tent life

apart from processions and interesting acrobatics, the sadhus just hung out in their camps and went about their business. at times, pilgrims would come to the sadhus’ tents for blessings. the sadhu on the left is placing ash on the forehead of a follower. the photo on the right shows one sadhu who was born with a spinal deformation; this may have made him more holy in some manner. otherwise, life out of the spotlight was pretty mundane. the sadhus ate, smoked, drank tea and talked. there was a second class of sadhu, however, that didn’t stay in large established…

just some sadhu portraits

so, to take a breather from the last post, let’s just look at some sadhu portraits. the first guy was typical of the many mendicant sadhus at the kumbh mela in that he was willing to pose, but only for money; the next one was simply grooming after his bath, and ignored me. clearly, he’d been busy, but he wasn’t there to beg, either. the next two are baba nagas (including one who is out of “costume”). next: tent life

the penis trick

the sadhus set up large camps while at the kumbh mela, and there were all sorts of activities going on when they weren’t in the bathing processions. that’ll be the subject of the next post, but in the meantime, here’s a little something the baba nagas did to entertain the crowds. it’s something they said is related to yoga, but we just called it “the penis trick.” don’t try this at home. first, take your penis, and wrap it around a stick.  make sure it’s good and tight. next, pull the stick back between your legs, one end at a…

more marching with the sadhus

after the adventures described in the previous post, the rest of the event went fairly smoothly.  i didn’t get down to the river bank in time to see the sadhus bathing (and in fact was kept from pursuing them by the police who were stationed at the entries to the bathing area), but once they came back out of the water, i moved in.  a few times i was pushed on by police or by sadhu-minders, but for the most part no one was bothered by my camera – in fact, quite the opposite. the fancy sadhus (the “god-men”) were…

marching with the sadhus

after the sadhus finished celebrating, they lined up and began their march back to the camp, and we photographers ran alongside them. more photos from that: notice, in the second photo, the man in the crimson t-shirt pointing at me: this guy (who was also holding a thick, pointy bamboo staff) was one of the parade marshals/sadhu minders/akshara hangers-on with thick pointy bamboo staffs who accompanied the naga babas on the procession route.  his reaction to my taking the photo signifies the ambiguous position that we non-credentialed photographers held: the sadhus, for the most part, were happy to have their…

enter the sadhus

militant and not-so-militant sadhus: a naga baba carrying a mace during his akshara’s procession, and a naga baba smoking a chilam, a clay pipe filled with tobacco and hashish. while the pilgrims’ bath in the ganges is the biggest draw for the pilgrims, the sadhus’ bath in the ganges is the biggest draw for the tourists. specifically, the first two bathing days are when the sadhus go down to the water en masse, in processions organized by their various orders or sects. the most dramatic sadhu sects are composed of naga babas, the warrior ascetics. the naga babas were originally…