Above: (L-R) Swami Vasudevanand and Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati
The Allahabad High Court’s division bench of Justices Sudhir Agrawal and KJ Thaker on Friday (September 22) rejected the claims of both Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati and Swami Vasudevanand as Shankaracharya of the Jyothishpeetha established by the Adi Shankaracharya.
The court declared the recruitment of these two saints wrong and directed that a new Shankaracharya, observing proper tradition, will have to be elected in three months. This selection process will have to be carried out by the three other Shankaracharyas, the Kashi Vidyan Parishad and Bharat Dharm Sabha Mandal.
The court said that for these three months, status quo will have to be maintained.
The division bench had finished its hearing of the case and had reserved its judgment on January 3. At this point, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati is in control as Shankaracharya of Jyothishpeeth for the next three months.
It may be recalled that Swami Vasudevanand had remained as the Shankaracharya of Jyotishpeeth for 27 years. But when, in 2015, an Allahabad district court had declared him unsuitable for the post, Swami Vasudevanand had moved the high court, challenging this decision.
If anything, this dispute is by no means a new one. The Adi Shankaracharya had established four principal mutts or peethas at four places across the country, situated in four directions.
The Poorvamnaya Shri Govardhan Peetham is in Puri, Odisha. In the west, he established the Paschimamnaya Shri Sharada Peetham, at Dwarka, Jamnagar, Gujarat. In the north, he established the Uttaramnaya Shri Jyotish Peetham, at Badri (Joshimath), Uttarakhand and in the south he established the Dakshinamnaya Sri Sarada Peetam, in Shringeri, Karnataka.
The trouble with Joshimath of Uttarakhand started in 1960 and has travelled different courts. When Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati assumed position as the Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peetha in 1989, Swaroopanand Saraswati filed a lawsuit against him in Allahabad and demanded that he be removed.
—India Legal Bureau