Bathing at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Sariswati rivers during India’s Kumbh Mela on February 10th is a chance to break the cycle of re-birth and upon one’s death, go straight to heaven. In effect, bathing in the Ganges at the Kumbh on February 10th, 2013 is a shortcut to nirvana. Tomorrow, February 10th is one of the most important and auspicious bathing dates of this year’s Kumbh Mela and among those who will bathe, are the Sadhus. Sadhus are a key component of my photography of the Kumbh Mela, so I spent the afternoon in the Sadhu ashrams, observing and photographing some Sadhus. The Sadhu camps had a carnival like atmosphere and photography was difficult at best because the small areas in which the Sadhus were located became media circuses.
In Hinduism, sadhu साधु means “good man or holy man” and denotes an ascetic, wandering monk. The vast majority of sādhus are yogis and are solely dedicated to achieving “mokṣa” or liberation, the fourth and final “aśrama” or stage of life. Most try to achieve this through meditation, contemplation and the copious use of marijuana and hashish. Sādhus are often either naked and covered in ash, or wear saffron-colored clothing, a symbol of their sanyāsa or renunciation. I find Sadhus to be interesting, unusual, entertaining and often particularly photogenic.