Self-styled godman Nityananda took over as the Madurai Adheenam – head of an ancient Saivite mutt – in the presence of a large gathering of devotees from Bangalore and Tamil Nadu here on Sunday.

The incumbent Adheenam brushed aside all allegations against Nityananda, whose name got mired in controversy two years ago when a video footage about him surfaced.

At the function held on the Madurai Adheenam premises, near the Meenakshi temple, Sri Arunagirinathar appointed Nityananda as the 293rd Adheenam and presented him with a crown and sceptre. He declared that the new Adheenam should henceforth be called Guru Maha Sannidhanam Sri la Sri Paramahamsa Sri Nityananda Sri Gnanasambanda Desika Paramacharya Swamigal.

Speaking to reporters, Arunagirinathar said Nityananda's appointment as Madurai Adheenam would be the beginning of a new phase in the Madurai Adheenam's 2000-year history.

Seeking to put at rest controversies surrounding Nityananda, Arunagirinathar said: “He (Nityananda) is a great sage. He is a great saint…Some people who are upset over his rise spread such a false campaign. It should be ignored. All allegations levelled against him are nothing but baseless.” Asked about criticism by Hindu outfits and others over the selection, the senior mutt head rejected it, saying the Madurai Adheenam had a rich tradition of appointing learned scholars to lead the historic and ancient institution. “We have not given up or diverted from the age-old practices.”

Asked to spell on the new Adheenam's role, he said, “Both of us will closely look after the functioning of the Madurai Adheenam and there need not be any apprehension.” Asked whether they would seek police protection for Nityananda in the backdrop of threats, the senior Adheenam said that he had full faith in the Tamil Nadu police and hoped they would take care of all such developments that might arise.