Sadhus, holy men of Hinduism

For the Hindus, the ultimate goal of any life is to reach Moksha : the illumination and to stop the reincarnation cycle and access the Divine. This goal is unfortunately rarely achieved. It's to this end that Sadhus choose a way of life entirely dedicated to their gods, thus hoping to accelerate the process of reincarnation and to be able, with their death, to reach Moksha.

India always considered highly Sadhus since thousands of years, perhaps even since prehistory. In the beginnings, their role was similar to the present-day Shamans. Considered today by all the Hindus as men of a great wisdom, Sadhus are venerated as demigods.

Thanks to their exemplary control, their religious knowledge, and their competence as spiritual Masters having accumulated a great mystical experience, the Hindu tradition respects them like true Saints.

They now represent nearly 0,5 % of the Indian population, that is to say four to five million people who all choose to live this way of life based on mysticism and asceticism.

Sadhus cut any bond with their family and only possess a few things. Symbol of their holiness, they are dress with a simple "longhi", a saffron colored tunic for Shivaists, and yellow or white for Vishnuists, sometimes wearing necklaces.

  Sâdhu du Kerala

Pilgrims on Nepal and India's roads don't have roofs to live and thus travel throughout their life, eating thanks to devotees's offerings along their wanders and pilgrimages.

Sâdhus en pèlerinage   Sâdhu Shivaïste

In their search for absolute, Sadhus practice tapas, recitations of mantras, ritual magic, breathing control, yoga unifying body and soul, sexual abstinence, wish of silence, meditation or mortifications. The practice of tapas allows them to increase their spiritual energy and thus to reach a status close to the divine. Many of them ritually consume hashish, as Shiva is supposed to do it. Although prohibited by the law, this practice is however tolerated by the Indian State.

Sâdhu du Rajasthan   Sâdhvi, femme Sâdhu

In addition to their own spiritual search, the original reasons which push Sadhus to chose this way of life can be very diverse : to flee one's caste, because the holy men do not recognize them ; to escape a painful marital status ; to flee a calamitous economic situation ; but also, for some, to avoid the infamy of widowhood. indeed, although a minority, there are also women Sadhus called Sâdhvis. These last represent approximately 10 % of the Sâdhu population.

The allegiance of Sadhus to the gods of Shiva or Vishnu is easily recognizable by the traditional drawings that they paint on their face but also by the color of their clothing.

Sâdhu de Varanasi   Sâdhu de Jaisalmer
Sadhus are committed body and soul in their spiritual search. They leave a professional and family life, sometimes very enviable, renouncing to the material and temporal attachments. Often almost naked and covered in dust, they choose to beg for their food and wander through the paths of sacred India. Recluses or in groups, they traverse the country indeed, from pilgrimages to holy places of hinduism. After years of wandering, they will finally find a “land of asylum” where they will be able to stay in order to guide the pilgrims searching for a spiritual guide and to teach their knowledge to others.
Vieux guru au bord du Gange   Chellas, futurs Sâdhus
Called “Chellas”, the future Sadhus will follow during several years the precepts of their guru, to become after years of wander and devotion an accomplished holy man.
Sur les ghats de Bénarès
Tanguy&Violette © 2005-2008 - All rights reserved.