Holy Men of Kumbh Mela in India - as part of the travel series by GeoBeats.
Kumbh Mela means “pitcher festival”. It is the largest Hindu pilgrimage and possibly the largest gathering of human beings on planet earth for a single event. There are several types of such festivals and they take place every few years, rotating between four locations. Holy men, known as Sadhus, are an important part of Kumbh mela. They cover themselves in ashes before they bathe at different spots along the sacred Ganges River in India as they believe that bathing in the river cleanses them of their sins.
Hindu holy men number in the millions in India. They are considered the monks or priests of Hinduism, and live a very unusual life including renouncing family and society for the religious purpose of gaining a form of enlightenment. They practice a variety of religious rites and customs, which vary according to the different sects that exist, but practices vary from fasting, to standing on one leg for extended periods of time, meditation and yogic practices, to vows of silence, to smoking cannabis or hashish. Sadhus are allowed to receive donations, but many live in hunger and poverty.
Women are also allowed to become Saddhus, but they make up only a small percent of the Sadhu population.