BANGALORE: Self-styled godman Nithyananda was on Friday declared 293rd pontiff of Madurai Aadheenam, one of the ancient Saivite mutts in Tamil Nadu, at Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam in Bidadi on Bangalore-Mysore Road. The 292nd pontiff of the Aadheenam, Arunagirinatha Sri Gnanasambanda Desika Paramacharya Swamigal, announced this in the Dhyanapeetam.
The pontiff told reporters: “We hereby coronate him (Nithyananda) with the title His Holiness the 293rd Guru Maha Sannidhanam Srila Sri Paramahamsa Nithyananda Sri Gnanasambanda Desika Paramacharya Swamigal.”
After the announcement, the Madurai pontiff placed a gold-plated crown on Nithyananda’s head to “officially declare” that he will take charge of the Madurai Aadheenam.
The pontiff also declared Nithyananda his “lawful successor” to deal with all movable and immovable properties of the Aadheenam, which include over 1,250 acres of land, several temples and properties in India and abroad.
In reply, Nithyananda vowed to fulfil all responsibilities of the Aadheenam, revive the Saiva tradition and also make the Aadheenam an international religious organisation.
The Madurai Aadheenam has been in existence for several centuries. It was revived about 1,500 years ago by Thirugnana Sambandar, one of the four visionary saints of South Indian Saiva Siddhanta philosophy.
The Aadheenam’s history dates back to the Tamil Sangam period. The presiding deities of Madurai are Lord Siva and Devi in their incarnations as Chokkanathar and Meenakshi, enshrined in the famous Madurai Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar Temple.
Nithyananda has been facing many charges. He was arrested on April 21, 2010, at Solan in Himachal Pradesh in connection with a case involving an actress. He was granted bail on June 11, 2010, by the Karnataka High Court.