Prayagraj: The first Dalit Mahamandaleshwar to be made a head of the Juna Akhara, Kanhaiya Prabhunand Giri, has called for the ghar wapsi (re-conversion) of Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and other backward classes (OBC) who have “left sanatan dharm (another term for Hinduism) due to fear of exploitation to Buddhism, Christianity and Islam”.

Prior to his initiation, the Dalit sadhu was known as Kanhaiya Kumar Kashyap. The 32-year-old Prabhunand Giri was honoured at a pattabhishek ceremony by all the seers of the Juna Akhara in April 2018. Giri will be a part of the 2019 Kumbh as a Mahamandaleswar.

The Mahamandaleshwar stated, “I will wash the feet of the past lives of all my community members who embraced Islam, Christianity and Buddhism due to inequality, and bring them back to the sanatan dharm. I will show them how Juna Akhara has been inclusive in my case.”

It was on Tuesday that Giri took his first dip at the Sangam during the first ‘Shahi Snan’ at the Kumbh Mela. He ssaid, “It is difficult to explain the pride I felt when I was made to sit on a chariot for the ‘shahi snan’, surrounded by devotees dancing to drum beats around me. My community has, for ages, been kept away from this honour, even when we have been rulers and have proved our mettle both mentally and physically by writing the Constitution and fighting the Mughals and British, respectively.”

Giri stated that he wished politicians stopped using the word "Dalit" and refer to the members of his community SCs, STs and OBCs as mandated by the Constitution. While he admitted that he himself faced castetist discrimination, he still wished to bring people back to the fold of Hinduism.