The Holy Men of Allahabad
My visit to Kumbha Mela at Allahabad in 2013 was mainly to witness and experience the sight and the mystifying Naga Sadhus. Naga Sadhus (naked holy men) are a particular group of Shaivite saints. They are the epitome of renunciation. They hardly appear in public and the Kumbh Mela, where they come to take the holy bath, perhaps is the only time they are seen in the open and up close. The sheer persona of these men and the mystifying cult that precede them has an enthralling effect. With their nudity, matted hair, ash-smeared bodies, and smoking chillums, Naga Sadhus are forbidding and would not do anything that would help in demystifying them. The Nagas engage with the world outside only after some careful prodding and they barely interact with the mass. Perhaps the only day they are seen animated is the day when they take the holy bath at the Mela and the sight of them rejoicing is a magical one.