Sadhus of Nepal

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ July 2nd, 2012. Filed under: Nepal, Photography.
Portrait of a Sadhu from Nepal

Photographs of Sadhu’s from Nepal

The Sadhus of Nepal are its wandering Holy men

Sadhus in Hinduism are wandering holy men or monks revered for being good. Many Sadhus are also Yogis who are practitioners of meditation. They have have chosen a life away from or at least on the edges of normal society to focus on their own spiritual practice.

Portrait of bearded Sadhu

Sadhu’s are referred to as Baba’s by locals

Talking with a Sadhu is said to either be wildly confusing or deeply insightful. Either way being able to speak Hindi is a huge advantage in deciphering what they are saying. However a few Sadhus do understand more English than you might at first have guessed.

Sadhu's are peaceful and do not have any possessions

Sadhu’s are peaceful and do not have any possessions

Buying or using these photographs:

Please note that these photographs are copyright protected. If you would like to buy a print then do visit my travel photography gallery of Nepal. If the image is not available there, or you would like to use the image for a personal or commercial website then contact me directly.  

Sadhus in Nepal live a simple un-materialistic life

They do not have any material nor sexual attachments. Many live in basic dwellings such as in caves, forests or Hindu temples. Some Sadhus claim to live with ghosts in cemeteries.  Sadhus live on the support of the people they encounter. Though the purists say otherwise in my experience they do accept donations for food or clothing.

Sadhu's in Nepal are usually very friendly

Sadhus in Nepal are usually very friendly

Such a life of hardship means not many follow the path of a true Sadhu. However there are many fake Sadhus who come out only on such occasions as festivals to cash in on the generosity of others. Or simply to make money by other means.

At Pashupatinath one man claiming to be a Sadhu approached me looking for money. A Nepalese friend said he was from India. I told him to go away and that I came here to see Nepal and not hand money to people asking for it from India.


The crowd around us broke out into a loud cheer of Nepalese national pride. The money asking Sadhu slipped away.

Sadhu eating dal bhat

Sadhu eating dal bhat

How to become a Sadhu

After an education a Sadhu will first cut ties with everything. Including possessions, friends, family and society. They are in fact declared ritually dead, and often attend their own funerals. They must then seek a guru to perform ‘guruseva’ which means service and learn the ways of the Sadhu.

A ninety plus year old Sadhu

A ninety plus year old Sadhu

Throughout India and Nepal there are many different sects of Sadhus. Each sect has their own rituals and rights of passage before allowing an individual to become a Sadhu. Women can also become Sadhus and are known as Sadhvi.

Sadhu's inside a temple compound being fed

Sadhus inside a temple compound being fed dal bhat

Sadhu pilgrimages

Sadhus often take on pilgrimages to various religious festivals in both India and Nepal. The most celebrated festival of Sadhus in Nepal is Shivaratri. Shivaratri is held in honor of the Hindu deity Shiva. If you visit Nepal during this time you’ll see many Sadhus in Pashupatinath which contains Nepal’s oldest Hindu temple.

Sadhu's will make long pilgrimages to festivals

Sadhus will sit and meditate for hours

Sadhus in Nepal are well-known for smoking hashish. They use the drug to help gain a high level of meditation.

A naked Sadhu

A naked Naga Sadhu in a trance like dance

It is not uncommon to find a naked “Naga” Sadhu at festivals or meditating. Some Sadhus belong to sects that do not shave and let their hair grow into dreadlocks.

An old Sadhu

An old Sadhu making a pilgrimage to Kathmandu

The Hanuman Sadhu

While at Shivaratri in Nepal I came across one the more unusual Sadhus. A Sadhu dressed like the Hindu deity Hanuman who has the face of a monkey. I’m told that this is how he makes his living as he does create quite an attraction.

A crouching Hanuman Sadhu

A crouching Hanuman Sadhu about to approach a tourist

I did witness the Hanuman Sadhu eating and talking with other Sadhus so I don’t think it’s all gimmick. The costume itself is elaborately decorated and complete with a monkey’s tail. The man behind the mask bares lines of age so I do also think he’s been around a while.

Face of the Hanuman Sadhu in Nepal

Face of the Hanuman Sadhu in Nepal

Sadhus of Nepal come from all around the Hindu world

I can’t promise all of these Sadhus are Nepalese. But I can promise they were all in Nepal when I photographed them.

Sadhus are wandering Holy men that traverse not just Nepal and India but further afield as well. They are a different breed of traveler. They live like few other people on earth.

These are the Sadhus of Nepal.

This is an additional feature article featuring the Sadhus of Nepal 

Travel Tip:

If you’d like to visit the Sadhus yourself check out my free travel guide to Pashupatnnath

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19 Great responses to Sadhus of Nepal

  1. Hey Dave, this is great. I really enjoyed seeing so many photos of the Sadhus – I don’t have a lot to say, I just wanted to let you know this was a great start to my monday morning. Cheers.

  2. Nice pics Dave, especially the first portrait – ripper ! Bought back memories; I hung-out in caves with them in Gujarat and at a temple near Hampi in India (1990), when I was a keen young stoner …

  3. BB Travels says:

    To experience such sights. These Sadhus look amazing. Did you talk to any of them?

  4. Victoria says:

    Very interesting to learn about other cultures. Great photos! What do they do in winter? Are they also able to walk around in little clothing, like the Tibetan monks do?

  5. Forrest says:

    I assure all these guys are from Nepal. I took photos,of them two years ago, and then last week. Holy? I dunno. Colorful tourist attractions, for sure.

  6. hayadeen says:

    Great article, great photos. I wonder how did you manage to take their pictures?
    anyway..interesting to know that they will first cut ties with Everything, including friends and family.

    hmm..but they are still friends with each other, right?

    • Thanks. I went up to them and took their photo! I did bring a Nepalese friend to help with trying to talk with a few. But even then it wasn’t that easy. Not everyone believes in their ways.

      They come from all over the country, and don’t all live together. So at festivals and things they recognize each other I’m sure.

      The three together in the photo above travel together as well. I remember them from 2008. Today they help the really old Sadhu I photographed above to move around.

  7. Really fascinating, thank you for sharing!

  8. Jason says:

    Some great shots there Dave. Ditto with Michael. Number one is a classic. Great composure and sharp….

    The old Baba’s of India and Nepal bring back quite a few old memories. I met some absolute crackers in India. No matter how hard I try. I find it difficult to even comprehend their life’s journey.

  9. Callie says:

    Wow, great pics…I love that monkey costume!

  10. Wow, exceptional photos! And interesting article about Sadhi’s. I dunno how you get your info but I wish I could get some of the insider info you do when I travel.

  11. Roxanne says:

    Loving the colors. Stunning photographs, as always. It is a treat to catch up on your blog on a sunny and frigid Friday afternoon in New England, knowing that I can get lost in pictures and stories, instead of being called to do my grad school reading. Hope you are well, friend.