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…

throwing the baby into the bathwater

for many people, their children’s first dip into the ganges is a major life event. the ceremony might begin with tonsuring – i.e., shaving the baby’s head – and then the parent or grandparent carries the baby into the river. for some, a splash on the legs is enough; for others, only full immersion will do. either way, the baby isn’t going to be happy about it. see how much fun this is? i guess not. and again, not so much fun. the legs are okay … … but not in the face! some babies don’t handle head-shaving as well…

welcome to the kumbh mela

the kumbh mela is a hindu pilgrimage during which tens of millions of hindus come to the banks of the ganges to bathe in the holy waters. the kumbh mela is held every three years on a rotating basis at one of four sites – hardiwar, allahabad, nasik and ujjain – where, according to legend, drops fell when the gods and demons fought over a pitcher of the nectar of immortality. this year’s kumbh mela was held at allahabad, which is especially significant because it is the point where three rivers – the ganges, the yamuna, and the mythical saraswati…