The Naga Sadhus

India & Nepal

The ‘Naga Sadhus’ are a particular group of Hindu Monks who reside in the Himalayan caves and come to visit the civilization only during the Hindu religious festivals and pilgrimage. ‘Naga’ in Sanskrit (an ancient Indo-European language of India) means mountain, and people residing in and around mountains are known as ‘Pahadi or Naga’.

The history of Naga Sadhus is very old, the traces of legacy are found in Mohenjo-daro coins and images where Naga Sadhus are shown worshiping the Hindu god Shiva in Pashupatinath form.  Alexander the Great and his soldiers also met Naga Sadhus during their stay in India. Buddha and Mahavir were impressed to see the penance of Naga Sadhus, their devotion for the people and motherland. Jainese Digambar tradition has roots to Naga rituals.

During invasion of Mughals emperors, there were series of attacks on the Sanatan Dharma and Hindu structures, at that point of time, a massive exercise was carried out by Naga Sadhus to organize their strength and form‘Akhara’ ( wrestling ground). They used ‘Akhara’ to  fight under one Saffron flag to protect Hindu culture and Vedic tradition of India. The member of an ‘Akhara’ should always be ready for an intellectual fight and wrestling.

Naga Sadhus are mostly half-clothed and some prefer to live completely naked with long dreadlocks on their heads. Their faces are always covered with the ashes of burnt dead bodies. They smear the ashes of dead bodies on their whole bodies too. Almost all of them are the followers of Hindu God Shiva. They have unique styles of praying and meditation. They smoke Marijuana through a pipe called a ‘Chillum or Shiv Muli’. They use it as a tool to avoid the worldly distraction, yet have self-control even in the intoxicated state. But as they advance in spiritual life, they renounce intoxication too.

Naga Sadhus do not like to live near the societies of common people in order to avoid the  influence of lust, sex, and worldly attractions. They renounce the materialistic world and practice celibacy to escape from the cycle of birth and death, and to attend salvation. Naga Sadhus are often misunderstood by the western culture as part of Indian religious gimmicks.

 Following these rules and regulations, a person can become a Naga Sadhu :-

1) Strong Celibacy and Penance: A person who is interested in pursuing a life of Naga Sadhu should have complete control over his lust, sexual feelings and erotic libido. Practicing Brahmacharya (celibacy) is not limited to only physical body but also on moral values. Mentally a person should renounce material wealth and desire for worldly things. First such person is tested rigorously on the norms of Brahmacharya and then it is ensured that he attaines self-control. Later, he is admitted in the group for training to become Naga. This permission to become Naga is known as ‘Diksha’, but there are many other conditions which need to be fulfilled before the permission is given.

2) Service to Guru, People and Country: A person who has attained control over his senses is of no use, if he does not have love and respect for the Guru, people and country. Ego-centered person is liability on society and country. He cannot be trusted to perform ‘Rashtradharma’ (Duty towards Nation).

Serving and following the orders of his Guru would help the person in removing his self-ego. Selfless respect sows the seed of developing human loving nature to protect people and country. Youths between 16 yrs to 18 yrs come forward to serve the country as Naga Sadhus.

3) Last Rites: It is very important to perform the last rites, considering him dead for the family and society. It is like a new birth of a person in a new world of Nagas. The last rites, ‘Pind Daan’ and ‘Shraddha’ (funeral rites) are performed by the individual himself, relinquishing his connection with the family members and friends. After this, his Guru gives him new name and identity.

Spirituality cannot be defined, but can be described as a journey to the center of the soul.