Friday, 2 March 2007

Attack of the Naked Naga Sadhus

8:00 in the morning at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. Sun has risen and people have bathed in the holy Sangam. Suddenly a big piece of the short is cleared to make room for a very special group of visitors coming to take a ritual dip: The naked naga sadhus!

First sight of the naga sadhus making their way towards the Sangam (confluence of the two rivers). As you can see they are not just called "naked", they literally are naked in most cases. For a quite socially conservative society such as the Indian one, it is interesting to see nudity being such an integral part of one of the most holy events in the country.

Exactly why these men appear naked at this event I do not know. But I can tell you that it is a sight out of the ordinary. In the picture above you can see how many there actually were of them. We were extremely lucky to get so close to them, as they were inside a closed enclosure. Only by befriending a couple of local police men did we manage to get in.

When the naked naga sadhus first came we were told to be very discreet with our cameras, since apparently sadhus can be both camera shy and exceptionally aggressive against people who photograph them. I don't know where this information came from, but it turned out nothing could be further from the truth. The naga sadhus were more than happy to pose for the cameras and in fact seemed to enjoy all the attention. Here is one naga (Susanna) with a lot of naked nagas. It is worth noting that the word "naga" in this context has nothing to do with Susanna's home state Nagaland.

A posing naga.

And another.

Not even did the sadhus readily pose: They even put on all sorts of acts for us. Here is one guy doing gymnastics.

And two of them wrestling each other.

And a third doing yoga.

A fourth jumping around like crazy.

And a fifth guy crowd surfing!

Not only do the naga sadhus - due to their special religious status - get away with walking around naked - something which would land anyone else in an Indian jail. They also get away with smoking what is presumably marijuana. It is done completely in the open.

And that is the "end" of this post.


traveller one said...

Esben... Your photos and posts this week are incredible! These are things I would never have the opportunity of witnessing.Thanks for posting.

Also thanks so much for the tip about IP blocking- I'm trying it and will see if it works!

NellieGwynne said...


I haven't looked in for a while and it's always a pleasure.
Now then, where will my friend and I find all these naked men when we go in October? Just kidding.
Keep it up, I'm sure it is enjoyed by such a lot of people

Esben said...

Hi Nellie!

Ha, don't know where you can find these guys in October (and they might be dressed anyway), but next chance to see them in Allahbad is in 2013. Where are you going in October? Let me know.

villagemonk said...

Such beautiful pictures. i cant take my eyes off them. Wish i was there to have a closer look. Thanks my friend. TT

fayezul said...

i've been living among Hindus, but i never know there's such naked Naga ceremony. Thank you for bringing it up :)

Arvind Nandagiri said...


I just came across your blog when i was looking for pics of Castles. It was really very impressive photography and I believe you are very lucky to have the opportunity to travel so extensively. Infact I love travelling as well.

I have answers for you. Being an Indian & Hindu myself, I know a few things that I can share with u.

I guess this is on the banks of river Ganga. every 12 years there is a festival held on the river banks of ganga especially in Haridwar, Rishikesh, Allahabad. Its called "Kumbh Mela". It is believed that on this occasion if one bathes in the holy river Ganga, u can get rid of all your sins. These sadhus come there for holy bath in the sacred river.

you can Google for more info on the importance of kumbh mela.

the "Naked" men are naked because they are "Digambaras" (the Ancient language Sanskrit word for "one who does not wear any clothes"). The rest of the time these men are busy meditating in the mountains of himalayas. I dont know if they were genuine sadhus.(there have been a lot of con men posing as digambara sadhus.)

Fact : Not all sadhus are Digambaras.

You might want to read Indian Mythology for more details.

Happy travelling !!!!

I would love to see more pics in your blog.

pooja said...

most of the west do feel that this kinds of things are really stupid or nonsense.
But let me tell u something.

Firstly not all those people who posed for you are called the real naga sadhus,because the actual naga sadhus or the real naga sadhus are of great stringent self control.

Secondly i my self have witnessed quite many naga sadhus almost damaging the camera an trying to attack a host of National Geographic channel when he had attended the kumbha mela 10 years back.
Thirdly if you have a question as to who these people are if not naga sadhus?the answer is that they are the failed students or person who could not complete the tasks give by their superiors.Which are very much stringent and almost impossible for a common man to complete.
firstly this person with an aspiration to become a naga sadhu has to renounce all his ways and perform certain rituals and acts quit nasty some rituals are.
next he should search for a human skull which is just around 3 or a week old. but the skull should not be damaged. if the skull is damaged then he fails and no naga sadhu tribe will accept him as one among them. There are no second chance for them.
And people you have captured are among those failed ones.

hence forth i request you to consider what you should know rather than just what you see.

Thank You.

FYP said...

Nice work.

Some more Naga sadhu Pic at

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