Varanasi Sadhus: Ways of Being Holy and Ascetic

The Saduhs of Varanasi are rather smart and commercial in their ‘Holiness’. Early morning, they dress up, smear ashes all over their body, tie their hair in a big jata, wear the rudraaksh mala and accessories and then look for groups of foreign tourists to hover around. They deliberately hover around these white tourists and pose for their camera and in doing so, they expect money. A lot of the white tourists also do give them money. The Sadhus are also demanding, I observed one of them asking for Rs.100 when a Japanese woman gave him Rs.50.

They did a lot of hovering around me too. I neither took photo nor gave any money. And so one of them started verbally abusing me, saying I am taking his photo but not giving money. Another teenage boy also supposed to be sadhu as can be presumed from his saffron clothes, carrying around a snake, asking for money for naag baba joined in the abuse. They were aggressive to the point of misbehave. I also attempted to yell back at them, saying just because they wear some rugged saffron clothes and are junkies doesn’t mean they have the right to demand money. But before I could finish a boat full of Japanese tourists approached the ghat and they got busy begging.

Strange ways of being ‘holy’ and ‘ascetic’.

Varanasi sadhus hovering around tourists
This Sadhu hovering around a group of Japanese tourists

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