Breaking the glass ceiling: First time in 1200 years, post of Shankaracharya could be occupied by a woman!

For the past many centuries, we have grown used to seeing Shankaracharya as essentially a male spiritual person.

But now, one of the topmost religious seats of Hinduism could well be occupied by a woman.

Sadhvi Hemanand Giri is the first woman to be shortlisted for the post of Shankaracharya out of the  200 candidates.

Whats more?

She is already a top candidate along with three others!

Picture of the Sadhvi courtesy Amar Ujala
Picture of the Sadhvi courtesy Amar Ujala

The Sadhvi is from Nepal and is in the running for the Jyotish Peeth of Uttarakhand.

Sadhvi Hemanand Giri is a Mahamandaleshwar (with several akharas under her supervision) and is the head of the Vedic Surya Shivanay Math in Gauriganj (Jhapa district of Nepal) which is linked to Allahabad’s famous Juna akhara. She is also associated with the Mata Swargdwari Ashram of Ayodhya.

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The other three candidates for this coveted post are Acharya Devavrat (Ludhiana), Tryumbakeshwar Chaitanya (Rajasthan) and Divyya Chaitanya (Varanasi).

 Shankaracharya ,Sadhvi Hemanand Giri, Jyotish Peeth, Uttarakhand,Adi Shankaracharya
Pic: सनसनी न्यूज़

In a report in Times of India, it is however reported that there are some ascetics who believe that she cannot be considered for the post as she is not a ‘dandi’ sanyasi. Dandi means a wooden staff which is granted by a panel of the most senior ascetics.

Swami Avimukteshwaranand, a disciple of Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand, told Times of India about the importance of wooden staff. He said:

“Being a dandi swami is an important eligibility for a Shankaracharya. As a woman ascetic cannot be a dandi swami, Sadhvi Hemanand is not eligible for the post. Besides, there is neither a precedent in the matter, nor does the Mathamnaya mention that a woman seer can be appointed as Shankaracharya.”

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Adi Shankaracharya founded the four highest seats of Hinduism (peeth) in India in the 8th century AD and millions of Hindus go to pilgrimage on these sites each year.

 Shankaracharya ,Sadhvi Hemanand Giri, Jyotish Peeth, Uttarakhand,Adi Shankaracharya
Will we finally see a woman as the Shankaracharya?
Pic: Amar Ujala

Bharat Dharma Mahamandal and the Kashi Vidwatparishad together appoint a Shankaracharya as per the provisions of the Mathamnaya Mahanushasan, a book written by Adi Shankaracharya which lays down the guidelines for the appointment of different religious figures.

Bharat Dharma Mahamandal’s Chief Secretary Professor Pyare Singh told a Hindi newspaper Amar Ujala that there are no provisions in Mathamnaya Mahanushasan which state that a woman ‘cannot‘ be the Shankaracharya and that merit alone must be the guiding principle.

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Sadhvi is known to go into meditation for long spells and also reportedly did meditation in the Himalayan caves.

The electing bodies are due to meet on January 15 to discuss the selection of the Shankaracharya.

But whether we get to see a female Shankaracharya or not right now, her selection in the top four shows that the top religious structures of Hinduism are more than willing to let the merit do the talking.

Will you accept and welcome a woman as the Shankaracharya?

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