The Daśanāmi Akhara is one of the oldest existing Akharas of Bharat. According to their own tradition, their order was founded by Adi Shankaracharya.
The Daśanāmis are divided into two sections. Śāstradhāris and astradhāris. The Śāstradhāris specialise in scriptures. The astradhāri Daśanāmis specialise in warfare and are constituted into several akharas.
The Daśanāmis are referred to as such because its members are typically given one of the ten designations. Tradition says that Adi Shankaracharya organized the ten branches of the Advaita Vedanta, known as the Daśanāmis . These ten designations are Giri (hill), Puri (city), Bharati (learning), Vana (wood), Aranya (forest), Parvata (mountain), Ashrama (hermitage), Sagara (ocean), Tirtha (pilgrimage) and Sarasvati (wisdom). The lynched sadhus of Palghar were Giri.
Each of these 10 designations is associated with one of the four Mathas and one of the four Vedas:
|North||Joshi Math, Badrinath||Giri, Parvata, Sagara||Atharvaveda|
|East||Govardhan Math, Puri||Vana, Aryanya||Rgveda|
|South||Sringeri Math, Karnataka||Puri, Bharati, Sarasvati||Yajurveda|
|West||Sharada Math, Dwarika||Tirtha, Ashrama||Samaveda|
A person wishing to enter the order of Dashanamis gives away all his material possessions except a loincloth, a staff and a material pot. He performs the Viraja homa, chants the puruṣasūkta and utters the purificatory verse. After performing these Yajnas, he renounces his family saying “Listen, all ye : By the grace of my teacher, I am eager to go beyond worldly life. I have given up my attachment to all. I have renounced my love for son, wealth and followers. You too should give up your attachment to me, and not obstruct my embracing of Sannyas.”
Taking water in the scooped palms of his hands, he then chants the full Vedic hymn, beginning with “Ashup Shishanah”
He then goes to a sheet of water or river, performs his bath and Sandhya and takes the vow to embrace the Sannyasi mode of life.
A Daśanāmi Sannyasi observes the following rules
(1) Wear loincloth while begging
(2) Eat one meal a day
(3) Live outside settlements
(4) Sleep on the ground.
(5) Do not speak ill of anyone
(6) Bow to no one other than Sannyasis of higher order
(7) Wear only saffron
The warrior Daśanāmi monks played a very crucial role in defence of Hindu society during the medieval age. They stood as bulwarks against invaders and on several occasions defended holy sites like Mathura and Varanasi.
According to the Nirvani records, Daśanāmi monks fought a Major Battle in defence of Bhagwan Vishvanath’s temple at Varanasi and defeated Aurangzeb in 1664. They fought the battle for the whole day and defeated the Muslim generals Mirza Ali and Abdul Ali. The Nirvani record reads:
“At the Kashi Kshetra in Samvat 1721 (—1664 A.D.) they own the victory in a fight with the Sultan ( ? Aurangzib ) and gained great glory. From sunrise to sunset the battle raged and the Daśanāmis proved themselves heroes; they preserved the honour of C’s seat. They defeated the Muslims Mirza Ali and Turang Khan and Abdul Ali’.
Likewise, the Atal Akhara of Daśanāmi order has produced many heroes and fighters for the defence of the Hindu religion. It used to reside mostly in the Jodhpur State. When Muslims from Kabul and Baluchistan invaded Jodhpur and levied tribute from the Rajah, the force of the Atal Sannyasis arrived there, defeated the Muslims, took away their arms and made them swear on the Quran that they would never again invade Marwar, The Rajah in gratitude granted Nagor Taluqa to the Gosains, whose Nagor berhe still holds it.
In 1757, when Abdali invaded Bharat, he indiscriminately killed and enslaved everyone. He destroyed everything he set his eyes upon. He entered Gokul with a band of 40,000 Afghans and was intent on the destruction of the temple of Lord Krishna (Gokul Nath). 4000 Naga Sadhus of Gokul issued out of their Akharas and put up a gallant defence of the holy city. In this desperate struggle against a numerically and technically superior Afghan force, 2000 Naga Sadhus died in the battlefield opposing the advance of Afghans. Finally, Abdali had to give in and withdraw from Gokul without destroying the temples and monasteries. This was a rare setback for Abdali whose career in Bharat was marked by victories, slaving and mass slaughter.
Daśanāmis were also among the first to rise against British colonialism and played a major role in the Sannyasi Revolt (1770-1820). It was only after a very violent suppression and banning Daśanāmis from entering Bengal that the British were able to quell the rebellion.
The Daśanāmi Sannyasis remain the unacknowledged warriors of Bharatiya history. Every now and then, they silently gather at the Kumbh Melas and take upon themselves to organise and uphold the thousands year old traditions of our civilization. They renounced everything to uphold our traditions. We are indebted to them as a civilization. They have never asked us for anything. But is this how we treat them in return?
Is this how we express gratitude? Have we failed as a society?
1) Ahmad Shah Durrani, Father Of Modern Afghanistan, Asia Publishing House,1959
2) A History Of Dasnami Naga Sanyasis : Sir Jadunath Sarkar
3) Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires, William Pinch (2006)
(Featured image source: Amar Ujala)
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