During the ongoing Kumba Mela in Prayagraj, over 10,000 men and women have initiated and become Naga Sadhu. The number has been estimated by Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP) which is an apex body of the country’s akharas (sect of seers). Jana Akhara told a leading daily that thousands were inducted into akharas in each initiation ceremony conducted last week during Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj.
Surprisingly, a large number of the trainee sadhus were engineering and management graduates. They chopped off their hair leaving only a tuft at the back of their head and performed their own ‘pind daan’ (after-death ritual). They participated in a night long sacred fire ceremony after which they were inducted into the ancient order of Naga Sadhus.
27-year-old Rajat Kumar has a diploma in marine engineering. However, instead of encashing a high paycheck from his engineering career, he chose to give up the materiality of the world and become a Naga Sadhu. 29-year-old Shambhu Giri is a management graduate from Ukraine and 18-year-old Ghanshyam Giri is class 12th board topper from Ujjain who have also decided to become a Naga Sadhu.
According to Mahant Hari Giri, Chief conveyer of Juna Akhara and General Secretary of ABAP, “Any person who has a strong desire for detachment irrespective of caste, colour, or religion is eligible to become a Naga. Many Muslims have been accepted as have several Christians and people from other religions. So have people who have earlier been doctors or engineers.”
The initiation ceremonies are held only during the Kumbh and thousands of people are initiated every time. However, becoming a Naga Sadhu is not as easy as it may sound. Mahant Hari explains, “We test aspirants for years to see whether they are here to stay or have just decided to become a sadhu either due to a whim or after a crisis. Only after they prove themselves after being put through tests, and we are satisfied, are they ordained as a Naga.”
The process can take a couple of years and even decades sometimes. According to Giri, the key is to remain focused on the goal. Sharing his own story, he told TOI, “After I had cleared my board exams, I realized what my aim in life was. I was 16 when I moved into the Ashram of my Guru, Mahant Jairam Giri, in Ujjain. By his grace, I was able to receive initiation as a Naga after just two years, during this Kumbh.” On being asked about the toughest part of the regimen, he said that it is the practices that are designed to eradicate sexual desires and kill the ego.
Nityanand Giri shares his journey, “I had a dream many years back in which I saw myself dead and meeting God. It was then that I decided to become a Naga. The journey has been tough but I would have it no other way.”
After performing own Pind Daan at mass initiation ceremony, the trainees are now waiting for the holy dip on Mauni Amavasya which is one of the most auspicious days during Kumbh. Even after the initiation, the journey is not easy. The newly inducted Nagas are either sent to the Himalayas to meditate or to perform social work.