Stoners or Enlightened? That’s the question many travellers ask themselves when meeting the sadhus, the Indian ascetics known for their dreadlocks and saffron colour clothes.
Certainly, such community smoke a lot.
In fact, the sadhus are the only people in the country allowed to smoke marijuana and hash legally, supposedly for their contemplative practices.
The majority of sadhus own a chillum (a cone-shaped pipe) to smoke the cannabis, but besides that, there’s a very old tradition behind them.
Sadhus’ lifestyle corresponds to the fourth and last life of a Hindu soul (before, you must study, be a father, and a pilgrim), and the end goal of which is to attain Nirvana. For such attainment sadhus must reject any material life, carry an austere living and walk towards enlightenment.
For doing so, they devote their life to meditation, controlling their mind and bodies to becoming authentic yogis.
They are a respected community, venerated and maintained by society, who feeds them and donates small sums for their sustain.
There’s different kinds of sadhus, of which the more radical are the Naked Sadhus or Nagas, completely naked and covered with sacred ashes from the fire. The most important festivity for them is the Kumbhamela, a gathering of sadhus from all over the country. The festivity it’s celebrated four times every twelve years.
Nowadays there’s around five million sadhus around the country, but not all of them are authentic. Different voices assure they are shameless, social parasites with the only purpose to get some rupees from the tourists and smoke for free.
I find interesting such characters. While I am in Rishikesh, sacred city filled with Sadhus, I decide to interview them. The outcome is a surrealist video. Communication is complicated: they don’t speak English and seem a bit insane to me. Must be the loneliness… or the weed. But one thing is true: they are fun and nice people, and the rhythm of “OM NAMAH SHIVAYA” will always remain.
Text by Meritxell Martorell of sineñe.