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What are Akharas?

In the context of Indian martial arts or a Sampradaya, which is a monastery for religious renunciates in the Guru-Shishya prampara tradition, an akhara is a location of practise with accommodations for boarding, lodging, and training. Although they receive guru training, akhara members do not lead domestic or cosy lives. Some people follow strict Brahmcharya, which means they are celibate, while others may call for giving up everything in the material world.

There were originally only 4 akharas based on the sampradaya (sect), but these broke into subsidiary akharas as the followership grew and the leadership styles varied. The 13 akharas that were allowed to take part in the Prayagraj Kumbh Mela in January 2019 formed the Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad with two people from each akhara. 

This was done so that akhara-related issues could be handled at all Kumbh melas and across countries. Seven significant Indian Akharas—Mahanirvani, Niranjani, Juna, Atal, Avahan, Agni, and Anand Akharas—were founded by Adi Shankaracharya. 

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