Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Aug 19 20:36:47 CDT 1997

On Mon, 18 Aug 1997, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> There is a legend associated with the origin of the nAgas, which could
> well be quite historical. It is said that madhusUdana sarasvatI, the
> author of advaita-siddhi, was a contemporary of Akbar, the Mughal emperor.
> With the help of Birbal and some Rajput princes, madhusUdana sarasvatI is
> supposed to have petitioned Akbar for armed support to defend the kumbha
> mela congregation from the persecution of the Muslim governors.
> North Indian society seems to have been highly militaristic in those days,
> and Akbar suggested that instead of seeking state support, some of the
> daSanAmIs should take to arms and defend themselves.

That makes a lot of sense given what we know about the history of the

> So, madhusUdana
> sarasvatI is supposed to have inducted large numbers of kshatriyas into
> the sannyAsin orders of purI, bhAratI and sarasvatI, so that they could
> bring their martial legacy with them. Their martial involvement has lead
> to another oral tradition that half of them are not real sannyAsins at
> all. These sannyAsins eventually formed themselves into little army units,
> consisting mostly of mercenaries, constituting a significant portion of
> any Rajput army.

Here things get a little murkier.  One Naga bawa that my family knew was
called Nilakantha Giri.  Maybe it started with Puri, Bharati, and
Saraswati then spread to the other names?  Anyway I thought that all
10 names were represented.  And there is a caste called gosais (From
Sanskrit Goswami) who are functionaries in Shaiva mandirs and have
surnames like Saraswati, Giri etc. but they are householders not sannyasis
of any kind.  They are also different from the Vaishnava leaders called
Goswamis who are also householders.  May be somewhere along the line they
got mixed up with the Nagas?

> In fact, the organization of daSanAmI sannyAsins into akhADas is
> traditionally attributed to Sankara himself, but many records indicate
> that it was madhusUdana sarasvatI who was really responsible for the
> akhADa structure that is found today. This probably explains why the nAga
> sAdhus are predominantly found in the north. In southern India, the
> akhADas are quite non-existent, and the various maThas are the only signs
> of institutionalized sannyAsa. There are many details about the nAgas in a
> history written by Sir Jadunath Sarkar, and a recent, more comprehensive
> history of the entire daSanAmI order written by Swami Sadananda Giri
> (Kriyayoga Ashram, Rishikesh).

There was an A.S. Ghurye who wrote a book about the history of Sannyasa
too but I've only glanced at it so I can't tell you if its any good. I'll
take another look and also at the others you mention.

Jaldhar H. Vyas [jaldhar at]   And the men .-_|\ who hold
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