Friday, September 4, 2015

The Magic of The Shahi Snan Trimbakeshwar ,,2015

I was stuck beneath the Press enclosure and I had Jeetendra from Reuters for company , I tried not to get too adventurous , in moving from the place where I stood as I believed I was lucky to be inside the Kund as I shoot a storyboard I thought I would be happy with what I get and I did not want to be conspicuous I merged with the heavy saffron background ,, and here too I have restricted my frontal nudity of the Naga Sadhus in keeping with Flickr guidelines ,, as Flickr is the source and archive of my 349000 images .
When I first shot the naked Naga Sadhus at Flickr in 2003 all my pictures were moderated by Flickr staff I tried to explain to them about the culture of the Naga Sadhu their nakedness as part of their religiosity but Flickr refused to budge and till day those pictures are restricted .
And I understand that there are kids on Flickr and coy ladies who might take offense so I moderate my pictures accordingly ,,my entire bulk of Maha Kumbh pictures of the Shahi Snan are of the naked Naga Sadhus and they are all restricted ,, only Flickr members can see them..
So being a people photographer shooting culture rituals one has to self moderate your stuff however good prolific photographer you are ,,
I simply follow Flickr guidelines ,,

Documenting Nasikh Kumbh Shahi Snan Trimbakeshwar 2015

Documenting Hope And Hindutva ,, Nasik Kumbh Trimbakeshwar 2015

Unless you are a Press person , I think getting into the Trimbakeshwar Kund during the time allotted for the Juna Akhara Naga Sadhus is almost next to impossible , and once you do manage to enter the Kund it is impossible to get a vantage position to shoot it is totally packed despite each Akhara being allowed in turn.. and the cops and the volunteers of the Kund will be hounding you every time ,,
The Press enclosure is like a virtual fish market , and the hotshots wont ever let you breach their space and if you do manage to get some space they will bully you out of it ,, there is no compassion or mercy in the photo journalist world ,, it is each one for himself ,,, and I shot an entire 32 GB card here RAW and JPEG and once the Naga Akharas had done their dip I left too I was not greedy for more ,, I got what I wanted though I missed taking my dip as my Naga Guru and I lost each other in the onrush. I had no regrets but I know had I taken the Dip I would have to follow my Guru back to our tent at Sadhugram.. Even at the Maha Kumbh I had to follow him back from the dip at the Sangam on Shahi Snan Day Basant Panchami .
I guess the Gods helped the photographer in me I had carried a 50 mm lens and 18 135 I missed my telly lens , I was told by my Guru not to carry a bag at the Kund ,, so I had just a waist pouch.. and the chant of Har Har Mahadev urging pushing me forward ,, And after I have completed this Shahi Snan lot I will post pictures of Ramkund and Tapovan.. at Panchvati Nasikh ,, all part of my Kumbh Mela Nasikh 2015 ,, Hope and Hindutva set .. My Hindu Blogs ,,

About Sadhus

In Hinduism, a sādhu (Sanskrit sādhu, "good; good man, holy man") is a religious ascetic or holy person.[1] Although the vast majority of sādhus are yogīs, not all yogīs are sādhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa (liberation), the fourth and final aśrama (stage of life), through meditation and contemplation of Brahman. Sādhus often wear saffron-coloured clothing, symbolising their sannyāsa (renunciation). This way of life is open to women; the female form of the word is sādhvī. In 2014, an all-female akhada (group of sadhus) was formed; it is believed to be the first such group in India.[2]

The Sanskrit terms sādhu ("good man") and sādhvī ("good woman") refer to renouncers who have chosen to live a life apart from or on the edges of society to focus on their own spiritual practice.[3]

The words come from the root sādh, which means "reach one's goal", "make straight", or "gain power over".[4] The same root is used in the word sādhanā, which means "spiritual practice".

Sadhu rituals[edit]
Sadhus are sannyasins (renunciates) who have left behind all material attachments and live in caves, forests and Hindu temples all over India and Nepal.

A sadhu is usually referred to as baba by common people. The word baba also means father, grandfather, or uncle in many Indian languages. Sometimes the respectful suffix -ji may also be added after baba, to give greater respect to the renunciate. It is also a term of endearment for small boys.

There are 4 to 5 million sadhus in India today and they are widely respected for their holiness,[5] and sometimes feared for their curses.[citation needed] It is also thought that the austere practices of the sadhus help to burn off their karma and that of the community at large. Thus seen as benefiting society, sadhus are supported by donations from many people. However, reverence of sadhus is by no means universal in India. Historically and contemporarily, sadhus have often been viewed with a certain degree of suspicion, particularly amongst the urban populations of India.[citation needed] Today, especially in popular pilgrimage cities, posing as a sadhu can be a means of acquiring income for non-devout beggars.[citation needed]

There are naked (digambara, or "sky-clad") sadhus who wear their hair in thick dreadlocks called jata. Aghori sadhus may claim to keep company with ghosts and live in cemeteries as part of their holy path. Indian culture tends to emphasise an infinite number of paths to God, such that sadhus, and the varieties of tradition they continue, have their place.

A popular characteristic of Sadhu ritualism is their utilisation of cannabis (known as charas) as a form of sacrament in line with their worship of Shiva who was believed to have an adoration or affinity for the leaves of the plant.[6] The plant is widely used during the celebration of Maha Shivaratri.

Sadhu sects[edit]
Sadhus engage in a wide variety of religious practices. Some practice extreme asceticism while others focus on praying, chanting or meditating. There are two primary sectarian divisions within the sadhu community: Shaiva sadhus, ascetics devoted to Shiva, and Vaishnava sadhus, renouncers devoted to Vishnu and/or his incarnations, which include Rama and Krishna. Less numerous are Shakta sadhus, who are devoted to Shakti. Within these general divisions are numerous sects and subsects, reflecting different lineages and philosophical schools and traditions (often referred to as "sampradayas").

The Dashanami Sampradaya are Smartists; sadhus in the sect take one of the ten names as an appellation upon initiation. The sect is said to have been formed by the philosopher and renunciant Adi Shankara, believed to have lived in the 8th century CE, though the full history of the sect's formation is not clear. Among them are the Naga, naked sadhu known for carrying weapons like tridents, swords, canes, and spears. Said to have once functioned as an armed order to protect Hindus from the Mughal rulers, they were involved in a number of military defence campaigns. (1953: 116; cf. also Farquhar 1925; J. Ghose 1930; Lorenzen 1978)[7] Generally in the ambit of non-violence at present, some sections are known to practice wrestling and martial arts. Their retreats are still called chhaavni or armed camps, and mock duels are still sometimes held between them.

While sadhus ostensibly leave behind traditional caste at initiation, the caste backgrounds of initiates does influence the sects into which they are admitted; certain ascetic groups, such as the Dandis within the Dashnami sampradaya, are composed only of men of brahmin birth, while other groups admit people from a wide variety of caste backgrounds.[citation needed]

Female sadhus (sadhvis) exist in many sects. In many cases, the women that take to the life of renunciation are widows, and these types of sadhvis often live secluded lives in ascetic compounds. Sadhvis are sometimes regarded by some as manifestations or forms of the Goddess, or Devi, and are honoured as such. There have been a number of charismatic sadhvis that have risen to fame as religious teachers in contemporary India—e.g., Anandamayi Ma, Sarada Devi, Mata Amritanandamayi, and Karunamayi.[8]

Becoming a sadhu[edit]

A sadhu in Kathmandu.
The processes and rituals of becoming a sadhu vary with sect; in almost all sects, a sadhu is initiated by a guru, who bestows upon the initiate a new name, as well as a mantra, (or sacred sound or phrase), which is generally known only to the sadhu and the guru and may be repeated by the initiate as part of meditative practice.

Becoming a sadhu is a path followed by millions. It is supposed to be the fourth phase in a Hindu's life, after studies, being a father and a pilgrim, but for most it is not a practical option. For a person to become sadhu needs vairagya. Vairagya means desire to achieve something by leaving the world (cutting familial, societal and earthly attachments).

A person who wants to become sadhu must first seek a guru. There, he or she must perform 'guruseva' which means service. The guru decides whether the person is eligible to take sannyasa by observing the sisya (the person who wants to become a sadhu or sanyasi). If the person is eligible, guru upadesa (which means teachings) is done. Only then, the person transforms into sanyasi or sadhu. There are different types of sanyasis in India who follow different sampradya. But, all sadhus have a common goal: attaining moksha (liberation).

Living as a sadhu is a difficult lifestyle. Sadhus are considered to be dead unto themselves, and legally dead to the country of India. As a ritual, they may be required to attend their own funeral before following a guru for many years, serving him by doing menial tasks until acquiring the necessary experience to leave his leadership.

While the life of renunciation is described as the fourth stage of life in the classical Sanskrit literature of the Hindu tradition, and the members of certain sects—particularly those dominated by initiates of brahman background—have typically lived as householders and raised families before becoming sadhus, many sects are composed of men that have renounced early in life, often in their late teens or early 20s. In a few cases, those who choose the sadhu life are fleeing from family or financial situations which they have found to be untenable,[citation needed] if there is some worldly debt that remains to be repaid, would-be renunciates are encouraged by their gurus to pay off those debts before they become sadhus.[9]

In 1970 the first westerner became a Sadhu, Baba Rampuri.


A sadhu in Madurai, India.
The ruggedness of the sadhu life deters many from following the sadhu path. Such practices as the obligatory early morning bath in the cold mountains require a detachment from common luxuries. After the bath, sadhus gather around the dhuni, or holy fireplace, and begin with their prayers and meditation for the day.

Some sadhus dispense cures to the local community, remove evil eyes or bless a marriage. They are a walking reminder to the average Hindu of Divinity. They are generally allowed free passage on the trains and are a close-knit organisation.

Kumbh Mela, a mass-gathering of sadhus from all parts of India, takes place every three years at one of four points along sacred rivers in India, including the holy River Ganges. In 2007 it was held in Nasik, Maharashtra. Peter Owen-Jones filmed one episode of "Extreme Pilgrim" there during this event. It took place again in Haridwar in 2010.[10] Sadhus of all sects join in this reunion. Millions of non-sadhu pilgrims also attend the festivals, and the Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering of human beings for a single religious purpose on the planet; the most recent Kumbh Mela started on 14 January 2013, at Allahabad.[11] At the festival, sadhus are the "biggest crowd pullers", where many of them, "completely naked with ash-smeared bodies, sprint into the chilly waters for a dip at the crack of dawn".[12]

The lives of sadhus in contemporary India vary tremendously. Sadhus live in ashrams and temples in the midst of major urban centres, in huts on the edges of villages, in caves in the remote mountains. Others live lives of perpetual pilgrimage, moving without ceasing from one town, one holy place, to another. Some gurus live with one or two disciples; some ascetics are solitary, while others live in large, communal institutions. For some sadhus the brotherhood or sisterhood of ascetics is very important.

The rigour of the spiritual practices in which contemporary sadhus engage also varies a great deal. Apart from the very few that engage in the most dramatic, striking austerities—for example, standing on one leg for years on end or remaining silent for a dozen years—most sadhus engage in some form of religious practice: devotional worship, hatha yoga, fasting, etc. For many sadhus, consumption of certain forms of cannabis[13] is accorded a religious significance.[14] Sadhus occupy a unique and important place in Hindu society, particularly in villages and small towns more closely tied to tradition. In addition to bestowing religious instruction and blessings to lay people, sadhus are often called upon to adjudicate disputes between individuals or to intervene in conflicts within families. Sadhus are also living embodiments of the divine, images of what human life, in the Hindu view, is truly about – religious illumination and liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Though some ascetic sects possess properties that generate revenue to sustain members, most sadhus rely on the donations of lay people; poverty and hunger are ever-present realities for many sadhus.

The Humble Ear Wax Cleaners of Bandra Talao

When I am down, depressed I come here to Bandra Talao I find it more enlightening than a religious place , I come and listen to these ear cleaners their impending fate of being evicted from here after having served the public for 40 years ..Kassim bhai was telling me he cleaned ears for one anna and the Nandi talkies was built in his time ,, his father gave up his job as a farmer to till ears and so Kassim and Nabi his brother clean years for Rs 20 .
The Bandra Talao is being revamped and renovated once they sat inside now they sit on a few slabs and do their work without creating nuisance the dirty cotton buds are kept in a tin box ,, My American friend Alex wants to have his ears cleaned once he comes to see me in Mumbai ..he only wants them to disinfect their ear picks .. these guys are plumb poor ,, sometimes I pay them all three including a Hindu guy Raju without having my ears cleaned ,,
But mostly I sit and self shoot videos in selfie mode ,, and on You Tube these are my most visited famous videos ,,
I sit chat with them and last time I sat with Kassim he told me a drunk at had fallen in the pond there is no security and kids come and fish here , most of them fish , and throw the catch on the roads ,,I have documented the Bandra Talao for many years now ,, but it is the earcleaners that mean a lot to me , they wait for me and if I have time I will sit with them ,, today while I was shooting a local drunk came and caught me to shoot him I blasted him .. this place is home for drunks and drugaddicts ..I shot two videos ,, one was about 14 minute ,, and the other a short one ,,sometimes I pay for the guy who is having his ear cleaned ,,
Both Kassim and Nabi have fields that the children till plough , the kids dont want to be ear cleaners .. Raju does not say much about himself.. he is quiet reticent ,, when business is bad their end they walk the streets cleaning ears .. today was a bad day ,, no business no fucked Acche Din..
One of the Municipality Arbab had told Kassim to go back to his native place ,, but they wont budge from here ..and these are stories that I shoot and share ,,earlier I bought Nerjis here as she loved feeding the pigeons ,, and shooting the ear cleaners ,, but now she hardly goes out busy with her I Pad.
After my ears were cleaned I crossed the road bought bloodworms from my friend Naeem and walked back home wife is in Delhi with my daughter ,,

Documenting Naga Sadhus Nasik Kumbh 2015 Trimbakeshwar

I began uploading my pictures at Flickr since 30 August and till date I have posted 1819 images ,, I still have to upload the Shahi Snan a 32 GB card and the next section after this Nasik Kumbh Ramkund Tapovan 2015.
When I returned from Nashik I still had not used most of my memory cards ..I had not shot much as I normally do my late Guru KG Maheshwariji called me trigger happy but than I am a documentarist a photo blogger hardly an analogue fine art photographer , we see things differently we react differently I dont need fucked acceptances or certificates of Merit ,,or Hon mentions ,, We shoot to enjoy share and promote our composite culture and honestly if I did not shoot the Kumbh I would have been the biggest asshole this side of midnight ,,

I Shot This By Sheer Cosmic Accident .. The Naga Procession Neel Parbhat

I had come here with two Bollywood technicians they wanted to take a dip in the Trimbakeshwar Kund and both work in the light department and are disciples of my Naga Guru .. they  both live near Film City Goregaon like my Guru .

It was Sunil who spotted Bhagwati Giri and was about to introduce me to him , but I already knew him from Maha Kumbh he had taken us on a boat on the Sangam.. he told me about this procession that was going to start close to where I stay at Sadhugram.. but I got the timings wrong ..

On my return back to base I called Bhagwati Giri he told me the Naga procession would start at  10.30 am but it started much early and I thought of skipping it but than followed it on a bike and shot this long trek barefeet till Neel Parbat ,

Bhagwati Giri is a very well connected  Naga Guru he had introduced us at Allahabad Maha Kumbh to the Sabapati and other important Maha Mandleshwars including Shri Kalyan Anandji of 18 Madi Juna Akhara .

And after this the following day I shot the Shahi Snan procession including the Holy Dip of most of the Akharas of the Naga Sadhus ,,