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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sadhus in Nepal are well-known for smoking hashish. They use the drug to help gain a high level of meditation.
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.
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.
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.
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
If you’d like to visit the Sadhus yourself check out my free travel guide to Pashupatinath
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July 2, 2012 • 23 comments