From fashion to renunciation and leading the powerful Juna akhada, Swami Anandlila Giri has come a long way. It was a quantum leap geographically too. Olga, as she was formerly known, was a top fashion designer in Russia.
"But after taking sanyas dharm, we no longer remember our past," the sanyasin explained with the help of her English translator Elia. The “call” came around 13 years ago, on the inspiration of her guru and the first Russian Mahamandaleshwar of Shri Dasanaam Juna Akhada -- Vishnudevanandji Maharaj. And now, Anandlila Giri would be ordained the Mahamandaleshwar of Juna akhada at the Kumbh mela before the second shahi snan on mauni amavasya.
It would be a history of sorts – since she would be the first Russian woman Mahamandaleshwar of the akhada. And she considers it a great honor. "I will try to spread the light of sanatan dharm in different parts of the world," she said.
Aussie set to lead another akhada
He loved Keats and Wordsworth and was to be a physiotherapist Down Under. But fate had something else in store for young Jason. Twelve years after his initiation into sannyas, 42-year-old Swami Jasraj Puri is back at Kumbh, where had donned saffron. But this time, he would be the first foreign-born Mahamandaleshwar of Shri Panchyati Mahanirwani Akhara.
A son of two teachers from Sydney, he says he always had a spiritual bent.