Self-proclaimed religious leader Hemananda Giri decries PADT decision

Kathmandu, August 11

Hemananda Giri, a self-proclaimed religious leader, today decried the Pashupati Area Development Trust’s decision to refuse to allow her to conduct ‘chhatrigrahan’ programme, which would formally give her recognition as Jagat Guru Shankharacharya, at a previously agreed venue.

Shankharacharya is a title of heads of monasteries called mathas in Adviata Vedanta tradition. It is considered one of Hinduism’s highest seats. There are four established mathas that award the title and all of them are located in India.

Organising a press meet today, Giri said she had booked Sumargi Bhawan at Pashupati for August 24 to organise the ‘chhatrigrahan’ programme, but PADT officials said yesterday asked her not to perform the programme in Pashupati area.

“The government and PADT have undermined the knowledge I have gained. I have been titled Jagat Guru Shankaracharya and Pashupati Peethadish by multiple organisations like Akhil Bhartiya Vidvat Parishad, Dharma Maha-mandal and World Hindu Federation. With this title I wanted to glorify the name of our country and became the source of inspiration for to the women of the country.”

She also said that she would conduct the programme at Doleshower Mahadev temple in Bhaktapur. She said officials of all bodies that awarded her the title of Shankaracharya would attend the programme.

Ramesh Kumar Uprety, executive director of PADT, said they had not received any formal letter or information from HemanandaGiri to conduct such programmes. “The hall operates through vendor and through vendor we came to know about the programme. Since we have not received any formal letter from the body that awarded her the title of Shankaracharya, we cannot allow her to organise such programme on Pashupati temple premises.”

Uprety also said that only four mathas in India could award the title of Shankaracharya.

The fourmathas are in four corners of India; Puri matha in the east, Dwarika matha in the west, Joshi matha in the north and Singeri matha in the south.

Hinduism expert and Research Director at Nepal Sanskrit University Kashi Nath Neupane, however, said that there were plenty of other Shankaracharyas who had received the title from mathas other than four established ones in India. He said Kanchi Kamakoti matha in  Kanchipuram and Aardha Aamnaya matha in Kashi were such other mathas that also awarded the title.

“The Sangam Tantra from ninth century states that Pashupati matha has been in existence since the ninth century,” Neupane said, adding that there is still a building named Pashupati matha on Pashupati temple premises where Hemananda Giri could assume the position.

Giri is the first woman to claim the title and also the first among all to claim the title outside India. The highly regarded title of Shankaracharya is awarded to a religious leader who is highly virtuous and has vast knowledge of Hindu religion and its philosophy.

Shankaracharya is a tradition that is believed have started from the eighth century when first Yogi Adi Shankara was honoured with the title by the people.