[QODLink]
News

Indian women 'sadhus' form all-female group

In a break from tradition, holy Hindu women form their own group, believed to be the first in history of Hinduism.

Last updated: 03 Mar 2014 05:36
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The all-female group was formed in the northern city of Allahabad [Reuters]

Female "sadhus", or holy Hindu women, have broken away from tradition and formed a new all-female group in India that they hope will end male domination of spiritual practices.

In the northern city of Allahabad a group of women sadhus formally established their group or "akhada", holding ceremonies on the banks of the River Ganges which is considered sacred by Hindus.

Mahant Trikal Bhavanta, a leading woman sadhu, told AFP that the all-women akhada was believed to be the first in the history of Hinduism in India.

Spotlight
Follow our special India coverage

An akhada is a group of sadhus - reclusive ascetics or wandering monks who renounce normal life and are often widely respected for their holiness. India has more than a dozen such groups, all male-dominated.

According to some Hindu lore, it is believed the first akhada was formed by Hindu philosopher Adi Shankaracharya in the eighth century with the aim of safeguarding the religion's interests.

Bhavanta said the all-women group was facing criticism from male sadhus, who claim the move goes against age-old customs.

"Nowhere in the Hindu scriptures is it mentioned that women cannot have an akhada of their own," she told AFP.

"We are facing criticism from men because the move ensures that from now on, sanyasins (women sadhus) will also stand to rise in the seers' hierarchy and the subjugation of women in the akhada system run by men will end," Bhavanta added.

Those who become women sadhus and renounce possessions in a quest for enlightenment are often widows.

Every 12 years, the Kumbh Mela religious festival is held in Allahabad, drawing legions of wandering holy men and women. Smaller, similar events are held every three years in other locations around India.

Bhavanta said her akhada would participate with its own flag in the Maha Kumbh to be held in Nasik next year.

321

Source:
AFP
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.

Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.