasion to garner some votes from Rajput community by placing a ban on the movie (just two days after the MP High Court quashed a ban of similar nature and under full realization that hers would also be a short lived ban). The scenario is a bit  comical in the sense that Akbar the great warrior of middle ages has come to the rescue of another damsel in distress in modern times by helping her recover some popularity in Rajput community .