On Wednesday, even as Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad president Mahant Narendra Giri was laid to rest at Baghambari Math in Prayagraj, the spotlight stayed on Anand Giri, once said to have been the mahant’s “favourite disciple” and now at the centre of a case of alleged abetment of suicide.
Two days ago, Narendra Giri was found dead in his room at Baghambari math, after which police claimed to have found a seven-page ‘suicide note’ in which the mahant held Anand Giri, besides two others, responsible for his death. On Wednesday, the Prayagraj police arrested Anand Giri and Adhya Prasad Tiwari, another of Narendra Giri’s disciples, after questioning them at length.
This, however, is not Anand Giri’s first brush with controversy.
Anand Giri, 38, a priest at the Bare Hanuman Temple in Prayagraj, who refers to himself as “spiritual leader” and “yoga guru”, is known to live it up — there are photographs circulating on social media of him in luxury hotels and on beaches, in fancy cars and bikes.
Born in a lower middle class farming family in Bhilwada, Rajasthan, Anand Giri is known to have left his house at 12 and joined a gurukul in Haridwar. He has often claimed that he did so to gain a better understanding of the Vedas and Sanskrit. On his website, Anand Giri claims to have acquired a Bachelor’s degree from Banaras Hindu University.
Anand Giri later came to Baghambari Math and became a disciple of Narendra Giri, the mahant of Bare Hanuman Mandir, who inducted him into his Niranjani akhara. Over the years, Anand Giri became one of Narendra Giri closest disciples and was often spoken of as his heir apparent.
As deputy mahant of the Bare Hanuman Temple, which comes under Narendra Giri’s Baghambari Math, Anand Giri, apart from conducting prayers at the temple, established himself as a yoga guru, travelling across the country and also abroad, giving lectures and reciting the Ram Katha.
Anand Giri’s rapid rise in the math and the akhara, coupled with his high-flying lifestyle, led to whispers among other disciples and sadhus, but Narendra Giri stood by his disciple.
But their relationship began souring earlier this year after Anand Giri started accusing his mentor of fraud in the alleged sale of land belonging to the akhara.
The akhara is said to have in its possession acres of land not just in Prayagraj and neighbouring districts but also in Haridwar, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Earlier this year, their relationship took a turn for the worse after Narendra Giri, who tested positive for Covid, was discharged from a hospital in Haridwar and came back to the math. The public tussle between the mentor and the disciple intensified, with Anand Giri’s followers using social media to level charges of fraud against Narendra Giri.
It was then that Narendra Giri got Anand Giri expelled from the math and the akhara. An angry Anand Giri claimed to have written to the President of India, the Prime Minister as well as police demanding an investigation into his mentor’s activities.
Two months ago, the math released a video, claiming the dispute between the two had been settled. In the video, Anand Giri was shown touching Narendra Giri’s feet, after which the mahant said Anand Giri has apologised. Sources, however, said the differences between the two continued.
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