Dying in a Prayagraj math: Rigidity, confusion linger on the Ganga’s banks

Prayagraj: Within the coronary heart of Prayagraj metropolis lies the sprawling 10-acre campus of the Baghambadi Gaddi math. On the banks of the Ganga and simply 3km from the Sangam – the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the legendary Saraswati, considered one of Hinduism’s holiest websites – the campus’s excessive partitions fence off round 100 ascetics and college students of Hindu theology from the remainder of the noisy metropolis.

Mango, guava, lemon and neem bushes abound on the leafy campus, which additionally homes a temple and a Sanksrit faculty. Days start at 5am with prayers and chanting of hymns, and finish round 8.30pm with communal meals on the eating corridor that may seat 500 individuals.

Regardless of the unassuming look, the mathematics is among the strongest seats of Hinduism and controls property and belongings upwards of 1,000 crore – together with plots, maths, temples and academic establishments in Prayagraj, Mirzapur, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Bhopal. Its chief priest controls a number of influential shrines, together with the Bade Hanuman Temple, the most well-liked pilgrim spot in Prayagraj.

These days, nonetheless, the temper on the math is subdued. Many ascetics in residence have left, and lessons suspended. Armed policemen stand guard exterior and math staff, known as sevadars, don’t greet outsiders anymore.

The loss of life of the highly effective chief priest, Mahant Narendra Giri, on September 20 by alleged suicide, the controversies surrounding his former quantity 2, Anand Giri, the whispers of tussle over property and energy, and the arrest of three individuals for allegedly pushing him to the brink of collapse, have left seers shocked and the environment vitiated.

A brand new chief priest, Balbir Giri, was appointed on October 5 however hypothesis over the veracity of Giri’s final will, suicide be aware, and the circumstances earlier than his loss of life, proceed to swirl. The strain has even prevented the Akhada Parishad—the apex physique of Hinduism’s 13 monastic orders – from naming its subsequent chief.

“There may be palpable rigidity with staff, seers and saints being repeatedly questioned by CBI and each previous and current dealings underneath the scanner,” mentioned a sewadar, a employee on the math, who has been residing on campus for eight years.


On September 20, Giri wakened as traditional at 5am and spent an hour in mediation and yoga, in response to his disciples. At 6.30am, he led all saints, disciples, servitors and employees of the mathematics in providing prayers on the Lord Baghambeshwar Mahadev temple to Shiva situated inside the math. These prayers, held every day, have been attended by round 250 college students within the premises.

However then he broke the routine and didn’t head to the Bade Hanuman temple at 8.30am. “He appeared regular and engrossed in his work as traditional on the his final day and nobody had any inclination of what was to return,” mentioned a second sewadar who has labored on the math for 9 years.

After lunch, he retired to his room round 1pm, and requested to not be woken him for tea, often served at 4pm in his room.

By 5pm, his disciples have been rising uneasy. Night prayers have been upon them however there was no signal of Giri. Sumit Kumar, a sewadar, walked as much as Giri’s room on the bottom flooring and knocked. There was no response.

“When even loud knocking didn’t evoke the response, the door which was bolted from inside was damaged and we discovered him hanging from the hook of the ceiling fan by a rope,” mentioned Sumit Kumar.

He, together with different sevadars Sarvesh Dwivedi and Dhananjay minimize the rope and laid him on the bottom. “Regardless of our efforts, Maharaj remained unresponsive and we then knowledgeable the police,” he mentioned. It was 5.25pm.

Round 6pm, inspector common of Prayagraj vary, KP Singh, reached the mathematics and located a suicide be aware within the room. Nearly instantly, the controversy started.


On September 22, a autopsy examination by a five-member panel of docs concluded loss of life by asphyxiation with no marks of exterior accidents. The identical day, high seers dismissed the suicide be aware, hinting in direction of a deeper conspiracy.

The eight-page be aware blamed three individuals: Giri’s once-protégé Anand Giri, the Bade Hanuman temple priest Aadya Tiwari and his son Sandeep. Giri wrote that Anand Giri had fabricated some compromising pictures and movies of the pinnacle priest with a lady, and was planning to launch them to mar his repute.

This set off suspicion. “This isn’t a letter written by the Maharaj (Mahant Narendra Giri) as he by no means used to pen something so lengthy,” mentioned Niranjani Akhada chief Kailashanand Giri. One other high seer Ravindra Puri mentioned Giri had a head harm and couldn’t have penned this be aware.

Three weeks on, the doubts persist.

Some seers say that the appointment of Balbir Giri – Giri named him as his successor within the be aware and in a video clip discovered on his cell phone – indicated that folks within the ashram have been coming to phrases that the highest priest died by suicide.

However others are usually not positive. Ravindra Puri mentioned the seers reached a consensus to deal with the be aware and Giri’s will as his final want however felt the necessity to type a supervisory committee to determine on all future monetary offers – from the place the mathematics attracts its may.

“It’s nonetheless tough to imagine {that a} robust and outspoken particular person like Mahant Narendra Giri who had entry to wealthy and highly effective individuals acquired so upset and pressured by actions of his disciples that he took his personal life. All eyes at the moment are on CBI which hopefully would unravel the thriller as soon as and for all,” mentioned a senior saint of Niranjani Akhada on situation of anonymity.

Formally, Giri’s reason for loss of life is underneath probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation. A second investigation by the Akhada Parishad, too, stays inconclusive. Handwriting studies and forensic evaluation of the be aware haven’t been made public.


Giri left his residence in Chautauna village of Prayagraj district when he was 22 and joined the mathematics. He rapidly rose by way of the ranks, courtesy his robust ties to the Bharatiya Janata Celebration (BJP) and his math’s decisive affect through the Kumbh Mela, considered one of Hinduism’s holiest occasions. In 2019, when Prime Miniser Narendra Modi took a dip on the Sangam, Giri led the rituals.

Giri burnished his credentials by advocating key political causes – the development of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, a nationwide inhabitants management invoice, and cracking down on faux godmen.

Giri’s advocate Rishi Shankar Dwivedi mentioned the pinnacle priest made the primary will on January 7, 2010 the place he named Balbir Giri as his successor. However he made a revised will on August 29, 2011 and changed Balbir with Anand. A 3rd will was made on June 4, 2020 the place Balbir was once more named because the successor.

“The desire dated June 4, 2020 was signed by Narendra Giri in my presence and that’s his final will, which is registered,” mentioned Man Singh, one of many two witnesses to Giri’s final will.

Nonetheless, many seers are ready for CBI to make a closing pronouncement on the loss of life, and confirm the be aware as real, earlier than going again to traditional chores on the math.

Many say they’re shaken by the loss of life of the highly effective godman, and admit that the scandal related to Anand— he was expelled from the mathematics in Might by Giri for indiscipline, monetary anomalies and breaking the foundations of the monastic order — has damage the mathematics’s standing. “The latest developments have taken the main target away from the service being carried out by it,” mentioned Kailashanand Giri.

The 35-year-old Balbir Giri faces a tricky process in restoring calm.

“I used to be pained by the sudden demise of my guru however I need to say that with the nation’s high investigating company probing the loss of life, the reality behind it could come out, ultimately,” he mentioned. “I’ll put my selections in entrance of my senior seers within the Akhara, and in the event that they don’t agree, I’ll search their steerage. If I’m proper, they might bless my selections.”

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