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Unwind

Reclusive Naga sadhus a huge draw at Kumbh Mela

Updated : 2019-01-17 14:06:51

Ash-smeared and dreadlocked Naga sadhus or Hindu ascetics, naked except for rosary beads and garlands and smoking wooden pipes, are a huge draw at the world's largest religious festival that began this week in India.

At the Kumbh Mela, or "festival of the pot", held this year in Prayagraj, in Uttar Pradesh, organisers expect up to 150 million people to bathe at the confluence of three holy rivers: the Ganges, the Yamuna and a mythical third river, the Saraswati.

The festival is one of the only opportunities to see the reclusive Naga sadhus, some of whom live in caves after taking a vow of celibacy and renouncing worldly possessions.

Their charge down to the waters to bathe at the opening of the Kumbh, many armed with tridents and swords, is one of the highlights of the festival.

"It is a confluence of all Naga sadhus at the meeting point of these holy rivers," said Anandnad Saraswati, a Naga sadhu from Mathura.

"They meet each other, they interact with each other and they meditate and pray here at the holy confluence. They give their message to the people and they transform people."

Most of the Nagas enter the orders in their early teens, leaving their friends and families to immerse themselves in meditation, yoga and religious rituals. It can take years to be conferred with the title of a Naga, they say.

"One has to live a life of celibacy for six years. After that the person is given the title of a great man and 12 years after that he is made a Naga," said Digambar Kedar Giri, a Naga sadhu from Jaipur.

Image Courtesy: Reuters/Associated Press (AP)

Naga Sadhus take a dip during the first
Naga Sadhus take a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) during "Kumbh Mela" in Prayagraj, previously known as Allahabad, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Sadhus arrive for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers — the Yamuna, the Ganges and the mythical Saraswati — that dates back to at least medieval times. The city’s Mughal-era name Allahabad was recently changed to Prayagraj. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Sadhus arrive for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers — the Yamuna, the Ganges and the mythical Saraswati — that dates back to at least medieval times. The city’s Mughal-era name Allahabad was recently changed to Prayagraj. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Sadhus arrive for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Sadhus arrive for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A Naga Sadhu arrives on a horse back for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January  15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A Naga Sadhu arrives on a horse back for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January  15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Naga Sadhus leave their camp for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Naga Sadhus leave their camp for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A Naga Sadhu stands holding a trident on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January  15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A Naga Sadhu stands holding a trident on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January  15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A Naga Sadhu arrives for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, Jan.15, 2019. The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers — the Yamuna, the Ganges and the mythical Saraswati — that dates back to at least medieval times. The city’s Mughal-era name Allahabad was recently changed to Prayagraj. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A Naga Sadhu arrives for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, Jan.15, 2019. The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers — the Yamuna, the Ganges and the mythical Saraswati — that dates back to at least medieval times. The city’s Mughal-era name Allahabad was recently changed to Prayagraj. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A Naga Sadhu gestures they arrive for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January  15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A Naga Sadhu gestures they arrive for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January  15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Sadhus take a dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Sadhus take a dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Sadhus take a dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers the Yamuna, the Ganges and the mythical Saraswati that dates back to at least medieval times. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Sadhus take a dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers the Yamuna, the Ganges and the mythical Saraswati that dates back to at least medieval times. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
A Sadhu takes a dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
A Sadhu takes a dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
A Naga Sadhu, covers himself in ash after taking a dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
A Naga Sadhu, covers himself in ash after taking a dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Sadhus in saffron clothes arrive for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Sadhus in saffron clothes arrive for ritualistic dip on auspicious Makar Sankranti day during the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Naga Sadhus leave after taking a dip during the first
Naga Sadhus leave after taking a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at "Kumbh Mela" in Prayagraj, previously known as Allahabad, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Naga Sadhus arrive to take a dip during the first
Naga Sadhus arrive to take a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at "Kumbh Mela" in Prayagraj, previously known as Allahabad, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
Devotees use their mobile phones to take photographs of a religious procession as Naga Sadhus arrive to take a dip during the first
Devotees use their mobile phones to take photographs of a religious procession as Naga Sadhus arrive to take a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at "Kumbh Mela" in Prayagraj, previously known as Allahabad,, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
Naga Sadhus arrive to take a dip during the first
Naga Sadhus arrive to take a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at "Kumbh Mela" in Prayagraj, previously known as Allahabad, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
A Naga Sadhu smokes outside his tent ahead of the
A Naga Sadhu smokes outside his tent ahead of the "Kumbh Mela", in Prayagraj, previously known as Allahabad, January 13, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
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