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Naga Sadhus –The Holy Men Of India

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Maha Kumbh Mela of Haridwar 2010 would again witness the Naga Sadhus coming for a holy dip in Ganges, And, Naga Sadhus have always drawn attention of Western media, so through this post I would like to throw some light on these holy men of India.

Naga sadhus are a large and a prominent Shaiva sect, who have existed since the prehistoric past. The Naga sect is subdivided into Akharas, i.e. 'regiments', like an army. Their displays of weaponry -- sticks, spears, swords and especially the trident -- have a mostly symbolic function. Among the Nagas are many sadhus who walk about naked. High up in the icy Himalayas, but naked all the same, Bhola Giri Nagababa blows the serpentine horn, called nagphani, or 'cobra-hood’, producing one piercing note. This instrument is related to the cobra (naga), the intimate companion of Lord Shiva, always coiled around his neck.

In their nakedness they do not emanate sexuality. On the contrary, they control, inhibit the sexual 'vibrations', retaining its energy so it can be mystically transformed into psychic and spiritual power. The identification feature of Naga Sadhus include being naked with long hairs knotted with different metals and body smeared with ashes. Not only this, one can see Naga Sadhus could be seen wearing beads of Rudraksha, believe to posses positive healing power according to Hindu mythology. Not just a few but you can witness Naga sadhus wearing thousand of Rudraksha beads and is believed that wearing Eleven thousand Rudrakhsa beads will help them attain the form of Lord Shankara or Lord Shiva.

While you visit the akharas of Naga Sadhus, one can have a glance of these sadhus smoking “CHILUM” (Marijuana). The consumption of bhang is also considered to be a part of the rituals performed by Naga Sadhus. The sadhus hold the view that doing so will lead them to eternity or nirvana. Naga Sadhus belongs to different Akharas (which means camps) and each akharash have their own set of Naga Babas who are living this world in most unconventional way and follow their own set of religion and spiritual activities without caring about this world.

Kumbh Mela marks the gathering of hundreds of Naga Sadhus, who live in relative isolation in mountains, caves and communes in the Himalayas and other regions of India. Western media covering Kumbh mela has always misunderstood the Nagas Sadhu and have often called them Naked Hindu saints or naked holy men, but Nagas Sadhus don’t care what they are called. They are just representatives of Lord Shiva.


BK Chowla said...

Very informative post and I don't think and worry about what the west thinks of the Sadhus.