Prayagraj: 32-year-old Kanhaiya Prabhunand Giri is the first scheduled caste to be made one of the heads of the Juna Akhara. Giri, who is a Dalit Mahamandaleshwar, took his first dip at the Triveni Sangam during the ‘Shahi Snan’ on Tuesday on the first day of the Kumbh Mela 2019 at Prayagraj. 

Speaking to the Times of India, the Mahamandaleshwar said that he wanted all those Dalits, Scheduled Tribes and the OBCs who “left the Sanatan dharm due to fear of exploitation to embrace Buddhism, Christianity and Islam” to return to Hindu fold.

Advocating for what he said was the “ghar wapsi” of the those who renounced Hinduism, Giri said, “I will wash the feet off the past lives of all my community members who embraced Islam, Christianity and Buddhism due to inequality and bring them back to sanatan dharm. I will show them how the Juna Akhara has been inclusive of me.”

Giri, who was born as Kanhaiya Kumar Kashyap in Azamgarh, was appointed as one of the Mahamandaleshwars of the Juna Akhara in April last year upon the completion of his ‘deeksha’. He termed the moment he took the dip during Shahi Snan as “long due equality in religion.”

He said that his elevation to one of the top posts amongst the sadhus came after nearly 1,000 years after Sant Ravidas became a Jagatguru. With two gunners on his side, Giri recounted the exploitation, casteism and security threats faced by him due to his position as a Dalit seer. 

Recounting an incident when he was made to suffer because of his caste, Giri said, “I was in Chandigarh in 1999 where a congregation of Sikh gurus was being held. When they got to know my caste, the seers asked me to stand at the entrance.” He said even though he wanted to touch the feet of the gurus, he was told that a “Shudra” was not allowed to do so.

He said, “Here I am at a position where people of all castes and creed come and bow in front of me. I am a religious leader who will keep fighting this caste-ist mentality.”

The Mahamandaleshwar said, “It is difficult to explain the pride I felt when I was made to sit on a chariot for the shahi snan, surrounded by devotees dancing to drum beats around me. My community has, for ages, been kept away from this honour, even when we have been rulers and have proved our mettle both mentally and physically by writing the Constitution and fighting the Mughals and English, respectively.”

times now news (India)

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