Protesting Hindu women resort to extreme measures

2016-04-26 19:59
A devotee of Indian Hindu Akhara leader Trikal Bhawanta grapples with police officials as she undergoes a burial ritual in Ujjain. (Stringer, AFP)

A devotee of Indian Hindu Akhara leader Trikal Bhawanta grapples with police officials as she undergoes a burial ritual in Ujjain. (Stringer, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Ujjain - A group of devout Hindu women began burying their leader alive on Tuesday in protest at being denied permission to bathe in holy waters at the Kumbh Mela festival, in the latest battle for gender equality at India's religious sites.

The female "sadhus", or holy women, dug a grave near the River Ganges after which Mahant Trikal Bhavanta, wearing a saffron robe and prayer beads, climbed in to be buried alive.

The protest was triggered after her "Pari Akhara" was prevented from taking a ritual dip in the holy waters of the River Ganges on Friday during the festival in central Ujjain city.

Supporters threw fistfuls of dirt and petals on top of Bhavanta, burying her nearly waist-deep before police and district officials intervened.

An akhara is a group of sadhus - reclusive ascetics or wandering monks - who renounce normal life and are widely respected for their holiness. India has more than a dozen such groups, all controlled by men.

Bhavanta has reportedly been facing discrimination since forming her all-women akhara in 2000. Believed to be the first such group in India's Hindu history, it has been criticised by male sadhus who claim it goes against age-old customs.

An AFP photographer at the scene on Tuesday said the leader was demanding to be given the same facilities as men during the festival's Shahi Snan, or royal bath, a mass purification ritual.

"If a man can do something, then woman can also do it," she told the Hindustan Times newspaper last week.

"They never want an independent akhara of women. The reason behind this is their male-dominated mentality... Their view towards women is parochial."

It comes weeks after a Hindu temple in western India lifted a centuries-old ban forbidding female devotees from entering, after a court said women had a fundamental right to worship following impassioned protests by activists.

Bhavanta last week went on an indefinite fast and was admitted to a hospital after her group was denied permission for the dip on grounds that it was not officially recognised by the male-dominated akhara administration.

"We have never asked the administration to recognise us. Just provide us some facilities," she told the English daily.

The Kumbh Mela religious festival is held in Ujjain every 12 years, drawing legions of wandering holy men and women. Similar events are held every three years in other locations around India.

Read more on:    india  |  religion

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.