Culture

The Great Nāth Tradition: From Bappā Rāwal To The Rise Of Yogi Adityanath

Artboard 3 Created with Sketch.
Snapshot

Today a Rajput-born yogi has been given the reigns of power after a pan-Hindu consolidation in Uttar Pradesh.

Perhaps this will further destroy caste divisions and allow the state to set sail strongly in the direction of development.

As Yogi Adityanath takes over as the Chief Minister (CM) of Uttar Pradesh, technically he may also be the first CM of the state who has no caste. Even though Adityanath was born in a Rajput family, he has received the deeksha of the Nāth tradition of monks. He is the mahant of Gorakhnāth temple.

The Nāth tradition is credited with the creation of Hatha Yoga system in India. Followers of this tradition have generated their literature in local languages and spread the system across India, producing many saints, who lived with the people. They became their mentors in a non obtrusive way. The most prominent of the Nāth tradition monks is Gorakhnāth, who has shrines dedicated to him all over India. Even in the deep south of Tamil Nadu one can find shrines set to be established by Gorakhnāth. In Tamil tradition, he is considered one of the 18 siddhars. Gorakṣanāth or Gorakhnāth is known in Tamil Nadu as gorakkar. The Nāth tradition has a pan-Hindu character in the sense they even have Jain sub-traditions.

These saints are also associated with an illustrious Hindu ruler, who not only fought against the Arab invaders but perhaps was the only ruler who took the fight into the enemy territory. According to Ekalinga Mahātmyā, the ninth king of Guha (Guhilot) clan in Rajasthan was called Bappā Rāwal. He was deprived of his kingdom when he was a prince and it was Gorakhnāth, who gave him an invincible sword and inspired him to unite the different Hindu chieftains into an alliance to fight the invaders.

According to legends, Guru Gorakhnāth told Bappā Rāwal that he and his people would be called Gorkhs, who liberated Afghanistan from Islamic rule. Not only the Mewar dynasty in Rajasthan but the city of Rawalpindi in Pakistan was also founded by Bappā Rāwal. The Gorkhas of Nepal also trace their origin to him and the Goraknāth tradition. Perhaps in him, apart from the imperial Cholas, who also had Shaivaite inspiration, we have a Hindu ruler who is said to have expanded his empire outside India. Legend says after driving away the enemies he went on an expedition westwards and conquered Kabul, Kandhar, Ispahan, Iran and Turan. Even in Baluchistan, Gorakhnāth temple remains, to this day, a place of worship where the pilgrims are taken by Nāgnāthi-Rāwals.  A section of Pathans consider themselves the descendants of Rawal.

Historians have debated whether Rāwal was only a legend. Whether he expanded Indic empire westwards or not, he definitely stood against the Islamist invasions of the eighth century and is a dominant memory in the collective Hindu consciousness.

Historian R C Mazumdar says that Rawal was not purely a legend and that he was a distinguished warrior ruler, who gave not only a successful resistance to the invaders but recaptured key provinces from them. The Gorakhnāth-nurtured Rawal dynasty also built harmonious relations with tribal clans. Thus Rawal had as his closest companions two Bhils, and they had the right to seat the Rawal descendants on the throne holding their hands. The applying of traditional tilak on the forehead of the king of Rawal descendants was also done by Bhils.

It is interesting to see that today a Rajput-born yogi of Gorakhnāth tradition being given the reigns of power after a pan Hindu consolidation in UP. Perhaps this will further destroy caste divisions and allow UP to set sail strongly in the direction of development.