When the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was relaunched for BJP’s electoral gains, the sadhus of north India were made foot soldiers of the cause. The interference of political Hindutva in the sadhus’ lives amplified their greed and materialism, plunging their ascetic world into crisis. Akharas, which are meant to provide training to the sadhus in monasticism and martial arts, were militarised by Sangh politics and turned into goonda cults.
Through extensive reporting in Ayodhya, Allahabad, Haridwar and Varanasi, journalist Dhirendra Jha breaks open the connection between Hindu communal politics and the hidden world of sadhus—where, sadhus are imported to the Kumbh Mela to take advantage of media attention; rival akharas use muscle power and political clout to battle over temple lands; and gurus are murdered by their disciples in the race to control temple properties. Shunning the usual exoticisation of sadhus, Jha provides an honest, never-before-written account of the life of sadhus.
Dhirendra K. Jha is a Delhi-based senior political journalist working with Scroll.in.
He has done extensive fieldwork on areas relating to Hindutva politics. His previous books include Ayodhya: The Dark Night (HarperCollins, 2016) and Shadow Armies (Juggernaut, 2017).
Pub date: 30 April 2019 | Imprint: Context | Price: INR 599