Narendra Giri was one of the most revered Indian Hindu religious leaders who was honoured with the title “Mahant.” Giri was twice elected as the National President of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP), the apex decision-making body of the 13 recognised Akharas of the Hindu monastic order in India. He was the secretary of Panchayati Akhara Shri Niranjani, and he was also the Mahant at Baghambari Gaddi and Bade Hanuman temple of Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. The sage passed away after committing suicide. His death created an uproar in the country and was probed by the 18-member SIT team of the UP police, and later by the CBI.
Narendra Giri hailed from the trans-Ganga area of Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh; however, the early days of his life remained a mystery. There is no exact information about his age. Some sources state that the seer was born in 1959 (age 62 years old; at the time of his death), whereas, as per some other sources, he was born in 1949 (age 72 years old; at the time of his death).
Height (approx.): 5′ 7″
Hair Colour: Salt and Pepper
Eye Colour: Black
Wife & Children
Mahant Narendra Giri remained unmarried till his death and had no children.
Narendra Giri practised Hinduism and was a top Hindu seer in India.
The Great Sadhu
Narendra Giri was one of the most revered and learned saints among the seers and sadhus in India. Giri held many positions during his priesthood. He served as the secretary of the Shri Panchayati Akhara Niranjani, which is one of the ancient monastic orders of India. He also remained the Mahant at Baghambari Gaddi and Bade Hanuman temple of Prayagraj. On 14 March 2015, Mahant Narendra Giri was elected the president of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, which is the apex decision-making body of the 13 recognised Hindu monastic orders of India, amidst chaos created by the former chief Mahant Gyan Das, who didn’t want Narendra Giri to take the position. He succeeded his ‘rival’ Mahant Das after Giri gained support from the eight akharas. Narendra Giri remained the president of the religious body for four years before he was again elected as the President in October 2019. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Akhara Parishad held in Haridwar.
Fallout With Disciple Anand Giri
Narendra Giri had a feud with his closest disciple Anand Giri, and both of them made a series of allegations against each other. In May 2021, a land dispute between them made headlines in which the disciple accused guru of wanting to sell Baghambari Mutt’s land. In another allegation, Mahant accused Anand Giri, who was then “Chhote Mahant” of Bade Hanuman Temple, of meeting his family, which is forbidden according to the norms set for the sannyasis. Following the fallout between them, Anand Giri was expelled from Baghambari Math and Niranjani Akhara. This incident led to Anand accusing his guru of selling the properties of the Baghambari Mutt and other financial irregularities in the ashram. He also tried to frame Narendra Giri in the death of Ashish Giri, the former secretary of Niranjani Akhara whose body was found in the ashram in November 2019. The disciple; however, after a 13-day-long dispute, returned to Mahant and formally apologized to him by holding his feet. According to reports, Narendra Giri forgave Anand and allowed him to enter the arena and monastery’s premises, but it was not confirmed whether Anand was relieved from his expulsion.
In another revelation in the Narendra Giri suicide case, Mahant Giri’s conversation with Swami Om Bharti, Mahant of the Brahmachari Kuti was leaked on 22 September 2021. The audiotapes revealed that Mahant was apparently “tired” of his disciple Anand Giri’s politics.
Criticised Two Indian Gurus
In May 2019, Narendra Giri, heading the Akhara Parishad at the time, was in the news for slamming the two Indian saffron-clad gurus – Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and he called them the ‘Business Babas.’ He criticised Ramdev’s comments against the use of allopathy in COVID-19 treatment, while for Ravi Shankar, Giri alleged that he had never taken Sanyas Diksha. Mahant accused both the gurus of misusing the saffron attires of the saints to make a profit.
Opposed Bigg Boss 13
The Akhara Parishad led by Narendra Giri, in October 2019, demanded to ban Bigg Boss 13, which is a popular reality TV show in India hosted by Bollywood actor Salman Khan. The Parishad asked to pull the show off-air immediately because, according to them, the show promotes “obscenity and vulgarity,” and it is “against Indian culture.” The sadhus’ body; however, clarified that they weren’t against Salman Khan. The ABAP president said in a report,
We vehemently oppose the show. We respect Salman Khan and appeal to him to immediately pull it off air.
Swami Chinmayanand case
Around the same time, Narendra Giri made headlines for supporting Swami Chinmayanand when the latter was arrested in the sexual harassment case, a month after Giri had publicly criticised Swami for his actions. In September 2019, Mahant, on behalf of the Akhara Parishad, condemned the actions of Swami Chinmayanand, and he said in a statement that his people wanted to have a “fair trial without any prejudice” in the case. Apparently, he also considered the expulsion of Chinmayanand. A month later, in October, the Akhara Parishad chief, however, took a U-turn and gave statements in support of Chinmayanand. Giri claimed that Swami was falsely implicated in the case for extortion, and the sexual harassment charges against Swami were a conspiracy. Mahant Giri said in the statement,
We will now announce out support to Chinmayanand in the Haridwar meeting of ABAP. He is capable of dealing with the matter in legal terms but we will continue to extend our support to him socially.”
On 20 September 2021, Mahant Narendra Giri, the president of the largest organisation of sadhus in India, was found hanging from a ceiling fan by a rope in his room at the Baghambari Gaddi Mutt in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh. The post-mortem report confirmed that his death occurred due to asphyxiation. After the autopsy, the body of Mahant was taken in a procession in the Sangam city and then finally to the Bade Hanuman temple. The saint was laid to rest in a “bhoo” samadhi under a lemon tree around 3 p.m. on 22 September 2021 at the Shrimath Baghambari Gaddi Mutt.
The top seer died under mysterious circumstances in his room, and a purported suicide note was recovered by the police in which Mahant had blamed his key disciple Anand Giri and two others of his suicide – Adhya Tiwari, Mahant at Bade Hanuman Temple and his son, Sandeep Tiwari. Mahant Giri wrote in the note:
I lived with dignity, will not be able to live with insult, this is why I am taking my own life.”
Police also revealed the note read that Mahant was forced to take his own life as he was being “blackmailed” by Anand Giri over a “morphed photo with a girl.” Giri wrote in the note:
I came to know that Anand Giri was going to share with the the public a morphed photo that showed me with a girl. Anand asked me that once these allegations spread, how many people will you prove your innocence to? I have lived a life of dignity and I can’t live with the humiliation that I will be subjected to…”
Narendra Giri had also named his successor for the Mahant of Baghambari Gaddi in the note – Balbeer Giri, who was one of his disciples. The suicide note, according to police, also mentioned something about Mahant committing suicide on September 13, which he didn’t do. Reportedly, two days after Mahant’s death, police revealed that Giri had ordered celphos poison, the tablets that they found at the spot of the alleged suicide. Reports also stated that it was unclear if Mahant had ordered the poison for himself or for some other reason.
The investigation of alleged suicide was carried out by an 18-member SIT team of the UP police who also recovered a 1-minute-long video that was recorded by Narendra Giri before his death. In the video too, Mahant had accused Anand Giri and Aadya Tiwari. Following the events in Giri’s death, an FIR was filed against Anand Giri on charges of abetment to suicide, and the disciple was arrested the next day from Haridwar. He was interrogated for 12 hours; however, reports stated that the accused denied all the allegations against him and repeatedly alleged that he was being framed in the murder conspiracy of the Mahant. Two days after Giri’s death, Anand was sent into 14-day judicial custody.
Following the death of Mahant Giri on 23 September, the head of the Niranjani Akhara, Kailashanand Giri, stalled the appointment of his successor Balbeer Giri for the post of Mahant of Baghambari Gaddi Mutt and Bade Hanuman Mandir in Prayagraj, citing that the purported suicide note was fake. The Indian central government also officially issued a notification to the CBI to investigate the death of Mahant, three days after his alleged suicide. On 5 October, Mahamandeleshwar, Kailashanand Giri announced Balbeer Giri the successor of Mahant Narendra Giri and officially anointed him as the new head of the Baghambari Math.
On November 20, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet which revealed that Narendra Giri committed suicide after he could not handle the grave mental trauma he was undergoing due to being threatened by the three accused in his suicide – Anand Giri, Adhya Prasad Tiwari, and Sandeep Tiwari. According to CBI’s report, Mahant talked to a few of his disciples about Anand Giri threatening him to release edited videos of Narendra Giri with some woman. The charge sheet also mentioned that a few days before Mahant’s extreme step, Mahant indirectly asked some of his disciples about the effect of consuming Celphos, and he also asked his disciple, Sarvesh Dwivedi, to get him a nylon rope from the market.
- Mahant was politically inclined towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Samajwadi Party (SP).
- Narendra Giri, as the chief of ABAP, passed a resolution in 2020 to initiate a campaign for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement to “free the Hindu temples” in Varanasi and Mathura. His decision came after the controversial Supreme Court verdict in the Ayodhya title suit. Giri further demanded the inclusion of the Akhara Parishad in the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust.
- In April 2021, Mahant tested positive for COVID-19 just before the royal bath of the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. He was hospitalised and taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Rishikesh.
- Two months before his death, Mahant Narendra narrowly escaped a car accident on 8 July 2021 when he was travelling with Mahant Hari Giri – the Akhara Parishad General Secretary on the Lucknow-Sultanpur highway. The duo was returning after attending a meeting with CM Yogi Adityanath.
- Narendra Giri was an influential learned saint who had connections with different political affiliations, so on receiving the news of his death, many prominent Indian personalities including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath tweeted to express their grief. The Mahant’s mysterious death also called for a CBI probe by the Indians and CM Yogi, and a plea for the same was sent to the chief justice of the Allahabad High Court.