The ash smeared on the body makes for clothes, mystic world and secret rituals make their lifestyle mysterious. Perhaps they are the most photographed in any Kumbh, but few would know that the Naga Sadhu’s of the Sangam city spend hours on their ’17 shringars’ — which by all means are tougher than a woman’s adornments — before going for their Shahi Snan.
Hours before going for the Shahi Snan, each Naga Sadhu undertakes a cleansing, grooming exercise as part of an age-old ritual. The ancient ritualistic shringar that these ascetics carry out is tougher than even the 16 adornments of an Indian woman often hailed as being tough and complex.
“Every Naga sadhu smears his body with the holy ash and grooms his ‘Panchkesh’ (hairs of his body) before proceeding for the holy dip. If a Naga sadhu is keeping hairs, he brushes them while those who do not, shave them off. Like a married woman applying a bindi, sindoor and kajal, a Naga sadhu, after attending to his ‘Panchkesh’, applies the sacred roli, tilak and chandan. As a woman wears jewellery, a Naga sanyasi too wears garlands of rudraksh, adorns a ‘kada’ (iron bracelet) replacing bangles and carries a damroo, chimta and kamandal as other adornments.”
After going through all this, the Naga sadhu then spends his time on this spiritual and physical shringar which comprises of cleansing rituals that conclude with smearing their whole body with sacred ‘dhuni’ (ashes), he added.
“It is after this that any Naga Sadhu is ready to take a dip in the holy Ganga,” said Dr Tripathi.”He remains awake the entire night and prays to Lord Shiva as well as the deity of akhara concerned, with a wish to purify him for the much-awaited moment and then readies himself carefully like to a married woman readying for a special occasion with all her 16 shringars as he prepares to meet Maa Gange in all reverence and happiness,” the expert added.
Apart from the ascetics going for 16 shringars like that of a woman, an addition and the 17th one is of the ash or bhaboot that they smear their body with and which gives them an edge even on the dressing of a fair sex.
Although being a Digambar, a Naga sadhu does not wear clothes; however, he often sports a loin cloth dubbed lungot or kopin and naagphani, as a concession to the world.