INDIA, March 1, 2014 (Global Post): Female sadhus, or holy Hindu women, have broken away from tradition and formed a new all-female group in India that they hope will end male domination of spiritual practices. In the northern city of Allahabad a group of women sadhus formally established their group or akhada, holding ceremonies on the banks of the River Ganges which is considered sacred by Hindus. Mahant Trikal Bhavanta, a leading woman sadhu, told AFP late Friday that the all-women akhada was believed to be the first in the history of Hinduism in India.
An akhada is a group of sadhus -- reclusive ascetics or wandering monks who renounce normal life and are often widely respected for their holiness. India has more than a dozen such groups, all male-dominated. According to some Hindu lore, it is believed the first akhada was formed by Hindu philosopher Adi Shankaracharya in the eighth century with the aim of safeguarding the religion's interests.
Bhavanta said the all-women group was facing criticism from male sadhus, who claim the move goes against age-old customs. "Nowhere in the Hindu scriptures is it mentioned that women cannot have an akhada of their own," she told AFP.