3/12/2010 to 3/15/2010 | India , Uttarakhand

Kumbh Mela Part III: The Sadhu Olympics

(warning nudity -not the good kind)

Sadhus, Hindu holy men, are a fixture amidst the holy cities and temples of India.  Normally wondering the road between holy sites or meditating in caves up in the Himalayas, once every 3-4 years they converge on the site of the Kumbh Mela.  It is the equivalent of the Olympics for the holy men of India.  It’s like each Sadhu trying to out do the others in a bid for attention and acts of extreme bodily control.  The most “spectacular” of the Sadhu secs are the Naga Sadhus.  This sect of Sadhus devoted to Shiva, practice some of the most extreme forms of yogic discipline.  Often naked only covered in white ash many pierce there genitalia and twist polls around in contortions that would make any non castrated man cringe in mere observation of the feat.  One such Sadhu wore a padlock through his pierced testacies.  Other Sadhus take vows such as standing without ever sitting for years on end, and for those who think that is just two easy one Sadhu up the anti to stand on only one leg.  Another vowed to keep his arm above his head, an arm which had withered from atrophy and draining of blood.   When not wowing devotees and tourists with amazing yogic feats of mind over body, most Naga Sadhus can be found in their camps smoking copious amounts of charis (hash or cannabis resin).

On the day of the Second Royal Bath (Somvati Amavasya – Dvitya Shahi Snan), the various divisions of the Naga Sadus known as Akharas all walk in procession to Hari Ki Pauri Ghat to bath at the most auspicious place on the most auspicious day.  On that day the Ghat is closed off to everyone except the holy men.  In the past there had been fights between the Akharas over who would bath first but this year’s bath passed without incident.

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