Follow Us:
Monday, December 06, 2021

Explained: What are Hindu seer akharas, what is the role of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad?

The word 'akhara' literally means a wrestling arena, and the akhara system is believed to have been started by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD to prepare a warrior class that could fight for Hinduism.

Written by Avaneesh Mishra , Edited by Explained Desk | Dehradun |
Updated: November 4, 2021 10:53:53 am
Mahant Ravindra Puri of Niranjani akhara at Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. (Photo courtesy:

Recently, the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP) – the highest governing body of Hindu saints and seers in the country – has been in the news frequently.

Last month, ABAP president Mahant Narendra Giri was found dead in his room at the Baghambari Math in Prayagraj. Soon after his death, a clear divide was seen among the 13 akharas that make up the Parishad, as a faction of seven akharas declared Mahant Ravindra Puri, of the Mahanirvani akhara, as the outfit’s president. The remaining groups on Monday declared his namesake from the Niranjani akhara as the outfit’s chief, following an election in Prayagraj.

The Indian Express explains what are the akharas, the significance they hold, and the role, structure and duties of the Akhara Parishad.

History of Akharas and Akhara Parishad

The word ‘akhara’ literally means a wrestling arena, and the akhara system is believed to have been started by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD to prepare a warrior class that could fight for Hinduism against foreign invaders. The reason behind creating a force of monks and seers was that they would not have a family of their own, and hence would not be weakened by materialistic desires.

Initially, there were four akharas, but their numbers increased with time. As of now, there are officially 13 akharas divided by their belief systems. The Sanyasi sampradaya has seven akharas – Juna Akhara, Avahan Akhara, Agni Akhara, Niranjani Akhara, Anand Akhara, Nirvani Akhara and Atal Akhara. The Vaishnao sampradaya has three akharas, namely Nirmohi Akhara, Digambar Akhara and Nirvani Ani Akhara. There are three akharas which worship Guru Nanak Dev – Bada Udasin Akhara, Naya Udasin Akhara and Nirmal Akhara.

In 1954, the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad was established with the main aim of organising and managing the Kumbh Mela, the largest religious congregation in the world attended by millions of Hindus. Another duty of the ABAP is to promote coordination between different akharas and settle disputes between them.

Roles and duties

In the present day, according to Mahant Ravindra Puri of Niranjani Akhara who was declared ABAP president by one faction, the akharas have the responsibility of leading religious and intellectual battles without using any weapon, and guiding the society.

Being the highest body of Hindu saints and seers, the ABAP and individual akharas have influence in the society, and are generally vocal about day-to-day social issues. The ABAP is an independent body with its own set of rules. While the ABAP does not participate in electoral politics, in the recent past, it has openly supported the BJP.

On Monday, after his election, Mahant Puri of the Niranjani akhara made it clear that the outfit would support the saffron party. He said the ABAP will ensure Yogi Adityanath’s victory in the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh. “It is possible that if BJP does not come back to power in Uttar Pradesh, construction of the Ram temple [in Ayodhya] might stop,” he claimed.


All the akharas have a system of electing their president based on merit. For different akharas, the tenure of the president ranges from three to six years, after which a chief is elected with everyone’s consent. The akharas do not have a minimum or maximum age limit, and there have been instances where children have been appointed mahant based on their merit.

Election of the Akhara Parishad president, on the other hand, takes places by voting among all the 13 akharas. Some call it a tradition of the ABAP that if an office bearer of the parishad dies before completing his tenure, the post is transferred to someone of the same akhara. Another group, however, claims that as per rules, the ABAP president post is generally offered on rotation basis.

Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Explained News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard
0 Comment(s) *
* The moderation of comments is automated and not cleared manually by