My Baba love affair with the Sadhus in India began at first sight.
A flash of orange and a white ash covered face floated past me as if walking on water. I knew it was love because I wanted to immediately whip out my camera, stick it in his face and take a thousand photos. The savvy Sadhu responded by hitting me up for all my loose change. He then continued on his path to enlightenment, headed for the beach I believe, high as a kite.
I kinda liked his style. Style however is of no importance to the Hindu holy men of India. You see Sadhus reject all things earthly, except hash and occasional bouts of pain in the form of acts of penitence (and cups of tea but more about that later). With no worldly attachments or need for things like jump-suits, Uber eats, i-tunes and paying rent what they lack materially they gain from the generosity of others.
In India it’s believed that the Baba’s rituals and way of life not only burn off the Baba’s karma but also that of the whole community. For this reason, although they might look like, well let’s be honest… hobos, they’re actually well respected and generally live very well. Sadhus in India are poor in worldly possessions but rich in spirit, just like myself, except for the rich in spirit part. Click To Tweet
Religious Sadhus in India have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of spiritual liberation. In a world of iphones, siri and shopping on Amazon it’s as impressive as it is hard to understand. There are 4 – 5 million Sadhus in India today and hundreds of different Sadhu sects each with their own form of ascetics (severe self-discipline). The Aghori are a sect known for meditating on corpses, making jewelry out of human bones and covering themselves in human ashes. You could say they have a profound connection to the dead.
Peculiar Practices Of Sadhu Sects
Some Sadhu sects opt to keep one arm in the air for months or years on end, others stand on one leg or lie on a bed of cactuses. Some pierce their tongues with spikes, sleep standing up, stare at the sun, lie in fire, live in trees and refuse to talk. Many Baba’s are celibate while others practice Tantra, meditation, group prayer and chanting. Most Sadhus in India never visit the same place twice and they walk barefoot all over India visiting temples and pilgrimage centers as part of their spiritual practice.
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I can understand why many Sadhus in India opt to smoke hashish and stay permanently high to ease their suffering. I personally would opt for something a little stronger than hashish if I was going to lie on cactuses.
Famous Sadhus In India
In 2004 Mohan Das also known as the Rolling Baba rolled over 1300 kilometers between Agra and Lahore. His mission was to promote good relations between India and Pakistan. Rolling began from 7am until 12 noon, when he stopped to give blessings. Then he continued rolling often with a cigarette in his mouth from 3pm to 7pm. Doing this allowed him to cover up to 30 kilometers a day and sometimes more if he reached speeds of 15mph while going downhill. His devoted followers would sweep most of the garbage out of his way but Rolling Baba still rolled through an awful lot of cow dung and often at high speed. Face palm emoji.
Rolling Baba’s devotion was aided by a diet of five packs of cigarettes a day and several cups of tea. He told the Los Angeles Times, “I move during cyclones, during blazing summers and cold winters. I think of God. I think of Mother Earth and then I roll and roll and roll. I don’t get dizzy. I don’t consume any food just tea and cigarettes.”
The Naked Sadhus
Naked Sadhus or Nagas are known for walking around completely naked. One such Naked Sadhu (a Digambar Jain monk) got in a spot of bother in Goa a few years back. He was spotted walking the streets of Margao butt naked in broad daylight accompanied by his followers. The Goan PWD Minister who had tried to ban bikinis on the beaches of Goa remarked, “Stop it. This is very bad. What is this nonsense thing? At one time it was acceptable. But not now.” Ehhh… bummer?
Other Funky Babas
- Certain Sadhus practice Yogic breathing control and can bury their heads in sand for alarming lengths of time. In 1837 a Sadhu called Hari Das took this a little further and was buried alive without food, water and air. Upon excavation it didn’t take long to revive him and he was quite ok and went on to live a very long life.
- At the Pushkar Fair an Indian Sadhu gained notoriety for lifting a 35 kilo brick with his… well… it rhymes with brick.
- Swami Maujgiri Maharaja stood for 17 years, from 1955 to 1973, performing penance in Uttar Pradesh. He slept upright leaning against a plank.
- The silent Indian fakir Mastram Bapu stayed in the same spot by a road in the village of Chitra for 22 years, until 1982.
If you find the Sadhus in India as fascinating as I do then you might enjoy this trailer for the documentary Smoking Babas by Alfredo De Braganza.
Reminds me of my trip to Amsterdam. Watch the entire documentary ‘Smoking Babas – Holy Men Of India’ on Culture Unplugged for free here.
Synopsis: A human approach to the mystical secrets of India. Documenting the sadhus as had rarely been filmed on many peculiar occasions. A charismatic character is the thread of the story, revealing a hidden side of these sacred Hindu sects: “child sadhus”. From CultureUnplugged.com.
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