India’s sacred men: The Extreme Spiritual Life of Sadhu

In this blog post am going to share the lifestyle of Sadhu (Hermit) and the process for becoming Sadhu and the places to explore the life of sadhu.

Who is Sadhu?

A sadhu is somebody usually a man who has decided to live outside the society with hardly any pocessions. A sadhu is a Hindu ascetic who has decided to leave all material attachments and dedicate his life to achieving spiritual liberation, or moksha.

Life of Sadhu

Sadhus life is one of the oldest spiritual traditions. Being a sadhu is the fourth stage(final stage) of the life of a Hindu, after studying, parenthood and pilgrimage. Sadhus often wear simple clothing, such saffron-coloured clothing in Hinduism, white or nothing in Jainism, symbolizing their sannyasa. Sadhus dedicate their lives to meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices.

Potrait of young sadhu in Kedar Ghat

Lifestyle of a sadhu is very difficult, early morning bath then sadhus gather around the dhuni or holy fireplace and begin with their prayers and meditation for the day. Sadhus typically survive on bhiksha provided by other families, people or depend on natural resources, they spend most of their time in meditation.

Sadhus are also called as baba, which means “father”. There are about 4.5 to 5 million sadhus in India who live ashrams, holy houses, forest and caves eating foods in jungle. Sadhus categorized into one of two groups – Shaiva sadhus, who are devotees to deity Lord Shiva, and Vaishnava sadhus, who have dedicated themselves to deity Vishnu.

Process of becoming Sadhu

Potrait of Sadhu on Mahashivaratri

There are different processes of becoming a sadhu within the different Hindu sects. They are usually initiated by a guru, given a new name and their own mantra. The mantra usually remains secret, known only to the master and the sadhu. Although some practices of the sadhus might seem extreme – such as being silent for years, sitting in a cave for a long time, or standing on one leg for many years – others include practices such as Hatha yoga, devotional worship of a deity, or meditation practices .

Female Sadhu or Sadhvis

The female equivalent of a sadhu is a sadhvis. Sadhvis start their hermit life after the death of their husband and often live in isolation and ascetism. In some sects, sadhvis are considered a form of a goddess and are worshipped.

Where to find Sadhus?

Sadhus can be found in ashrams, temples in the midst of major urban centers, in huts on the edges of villages, in caves in the remote mountains or in the jungle. But you can’t find sadhu always at one place, they always on their way to move from one place to another, Sadhus worship The Lord Shiva. They are generally allowed free passage on the trains to go anywhere is India or Nepal.

To explore the typical life of Sadhus consider visiting this places in India:

1. Varanasi

2. Haridwar

3. Gangotri

4. Allahabad

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  1. Hey really liked the idea behind this piece. Many of us know about sadhus, but hardly we thought about the backstory. Thanks for sharing

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