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Sadhus have a blast at the Kumbh Mela

Last updated on: April 5, 2010 09:40 IST

Sadhus have a blast at the Kumbh Mela

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Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt, Sanchari Bhattacharya and Reuben N V travel to Haridwar to be a part of the world's largest religious gathering.

Thousands of sadhus and sants from across India have congregated in Haridwar to attend the Purna Kumbh Mela.

Many of them participated in the Chaitra Purnima Snan (religious bath) at Har ki Pauri, the main ghaat in Haridwar.


Image: Sadhus participate in the Chaitra Purnima Snan
Photographs: Reuben NV
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The Chaitra Purnima Snan is one of the several religious baths which are considered the main events of Kumbh Mela.

It is also known as Akhara Snan -- the day when thousands of sadhus from the six Vaishnav akharas take a ritual dip in Ganga Ma.


Image: Sadhus enjoy the Akhara Snan
Photographs: Reuben NV
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Sadhus have a blast at the Kumbh Mela

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The Naga sadhus are one of the major attractions of the Kumbh Mela. These sadhus give up everything, including their clothes, during their indoctrination into sanyaas.

Though they are considered to be short-tempered and aggressive, most Naga sadhus simply prefer to be left alone. They quietly inhabit a remote camp at the Mela and are reluctant to talk to the media or the tourists.


Image: Naga sadhus at the Kumbh Mela
Photographs: Reuben NV
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They are known to be avid worshippers of Agni (fire god) and smear themselves with vibhuti (ash). The vibhuti is believed to not only be holy but also hold special protective and curative powers.

Many devotees at the Mela seek out these reclusive Naga sadhus to obtain their special vibhuti.


Image: A Naga sadhu at the Kumbh Mela
Photographs: Reuben NV
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Sadhus have a blast at the Kumbh Mela

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These sadhus are known for their penchant for their ganja (cannabis) chillams. With a deafening cry of Alak Niranjan (A term denoting God; literally means the one who is sightless and spot-free), they light up their chillams and take a drag.

But they insist that the mild narcotic, taken in limited quantities, helps them concentrate better during meditation and yoga.


Image: A Naga sadhu at the Kumbh Mela
Photographs: Reuben NV
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Sadhus have a blast at the Kumbh Mela

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The Maha Kumbh Mela held in Prayag every 12 years is considered to be the world's largest religious gathering. The Maha Kumbh held in 2001 attracted over 1.5 crore people.

But the Purna Kumbh Mela in Haridwar witnesses the maximum gathering of saints and holy men; most of them come from ashrams in nearby religious sites like Hrishikesh, Uttarkashi, Ujjwain, Onkareshwar, Badrinath and Kedarnath.


Image: Some sadhus share a light moment at the Kumbh Mela
Photographs: Reuben NV
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Sadhus have a blast at the Kumbh Mela

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Most of them put up make-shift ashrams at the venue of the Mela, which goes on for four months, along with their devoted followers and disciples.

While some of these ashrams are huge and ostentatious, others are humble and parsimonious, and the steady flow of the faithful is the common thread that binds them.


Image: A sadhu catches up on the morning news
Photographs: Reuben NV
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The ritual bath in the Ganga, during the Kumbh Mela, is believed to wash away one's accumulated sins and put an end to the endless cycle of life and birth

Haridwar is believed to be the place where the Ganga leaves her Himayalan abode and flows into the plains.


Image: A sadhu enjoys a quiet moment
Photographs: Reuben NV
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Sadhus have a blast at the Kumbh Mela

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Kumbh Mela is also famous for the flamboyance and unique style sported by the various sadhus, right from the unruly dreadlocks to the bright attires.

Saffron, red, yellow and white are the most common hues worn by these saint. The varying shades are indicative of the progress made in one's spiritual journey, whether he/she is practising Brahmacharya, Vaanprastha or Sanyaas.


Image: A sadhu on his way to the Akhara Snan
Photographs: Sheela Bhatt
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Many of these holy men and women have several foreign devotees, who travel from United States, Europe, Australia and other Asian nations to be with their Guru ji or Mata ji at the Kumbh Mela.

Image: Some sadhus pose for a tourist at the Kumbh Mela
Photographs: Reuben NV
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