CEN­TRE OF AT­TRAC­TION

India Today - - UPFRONT - RITESH SHUKLA/ GETTY IMAGES

On Sun­day, Jan­uary 6, the 13 akha­ras of Hindu as­cetics and sants an­nounced their ar­rival at the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Al­la­habad with their tra­di­tional pro­ces­sion through the city. Join­ing them, de­spite be­ing de­nied recog­ni­tion by the Cen­tral Akhara Coun­cil, was the Kin­nar Akhara, led by Laxmi Narayan Tri­pathi, pic­tured here re­splen­dent on a camel. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, thou­sands of wor­ship­pers flocked to the akhara’s pro­ces­sion, eas­ily the most pop­u­lar on the day, to seek bless­ings. “We don’t need cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,” Tri­pathi told as­sem­bled re­porters. “We are sanatani Hin­dus and demigods as per the shas­tras. We’re here de­spite ef­forts to keep us out.” This was their sec­ond such pro­ces­sion, after the hugely pop­u­lar de­but at the 2016 Uj­jain Kumbh. Tri­pathi was in the fore­front there too. A con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure within the com­mu­nity, she was re­cently taken to task by sev­eral self­de­scribed “trans, gen­der non­con­form­ing and intersex col­lec­tives” for ex­press­ing the akhara’s sup­port for build­ing the Ram tem­ple in Ay­o­d­hya.

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