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the-south-asian.com                            February 2001

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Page  1  of  3


Sadhus Holy Men of India

by 

Dolf Hartsuiker

 

Text and photographs by Dolf Hartsuiker, author of the book "Sadhus, Holy Men of India".

Spiritual adventurers, ascetic warriors, devout mystics, occult rebels or philosophic monks, Sadhus remain a metaphysical curiosity. The media at the recent Kumbh Mela in Allahabad also focused intensively on Sadhus, who were present at this cosmic mela in thousands.

sadhus-_Shiva_Giri.jpg (8341 bytes)
Standing the world on its head, Shiva Giri practices yoga everyday -  by 'reversing all
values', by acting contrary to human nature, they intend to speed up enlightenment.

 

To Hindus, spiritual enlightenment has always represented the highest goal in life, the one thing that gives it meaning and purpose. Enlightenment is a state of being that is in principle attainable by everybody. The average individual, however, would need many incarnations to become enlightened, to see God, to become one with the Absolute, to merge one's mind with Cosmic Consciousness. 

sadhus-_Jivan_Sharan.jpg (5615 bytes)
Janaki Jivan Sharan, a sadhu who is regarded as a jivanmukta, i.e. a
'soul liberated while still alive.'

But since time immemorial shortcuts have been available for people wanting to become enlightened in this life rather than the next. Those who follow the fast track, mostly men, are the sadhus, the 'holy men' of India.

sadhus-_hatha_yoga.jpg (7834 bytes)
Performing a hatha yoga posture, the headstand, after the 'five-fire-austerity'. 

 

Sadhus have been around for thousands of years. Once they must have been more numerous, but even today there are still four to five million sadhus, constituting about half a percent of the total population. Organised in various sects, they pass on the wisdom of old, and the method of yoga to new disciples and followers.

The sadhus renounce 'the world' in order to focus entirely on the Higher Reality beyond. They abstain from sex, cut all family ties, have no possessions, no house, wear little or no clothing and eat little and simple food. Usually they live by themselves, on the fringes of society, and spend their days in devotion to their chosen deity. Some perform magical rituals to make contact with the gods, others practise intense forms of yoga and meditation to increase their spiritual powers and acquire mystical knowledge.

 

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