When an akhada or assembly of Hindu monks appoints someone mahamandaleshwar or the great godman, the aam aadmi does not take notice. When it happens ahead of a Kumbh fair, held every 12 years, other monks raise a hue and cry. It’s part jealousy, part wonder at how people with dubious distinctions dominate divinity, while the ascetics are made to carry their palanquins. When Swami Sachidananda Giri was appointed the mahamandaleshwar ahead of the Nashik Kumbh, questions were raised about his days in the saffron robe. Barely two years into monkhood, Sachidananada is accused of buying the throne for himself. This Land Rover-riding pub owner and builder from Noida was till then known as Sachin Dutta. He says he used to drink like a fish. Now his ascent to the chief ascetic rank has the akhadas astounded. Last time, it was Radhe Maa, who has been banned from Nashik this time.
What makes a baba more attractive and babadom more lucrative than real estate and dance bars? And how do babas, who renounce all family and worldly possessions, end up with empires full of worldly possessions? The answer is marketing and not everyone has the skills to nail that. First of all, a baba must have a USP, the unique selling proposition. A look at the USPs of four popular babas and that one maa.