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.

Amar Bharti Baba’s atrophied arm, clenched hand and twisted fingernails have been held aloft since 1973


8 Responses to “Sadhus of the Kumbh Mela” Subscribe

  1. Chris James White February 10, 2013 at 4:27 pm #


    Oh boy, do I wish I was there!

    Fantastic images Karl, thanks for sharing.

    See you in Yangon soon…



  2. Barbara Colbert February 10, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Awesome images, Karl. The four photos that begin with the sadhu drinking are a powerful set. Have a great – and auspicious time – on the 10th!

  3. Doris February 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    FANTASTIC PHOTOS! Thank you very much!

    Doris & Jerry

  4. Lisa February 10, 2013 at 9:11 pm #


  5. Patsy Birchfield February 11, 2013 at 10:41 am #


  6. Paurav February 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Great show! I read all about this in our local newspapers but your images are extra-ordinary!
    keep going!

  7. Cheryl Griffin February 13, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    VERY NICE Karl! Love the lighting! # 100 is my favorite clean simple and direct eye contact with …. a message! how nice

  8. george sutton February 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm #


    You are the master. Glad to see you are doing well. I doubt anything from another universe could be more alien to me than the sadhus. Your photos usually capture differences and a common humanity at the same time. The sadhus are just different (from me that is — not being judgmental). I am at a complete loss to imagine what they are doing or thinking. It appears to be a kind of deliberate madness.

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