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The Mystics, Ascetics and Saints of India.
Oman, J.C.
London, 1903.

[The copy I have of this book is an Indian 1984 photographic reprint of the original from 1903. Therefore, unfortunately, the photos are not very good. So I scanned only a few. Very interesting anyway.]


Jump to some interesting topics:
Bed of spikes 1 Urdhvamukhi 1 Samadhi Number of sadhus 1
French sadhvi
Burial procession
Bed of spikes 2
Urdhvamukhi 2
Urdhvabahu
French sadhu
Kumbha mela
Half-nČked sadhvi
Naked pilgrims at Amarnath
Number of sadhus 2
The future of sadhuism.
.

[OJ.2.5] How much, and how deeply, the Indian people have suffered, for habilitory reasons, in the estimation of Europeans it would be hard to say; but of this I have no doubt, that the style of their national dress, and particularly the extreme scantiness of their garments, which in most cases hardly pretend to cover the persons of the wearers, reduce the intellectual and civilised Indians to the level of nČked savages in the eyes of the majority of the people of the West. And the Indian sadhus, frequently all but nude, and rubbed over with ashes, undoubtedly incur the amused disdain of Europeans, who commonly look upon these ascetics as droll fellows or sorry simpletons.

The sadhu, such as he is, is no recent importation, no modern excrescence, but has been flourishing in India, a veritable indigenous growth, from a time which dates many centuries before the advent of Christ, or even the preaching by Buddha of the eightfold path leading to enlightenment and deliverance. Alexander of Macedon, in his wonderful march across the plains of the Punjab in the fourth century B.C., saw, and took an interest in, the Indian sadhu; but sadhuism in his day was already hoary with antiquity.

[OJ.2.6] Though exceedingly numerous, the Indian sadhus command the respect and even the superstitious veneration of the vast multitude of their countrymen, who believe that they are often, if not always, possessed of almost unlimited supernatural power for good or evil.

[OJ.2.39] Most sadhus wear strings of beads about their necks or carry rosaries in their hands, reminding one that it was from the East, probably during the time of the Crusades, that Christendom borrowed these aids to devotion.

Sadhus at Home
[OJ.2.44] Of the men in the group [left] the one with averted face was not actuated by any feeling of modesty or self-depreciation from facing the camera. He joined the others casually while the instrument was being adjusted, and, when asked to assume a suitable attitude, pompously replied that he obeyed no man's behests, recognising no master save Rama Chandra.
It required some little persuasion on the part of his brother sadhus to induce him even to take up the ungracious and ungraceful pose in which he was photographed. He might, perhaps, have been a shady character wanted by the police, and might have acted as he did for prudential reasons, or, which is quite as probable, his rudeness may have been due merely to an objection to be photographed, on the ground that any likeness taken carries away with it some virtue from the original—possibly a portion of the living soul— this being by no means an uncommon superstition.


Lay Hindus are often subjected by the Brahmans to penances for offences such as the ill-treatment or killing of a cow, or for some other equally serious breach of the ethical or ceremonial law, And occasionally sadhus, for reasons of their own already indicated, voluntarily [OJ.2.45] undergo inconveniences, pains, and even terrible tortures. In doing so they follow the traditional path, and do not exercise any special ingenuity in the invention of methods of self-torment.

One favourite mode of mortifying the flesh is to sit under the open canopy of heaven girt about with five small fires. Sometimes only four fires are lighted, the sun overhead being regarded as the fifth one, and an intolerable fire he is, too, on a cloudless summer day in the plains of India. As a rule this arrangement is devoid of sincerity, and is indeed a mere performance or show. Yet the fires, insignificant though they be, serve the very practical object of advertising the sadhu and attracting admirers and clients. Sadhus who follow this practice are known as panchadhunis.

Bed of spikes 1
Another way of afflicting and subduing the body is to sit and sleep on a bed of spikes. I have even seen a sadhu’s wooden shoes bristling inside with a close crop of pointed nails. That the discomfort in such cases due to the constant contact of acute spikes with some portion or other of the almost nČked body is real, there can be little doubt, but it need not be very injurious to health. [OJ.2.45] Referring, in connection with this practice, to Bhishma, one of the heroes of the Mahabharata, Mr. W. Crookes (The Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India, vol. i. p.92) writes: “To the Hindu nowadays he is chiefly known by the tragic circumstances of his death. He was covered all over by the innumerable arrows discharged at him by Arjuna, and when he fell from his chariot he was upheld from the ground by the arrows and lay on a couch of darts. This sara-sayya or ‘arrow-bed’ of Bhishma is probably the origin of the kantaka-sayya or ‘thorn-couch’ of some modern Bairagis, who lie and sleep on a couch studded with nails.”

To the discredit of human nature it must be admitted that deceptions and impostures even in asceticism are unfortunately inevitable. An Indian gentleman, not, however, too favourably disposed towards the ascetics, assured me that he once found out that a sadhu whose practice it was to sit in public on [OJ.2.46] spikes had cunningly taken the precaution to protect his buttocks with thin iron plates so artfully made with irregular surface as to deceive almost any onlooker into the belief that his flesh was being pitted by the cruel points.
There are sadhus — tharasri they are called [meaning khareshwari] — who will stand leaning on some kind of rest for days or weeks together, with what painful fatigue and hardship it is easy to imagine. Occasionally in this form of self-torture only one leg is used, the other being drawn up.

Urdhvamukhi 1
A prominent feature in the ascetic practices of some sadhus is hanging head downwards suspended from the bough of a tree or a suitable framework, for perhaps half an hour at a time. Such sadhus are known as urdhamukhi,..., but must be exceedingly rare, as I have come across only a single example of this class, described later on in Chap. IX.
[I haven't seen it at all.]
Severer forms of voluntary torture are also known, as when a man ties his arm to a support such as a light bamboo, so as to keep it ere+t overhead, till, at last, the disused limb, reduced to a shrunken and rigid condition, refuses to be lowered again to its natural position. When both arms are so dealt with, the subject becomes a helpless cripple entirely dependent for everything upon the kindness of others. Sadhus who practise this form of austerity are known as urdhabahus. A modification of the last-mentioned practice is the closing of the hand till it becomes useless and the long nails grow like curving talons from the cramped and atrophied fingers, or even find their way through the flesh between the metacarpal bones of the hand.

Samadhi
Burying alive, or performing samadh as it is called, is a very rare yet well-known practice amongst Hindu religious devotees. The period of inhumation may be from a few days to five or six weeks, and, if the buried man lives out the fixed time, he emerges from his temporary grave an undoubted saint and an object of popular veneration ever afterwards. The advantages in view are great enough to tempt the more ambitious sadhu; but samadh is attended with the gravest risks, even when undertaken by cunning and designing impostors for their own [OJ.2.47] glorification and profit. Two recent instances, both ending fatally, are described by Sir Monier Williams in his Modern India (pp. 50-53).
A well-known and well-authenticated instance of a samadh lasting forty days and ending satisfactorily is the case of the yogi Haridas in the time of Ranjit Singh of the Punjab (A.D. 1792-1839). {[footnote] Described after Dr. Honigberger in my Indian Life, Religious and Social (T. Fisher Unwin), pp. 28-30.}

Great hardship attends what is known as the ashtanga danddwat, or prostration of the body, involving the performance of a pilgrimage by a slow and most laborious mode of progression,—in fact, the application of eight parts of the body—the forehead, breast, hands, knees, and insteps —to the ground. The vower determines to traverse the distance to his destination, a shrine or some noted place of pilgrimage, by prostrating himself full length on the road, then crawling along till his heels touch the spot where his forehead last rested, then prostrating himself again, and so on, with repetitions on repetitions, till his goal is reached. The performance savours of great humility, and is not confined to short distances. I once met a youthful sadhu at Burdwan in Bengal, on the Grand Trunk Road of Northern India, moving in this leech-like fashion from Juggernaut to Benares, a distance of about six hundred miles, and I have heard of pilgrims thus measuring, as it were, their toilsome way towards the sacred source of the Ganges, amongst the eternal snows of the Himalayas, pursuing for months, and even years, with patient courage a journey almost impossible of accomplishment in such inhospitable regions under the imposed conditions.

[OJ.2.49] Not to all men is it given to submit voluntarily to the more trying austerities, and therefore, as might have been expected, we find a number of minor asceticisms indulged in for the sake of attracting attention and perhaps gaining some pecuniary advantage. For example, a sadhu whom I saw at a religious festival, a big and powerful fellow, had a strong wooden framework erected to support a huge earthenware jar provided with a perforation at the bottom, from which a stream of water could flow out. [] Under the jar the sadhu was in the habit of sitting during the night, particularly in the small hours, from about three o’clock till daybreak, with a stream of water falling on his head and flowing down over his person to the ground. It was winter time, and very cold work no doubt, but the sadhu had his reward in gratified vanity; for in the eyes of his numerous admirers he was Siva himself with the Ganges falling from heaven upon his head and flowing thence to bless and fertilise the earth. This man, on account of his peculiar ascetic practice, would be known as a jaladhara tapashi.

[OJ.2.52] Amongst the Indian ascetics of our day there are some—like the highly emotional and tearful Bengali Sanyasi Ramakrishna, subject to hysteria, trances, and catalepsy—who see visions, are believed to have been favoured with personal visits from the very gods and goddesses themselves, and are reputed to be [OJ.2.53] able to work miracles, though indisposed to do so, thinking that such performances are hindrances in the way to perfection. But apart from such neurotic saints, who always excite attention and sometimes found new sects, every Hindu knows that, though not nearly so powerful as the ancient rishis, whose fame has grown with the centuries, many sadhus do, even in our degenerate days, work wonders, and these not always of a beneficent kind.
What the magician is, or has been, in other countries, that, to some extent, is the sadhu in India. Elsewhere the necromancer and the witch have been in antagonism with, and under the ban of, the hierarchy, but in India the ecclesiastical mantle has proved elastic enough to cover even some sorcerers, though certainly not all.

The Christian Church has always admitted, on biblical authority, the existence of wizards and witches. It has abhorred their dread power, and, when the vengeance of Heaven did not directly overtake them for their deeds, persecuted them to the death, in obedience to the divine command, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Ex. xxii. 18; Lev. xx. 27).
Medieval history is painfully blurred with the smoke of the penal fires which attest the zeal of the Church in the suppression of witchcraft, whose successes were attributed to diabolical agency; but in India, since the earliest times, magic and sorcery, however much dreaded, have not been without a certain acknowledged respectability.

Of course there has been in India the inevitable rivalry between the hereditary priesthood and the lay professors of witchcraft, but the Brahmans, with their wonderful faculty of adaptation to circumstances, themselves adopted, at a very early date, the role of sorcerers (as the Atharva Veda amply proves), and by so doing have inevitably, [OJ.2.54] though unintentionally, dignified the calling of the lay magician; since spells for the attainment of much which is elsewhere stigmatised as base, immoral, und impious have not been excluded from the sacred canon of the Hindus.
“Even witchcraft,” says Mr. Bloomfield, “is part of the Hindu's religion; it has penetrated and become intimately blended with the holiest Vedic rites; the broad current of popular religion and superstition has infiltrated itself through numberless channels into the higher religion that is presented by the Brahman priests, and it may be presumed that the priests were neither able to cleanse their own religious beliefs from the mass of folk-belief with which it was surrounded, nor is it at all likely that they found it in their interest to do so.”

Number of sadhus 100 & 350 years ago
[OJ.2.96] The physician François Bernier, who during the reign of the Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb travelled extensively in India, and met M. Tavernier there, does not fail to mention “the vast number and endless variety of faquirs” he encountered. Of these the jogis
[Gorakhnathis] seem to have made most impression upon him, not by their religious or philosophical professions, but by their repulsive appearance. From his narrative it is evident that the practice of holding the arms perpetually above the head was a common one with the sadhus in his day—much more common, I should say, than it is at the present time, but [OJ.2.97] the only feeling which this cruel self-torture seems to have awakened in the mind of the French physician was one of disgust; for, alluding to those who adopt this unnatural attitude, he says, “No fury in the infernal regions can be conceived more horrible than the jauguis, with their nČked and black skin, long hair, spindle arms, long twisted nails, and fixed in the posture I have mentioned.” {[footnote] Bernier's Travels (A.D. 1656-68), pp. 316, 317 (Archibald Constable & Co.).}
[OJ.2.97]The testimony of this enlightened traveller, corroborating that of his contemporary Tavernier, leaves no doubt that two hundred and fifty years ago Hindu religious devotees abounded in the Mogul Emperor's dominions; that they wandered about freely in considerable bands, and walked through large towns stark nČked, — “men, women, and girls looking at them,” says Bernier, “without any more emotion than may be created when a hermit passes through our streets.”
In the course of time a Christian power from beyond the seas supplanted the Muhammadan overlords of India, yet the sadhu still held his own under the new and unsympathetic régime.

That sagacious, intelligent, and quaintly, perhaps unctuously, pious Christian, James Forbes, who spent seventeen years in Western India—from A.D. 1766 to 1783—in the Honourable East India Company's service, [OJ.2.98] and having attained the rank of ”senior merchant” in the employment of that famous corporation, retired at the early age of thirty-three years with a disordered liver and an ample fortune, did not fail to observe, during his exile in the East, the sadhus and faquirs of his day.
From his valuable Oriental Memoirs, published in 1813, we learn that in the latter portion of the eighteenth century the wandering sadhus were in great force throughout the western country. “These gymnosophists,” he says, “often unite in large armed bodies and perform pilgrimages to the sacred rivers and celebrated temples; but they are more like an army marching through a province than an assembly of saints in procession to a temple, and often lay the country through which they pass under contribution” (vol. i. p. 68).
Our author was also aware that in their pererrations these peripatetics went “from the confines of Russia to Cape Comorin and from the borders of China to Malabar hill on the island of Bombay” (i. 286), that they had many marvels to relate of the men and places they had seen, and were especially lavish in their praise of beautiful Kashmir (ii 459). Mr. Forbes found these travelled ascetics more liberal-minded than the stay - at - home Hindus, and confesses that he “spent many a pleasant and improving hour with religious mendicants both Hindus and Mohammedans” (ii. 461).

[OJ.2.99] According to our author, it would seem that the roving propensities of the sadhus, however beneficial to themselves intellectually, were not conducive to right living, for many of them led a by no means chaste life, being veritable terrors to husbands wherever they went (ii. 2 3 4), and, though they had professedly renounced the world and its vanities, the wandering religious mendicants often contrived, to the great annoyance of the officials, Mr. Forbes included, to carry on, for their own profit, no little illicit trading in valuable objects (ii 214, 216).
We also learn from Mr. Forbes that “many yogees and similar professors” subjected themselves to cruel penances and mortifications. “Some of them,” he tells us, “enter into a solemn vow to continue for life in one unvaried posture; others undertake to carry a cumbrous load or drag a heavy chain; some crawl on their hands and knees for years around an extensive empire; and others roll their bodies on the earth from the shores of the Indus to the banks of the Ganges, and in that humiliating posture collect money to enable them either to build a temple, to dig a well, or to atone for some particular sin. Some swing during their whole life, in this torrid clime, before a slow fire; others suspend themselves, with their heads downwards, for a certain time over the fiercest flames” (vol.i.p. 69).
In his travels Mr. Forbes came across the sadhu who carries his useless arms above his head, and, reduced to utter helplessness by his voluntary asceticism, is fed by pious Hindu women even of good position. He also saw the men who swing round a lofty pole suspended from a cross-beam by means of iron hooks fixed in the muscles of the back.
A far rarer and more curious form of austerity is thus described: “I saw another of these devotees, who was one of the phallic worshippers of Seeva, and who, not content [OJ.2.100] with wearing or adorning the symbol of that deity, had made a vow to fix every year a large iron ring into the most tender part of his body, and thereto to suspend a heavy chain, many yards long, to drag on the ground. I saw this extraordinary saint in the seventh year of his penance, when he had just put in the seventh ring; the wound was then so recent and so painful that he was obliged to carry the chain upon his shoulder, until the orifice became more callous” (vol. i. p. 70).
Mr. Forbes, intelligent observer and inquirer that he was, ascertained that the Hindu devotees were recruited from all classes of the community “except [?] the caste of Chandala.” He did not fail to realise that a high standard of abnegation and self-repression was theoretically demanded of the professed ascetics, and he was prepared to admit that, though the majority of the sadhus fell far short of the requirements of the rules of their sects, there were at least some enthusiasts who in solitude and meditation passed blameless lives and were credited with the possession of miraculous powers.

[OJ.2.111] In connection with the cult and practices of the Sankarite ascetic sects, it should be borne in mind that although Siva is regarded by the Hindus as the Destroyer, yet throughout India he is worshipped under the symbol of the liĖgam, because in the endless round of births and deaths to which, according to the doctrine of metempsychosis, all sentient beings are subject, it is easy for the mystic to see in destruction only the precursor of renewed existence.
I.

I am the god of the sensuous fire
That moulds all nature in forms divine;
The symbols of death and of man's desire,
The springs of change in the world are mine;
The organs of birth and the circlet of bones,
And the light loves carved on the temple stones.

II.
I am the lord of delights and pain,
Of the pest that killeth, of fruitful joys;
I rule the currents of heart and vein;
A touch gives passion, a look destroys;
In the heat and cold of my lightest breath
Is the might incarnate of Lust and Death.
. . . . . . .

V.
And the strong swift river my shrine below
It runs, like man, its unending course,
To the boundless sea from eternal snow;
Mine is the Fountain, and mine the Force
That spurs all nature to ceaseless strife;
And my image is Death at the gates of Life.

(From Sir Alfred Lyall’s “Siva.”)

Under the influence of the Hindu admiration of the ascetic life, Siva, the Great God (Maha-dev), stands forth in the later Hinduism of the Puranas as the great ascetic (Mahatapah, Mahayogi), a fact of especial significance in [OJ.2.112] connection with the subject of the present work. “In this character he appears quite nČked, (digambara), with only one face like an ordinary human being, with ash-besmeared body and matted hair (whence his name Dhurjati), sitting in profound meditation under a banian tree, and often, like the contemplative Buddha, under a canopy formed by a serpent's head. There he is supposed to remain passionless, motionless, immovable as the trunk of a tree, perhaps rooted to the same spot for millions of years.” {[footnote] Brahmanism and Hinduism, by Professor Sir Monier Williams, p. 83 (third edition).}

[OJ.2.142] Amongst the sects studied and described by Europeans are some whose tenets and practices have filled pious Westerns with supercilious wonderment or holy horror; but, if we are to be just, it must be admitted that such abnormalities may be found, if looked for, in the by-paths of every religion, not excepting the Christian. All religions in the course of their existence give rise to a multitude of heretical separatists. In the case of Christianity, heresies appeared from apostolic times, and some sects holding opinions entirely subversive of morality as we understand it came into existence very early indeed; for example, the Antinomians, who held that the moral law was not binding upon Christians. Sects possessed of little inherent vitality died of natural exhaustion, but many, both in the early centuries and in the Middle Ages, such as the Gnostics, Manicheans, Nestorians, Albigenses, Hussites, and others, were forcibly and relentlessly suppressed by Church and State authority. Since the successful revolt against the power of the Papacy in the sixteenth century, a very considerable number of dissenting Christian sects, some with ideas in regard to political and se+ual morality far removed from those ordinarily accepted by the established Churches, have appeared and secured a footing for themselves.
Similarly, Hinduism in its long history has produced a great variety of peculiar sects, and, as it differs from Christianity in not having had a powerful, well-organised, and resolute central authority to guide for centuries its theological development, the heresies — often characterized by great freedom and originality of doctrine and much latitude in practice — have, in most cases, been able to run a normal course, and have sometimes grown to be almost semi-independent religions.

French sadhvi
[OJ.2.154] ... it was still quite startling to read in the Pioneer of Allahabad, early in 1899, that an elderly, educated, and well-to-do American lady of French extraction had come to India as a sanyasin under the name of Swami Abhayananda, having been admitted to the Puri sub-order by Swami Vivekananda, the Bengali sadhu who went to the Congress of Religions at Chicago as the representative of the Hindus of India. The lady, it would appear, had studied the Upanishads and had been converted to the pantheistic doctrines of the Vedanta philosophy. “Her original intention,” says the Pioneer, “was to beg her way through India. She had a basket for the purpose instead of the customary bowl. But she has been persuaded to relinquish this intention. She wears a high-necked dress of the plainest possible cut and of a yellow colour.”

[OJ.2.153] The followers of Sankara, while paying special honour to Siva, do not, as a rule, reject the other gods of the Hindu Pantheon, nor do they deny the truth of the Shastras generally. Hence the order is a rather mixed one, containing may Vaishnavas and even Tantrics. It is nevertheless a pretentious sect, claiming that its members are alone the true sadhus of India, probably because the closing and strictly ascetic period in the lives of the “twice-born” castes (as laid down in Manu’s ordinances) is known as the sanyasi stage. It is generally held that the Sanyasis are divided into ten sub-orders, the Dasnamis, named as follows: (1) Giri. (2) Puri. (3) Bharti. (4) Ban. (5) Auran (Aranya). (6) Parvat. (7) Sagar. (8) Tirath.
[sic. Should be Tirtha] (9) Ashram. (10) Saraswati. But it would seem that the last three names on the list belong properly to the order of the dandis. All Hindus, even Sudras and outcasts, may join this order, though it is generally held that some of the sub-orders, such as the Ban, Auran, and Saraswati, admit Brahmans only. [Not entirely correct, nowadays anyway. E.g. Sarasvati allows lower casts; Ashram allows only Brahmins.] At the annual spring saturnalia low-caste men actually become Sanyasis temporarily during the continuance of the festival. [OJ.2.154] Such facts prove conclusively the democratic character of the order and its freedom from the caste prejudices of Hinduism.

Burial procession
[OJ.2.156] One morning at about ten o'clock I overtook a strange procession—strange even for India—wending its way slowly along the Lahore Mall between the Chief Court and the Cathedral. A loud brass band led the way, discoursing music—European music, too; for it was not difficult to make out the tune of the once-popular song—

“Just before the battle, mother,
I was thinking most of you.”

Behind the musicians came some three or four men carrying smoking censers of sweet incense. They were marching in front of a litter borne on the shoulders of a few men. It was a very unusual-looking litter, the front being in the form of a moresque arch. There was a cloth hood over it, but it was open on three sides, so that the occupant could be plainly seen except from behind. And the occupant was a dead sadhu, sitting in vacant contemplation with his legs crossed in the approved manner. He was tied to the upright back of the litter and was covered with strings of flowers, which formed a sort of floral veil over his face but could not conceal the hideousness of death, [OJ.2.157] as the unconscious head rolled helplessly from side to side, keeping time, in a sort of grotesque mockery, to the measured step of the bearers as they marched slowly along the wide road.
On one side of the litter was a hired landau with some respectably dressed natives, who may or may not have been part of the procession, and on the other a slovenly policeman in yellow trousers and blue tunic lolling in a one-horse carriage known as an ekka. A little confused crowd, in which the female element predominated, brought up the rear; while a number of urchins, stimulated by curiosity, accompanied the cortege and pointed out the dead man to one another. I ascertained that the party was on its way to a selected spot where the sadhu, a Sanyasi, would be buried in a circular grave, sitting upright and covered over with salt. This funeral procession brought to my recollection a similar one I had seen many years previously at Rajamundry, in the Madras Presidency. On that occasion the dead sadhu was placed in a sitting position in his grave, a quantity of salt was piled up about him, and earth thrown in till the body was nearly covered up. Then upon the top of the shaven head, still exposed to view, a large number of cocoanuts were broken in order to crack the skull and afford the imprisoned soul a means of exit from the now useless body. The fragments of the cocoanuts which had been used for the liberation of the dead man's soul were, I remember, eagerly sought for by the bystanders.
It should be mentioned that the practice of burial rather than cremation, in the case of these and certain other sadhus, is due to the sentiment that the bodies of such sainted personages do not need to be purified by fire.

[OJ.2.160] This sect [the Dandis] is recruited exclusively from the Brahman caste, yet it discards the sacred thread. It derives its name from the danda, or staff, which each member is required to carry. Theoretically, dandiwallahs should not settle down in one place for a single day, and even the danda should not be allowed to rest, but should be stuck ere+t in the ground or be suspended from a tree. In practice, however, these rules are neglected, and large numbers of dandis are to be found at any time in Benares, where an important ghat or bathing place on the Ganges is named after them. The dandis, I have been assured, do not worship Siva, but only their own danda. If this be correct, the explanation is probably that the danda is regarded by them as the phallic emblem of the god. {[footnote] In regard to the danda, Sir Monier Williams in his Buddhism (Preface, p.xiii) says: “Finally, there is the danda or staff held in the left hand, and used by the Sanyasi as a defence against evil spirits, much as the dorje (or vajra) is used by Northern Buddhist monks. This mystical staff is a bambu with six knots, possibly symbolical of six ways (gati) or states of life through which it is believed that every being may have to migrate — a belief common to both Brahmanism and Buddhism. The staff is called sudarsana (a name for Vishnu’s cakra), and is daily worshipped for the preservation of its mysterious powers.”}
[It's not a bamboo, however.]

[OJ.2.162] A learned Indian Sanskritist explained to me that the name of this sect
[Paramahamsa. But paramahamsa is not a sect-name; it's a “rank”] is derived from the words parama, meaning much or great, and hansa, a certain (mythological) animal which can separate water from milk; whence, as my pandit said, it would seem that the Paramahansa is one who can distinguish truth from falsehood.
Sanyasis, dandis, and other ascetics who have undergone a probation of usually not less than twelve years, may be admitted to this superior order, in which both Sivites and Vishnuvites merge their religious differences in a comprehensive self-worship, based on the presumption of each Paramahansa’s identity with the Divine Spirit.
Such high pretensions have of necessity to be supported by some visible proof of superiority to physical discomfort and the weaknesses that flesh is heir to; and so it happens that some members of the sect go about nČked in all weathers, some affect to live without food of any kind, others observe strict silence and do not indicate even by a sign any physical need or suffering. There may be impostors among them, but honest ascetics are certainly not wanting; and so great is the respect and admiration which the self-denial of these sadhus commands from the Hindus, that they are seldom if ever allowed to experience the full measure of the physical evils which would, in ordinary course [would he mean “Western” course ?], be attached to their voluntary asceticisms.
Amongst the Paramahansas are scholars well versed in Sanskrit learning. These are usually to be found in the monasteries.
Paramahansas bury their dead, or float their bodies away upon some running stream.

[OJ.2.163] Being strongly opposed to Brahmanism, the distinguishing badge of this sect [the Lingayats] is a liĖgam fastened to the neck or arm by a thread which “is called the liĖga sutra, as opposed to the yajna sutram or sacred thread of Brahmans.” (Bhattacharjee, p.397) The mendicant monks of this sect, known as vaders, meaning masters of lords, go about with small bells attached to their arms or carried in the hand to advertise their presence. They receive from the lay Lingaits the most extravagant veneration and even worship.

[OJ.2.164] The Jangamas, who are occasionally seen in Upper India, are stated by Dr. Bhattacharjee (Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies) to be “the priestly Sudras of the sect [lingayats].” They are married men not given to austerities, and go about well clad, as will be seen from the illustrations .... at p. 52 of this volume.
[They still look the same today] In regard to the name of the sect, “it is said that, when Shiv (Siva) at his marriage desired to give alms to Brahmans, no Brahmans appeared; the god thereupon tore open his leg (janga) and produced therefrom a man whom he called Jangama, to whom he gave his alms,” and this man, no doubt, was the father of the sect. At Kedarnath in Garwal they have a temple and monastery of their own.

[OJ.2.165] Strange as it may seem, the disgustingly repulsive habits of the Aghoris are a direct and legitimate, if horrible, outcome of a desire to push the pantheistic doctrines of the Vedanta philosophy to their logical conclusions in a certain direction. “If everything in existence is only a manifestation of the Universal Soul, nothing can be unclean!” So argues the Aghorpanthi, and he proves the uncompromising sincerity of his convictions by his repellent acts. Cases, few and far between, of necrophilism, anthropophagy, and coprology are not unknown to mental pathologists in Europe; but it is, perhaps, only in India that such perverted instincts could be made the basis of a religious sect. [OJ.2.166] The present headquarters of the Aghorpanthis appear to be at Mount Abo
[Abu]. [OJ.2.167] Women known as Aghorinis are often associated with these ghouls, and are as filthy as and even more shameless than their male companions.

[OJ.2.181] However edifying Swami-ji’s explanations may be, it is, to say the least, rather curious that the Yogi should derive his transcendent enlightenment from an organ in the neighbourhood of the coccygeals.

[OJ.2.189] The Ramanandis have large and wealthy monasteries in Upper India. There are four sub-sects or orders, all celibate. (1) Achari, (2) Sanyasi, (3) Khaki, (4) Bairagi. The Acharis wear silken and woollen garments, the Sanyasis salmon-coloured cotton clothes, while the Khakis usually go about nČked, their bodies powdered with dust and ashes and their hair and nails unclipped. The Bairagis are probably the most numerous order of this sect; their name is commonly applied to all Vishnuvite mendicants ... [] Hindus of all castes are permitted to become Bairagis, and, as a matter of fact, the sect is recruited from all castes, including the Brahmans. Evidently, Ramanand’s sectarian movement was once opposed to, and no doubt intended to be subversive of, the established, rigid, and immemorial caste system. [] All, whether of the three “twice-born castes” or not, put on the sacred thread and wear a tuft of hair on the crown of the head — practices which would seem intended as assertions of the equality of all Hindus, effected by a process of levelling up to the higher strata in the caste system.

[OJ.2.190] The Bairagi is expected to pay at least one visit to Dwarka in order to be branded on his right arm with the Vishnu symbols — the discus, the conch, the club, and the lotus.

[OJ.2.191] In all religious systems the celibate state has, with good reason, been looked upon as one of supreme [OJ.2.192] self-sacrifice, and therefore as a holy state; but it is so entirely unnatural that, when embraced as a rule of life by sects, orders, or professions, it has never been lived up to. What steady and protracted opposition was experienced in the Christian Church before celibacy could be enforced amongst Christian ecclesiastics, and what gross immoralities and scandals compulsory celibacy led to, are well known.

[OJ.2.192] There are amongst the followers of Ghaitanya various sub-sects well known for their immoralities. For example, the Spashta Dayakas, amongst whom the monks and nuns live together in the same monasteries, with results which [OJ.2.193] may well be imagined; the Sahajas who hold that every man is Krishna and every woman Radha, and consequently approve of promiscuous intercourse; and the Bauls, who, going one step further, maintain that “se+ual indulgence is the most approved form of religious exercise.” {[footnote] ' Dr. Bhattacbarjee's Hindu, Castes and Sects, p. 485.}

[OJ.2.196] The Nirmalis (the pure). The circumstances under which this order originated are, I should say, unique. In AD 1691, or thereabouts, Govind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs, ... who was only twenty-five years of age and a particularly handsome man, captivated the susceptible heart of [a] young widow, and she resolved to try her arts upon him.
[He wasn’t seduced, therefore] [OJ.2.187] When Govind Singh returned home he gave the ascetic garb he had assumed for the memorable occasion to one of his followers, Bir Singh, a very holy personage, and authorised him to found a new sect of sadhus, to be called Nirmalis, or the pure, in commemoration of the event. [OJ.2.198] The Nirmalis are, on the whole, a learned order much given to Sanskrit studies, and are followers of the Vedanta philosophy. There is a tradition amongst them that five original members of the order went to study Sanskrit theology at Benares, but were denied the privilege of such studies by the Brahmans, because they happened to be Sudras by caste. However, Guru Govind Singh cheered the disappointed students by the prediction that their order would be famous for its learned men, from whom the Brahmans themselves would be glad to receive instruction. Nirmalis wear their hair long, and dress themselves in reddish-yellow garments.

[OJ.2.198] The Nihangs or Akalis. {[footnote] Nihang=humble. Akali=immortal} The circumstances which gave rise to this sect are connected with the flight of Govind Singh [17th cent.] from Cham Kor, famous in Sikh annals. [Fleeing from the Mogul soldiers, Govind disguised] ... himself in the blue dress of a Muslim faquir, known about those parts as Uch ka pir (a saint of Uch), ... [OJ.2.199] When the party reached a village inhabited by Govind’s own people, he burnt a portion of the blue clothes he had assumed by way of disguise, and the remainder he presented to one Man Singh, a favourite follower of his, to be worn by him as the distinctive garb of a new order — Nihangs or Akalis — which he was authorized to found. The Akalis, in consequence, wear blue garments, but the dress they have adopted, in which their veneration of warlike weapons finds exaggerated expression, is grotesque. [OJ.2.200] Although the armed Akali may, by an obvious association of ideas, recall to mind the famous military orders of the West — the Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic knights of the Middle Ages — the resemblance is too slight and trifling for even a moment’s consideration.

Bed of spikes 2
[OJ.2.203] Near a large tank known as Ratan Chand’s talao, in the neighbourhood of a group of Hindu temples in Lahore, and under some fine old peepul trees, two or three hundred people, mostly Hindus of both sexes, were assembled one fine evening in November, most of them attentively watching a palanquin which had been placed on the high platform of a samadh or cenotaph erected to the memory of a Hindu lady by her wealthy son. The screens of the palanquin were drawn back, but I could see nothing within until I approached quite near, when I discovered the emaciated figure of an almost nČked man sitting with his knees drawn up against his chin in an attitude common enough in India, but one which the European would find it rather difficult to imitate.
Down the length of the palanquin was a board, closely studded with iron nails, and it was upon a portion of this most uncomfortable bed of spikes that the Bairagi was seated, and was supposed, perhaps quite correctly, to sleep at night. Above the bony shins and exaggerated knot-like knees of this seated figure appeared a human [!] head with an immense shock of hair like a chignon hanging heavily behind it. Its [!] hollow eyes, peering over a pair of green glass-and-wire goggles, had a queer hunted look about them, and its nostrils seemed strangely misshapen, one being apparently distended with some sort of plug or other. From this repulsive figure there proceeded, from time to time, sundry guttural sounds and hollow coughs.
A faithful disciple, conveniently at hand, explained to me that his master in the palanquin was more than one hundred and thirty years of age, and had resolved to undergo certain penances until he should succeed in collecting enough money to feast one hundred thousand Brahmans and to give each of his guests the present of at least one rupee, apparently for being good enough to partake of the banquet provided for him.
As I stood near the palanquin a succession of men and women, mostly the latter, mounted the platform, approached the ascetic, and, bowing down before him so that their heads touched the floor, placed their offerings, consisting for the most part of pice or of small silver coins, before the holy man. This done, they passed on without an audible word, though some silent wish or prayer was no doubt in each one’s heart. The saint did not condescend to notice anyone, but merely looked absently, with those queer hunted eyes of his, at his admirers as they approached his presence and added their contributions towards the considerable sum necessary for the fulfilment of his vow.
[OJ.2.204] Presently a stir took place amongst the ascetic’s attendants. The usual time for him to perform his ablutions had arrived. A pair of wooden-soled sandals studded with spikes were placed beside the palanquin, and upon their prickly surface the poor fellow was helped to place his bare feet. With the assistance of his men, the emaciated Bairagi was brought forward and allowed to subside on a low wooden stool about four or five inches high. When he emerged from his palanquin the onlookers took up what, according to Indian ideas, is a most respectful attitude, all present facing the ascetic with slightly bowed heads and palms joined together before their breasts. []
When about to perform his ablutions in public, he requested the people nearest him to stand back a little, lest the water should reach and inconvenience them.
[too considerate; perhaps he had another reason ?] A slight backward movement was the result, and, when an attendant poured some water on the Bairagi’s hands, it was seen that his wrists were united by an iron chain not more than six or seven inches long. Now came the important operation of dislodging the huge plug from his right nostril. As the sadhu removed it, not without a little effort, it was followed by a loosely twisted cord of unspun cotton about eight or nine inches long, which had apparently been hanging in the pharynx at the back of the nose. [OJ.2.205] No wonder the poor fellow coughed so frequently and so painfully. Two cotton cords, similar to the one described but somewhat longer, were handed to the Bairagi. Their ends were pointed and perhaps a little stiffened with wax. With an unpleasant, almost painful, grunt or moan, he passed them both up his nostrils, and then, opening his mouth as wide as possible, fished up with his long skinny fingers the pendent ends of the two cords. All four extremities were now in his hands, and he proceeded to draw the strings to and fro through his nose and mouth five or six times. When Maharaj, as they called him, had thus cleaned his nostrils and throat, two narrow bamboo tubes, each about eighteen inches long, were brought to him. One had a small funnel at its extremity. The Bairagi having held his head aslant, the small end of the funnel tube was applied to his left nostril, the latter being lower than the former. Water was now poured, from a vessel with a spout, into the funnel, and came off in a continuous stream at the end of the other and lower tube — a rather difficult performance this, I should fancy. It remained to plug the left nostril for the night as the other had previously been, for they were stopped turn about. This operation was accomplished by passing a long wick, or cotton cord, up the nose, and finally introducing its other and knotted end with a little force into the much distended nostril. As the stiffened end of the cord disappeared up the ascetic’s nose, a veracious disciple assured us that it had gone straight up into the brain. He repeated this statement many times, and the Bairagi, who heard it, and knew it was not true, did not contradict it.
These operations duly accomplished in the public gaze, the holy man was helped back once more into his uncomfortable lodging in the palanquin. I learnt that twice a day, morning and evening, Maharaj repeated this disgusting and unedifying performance, and that twice a day people assembled to see and admire it, although it is neither original in its conception — for other Bairagis do the like — nor, I should think, specially agreeable for anyone to behold.

[OJ.2.206] I had leisure now to study my company and surroundings. At the foot of one of the peepul trees I found three sadhus sitting round a small fire, all of them young and healthy. They had no connection with the Bairagi who was attracting so much attention, and rather affected to turn their backs upon him. Two of these men were so scantily clothed that their united garments would have hardly made a decent-sized pocket-handkerchief; the third was absolutely nČked, sky-clothed (digambara) he would himself have said, under broad daylight, in a public place, and amidst a mixed crowd of both sexes. The sky-clothed one was, I have no doubt, an abandoned scamp. He looked it. A grave and well-dressed man ventured to suggest, in my hearing, the desirability of a rag in the interests of decency, to which the religious man made some flippant observation about the trouble of keeping it tied.

Urdhvamukhi 2
[OJ.2.206] Before I left the spot I learned that the sadhu of the spiky bed had yet another mode of drawing the wondering multitude to visit him and to contribute their portion towards the accomplishment of his vow. Once a day, in the afternoon, he used to have himself suspended, head downwards, from a sturdy branch of a great tree, before the admiring gaze of a large concourse of people. On the first suitable opportunity I came to see this part of his performance.
[OJ.2.207] It was a lovely day. A crowd of about five hundred [!] men and women had assembled, and, in Oriental fashion, were meekly and quietly sitting down on the ground awaiting the great man’s convenience. [] At about one o’clock an attendant came forward and set to work preparing a space about ten feet square, under a large peepul tree, by smearing it over with a mixture of clay, cow-dung and water. This done, he placed a pile of dried cow-dung cakes upon it and applied a light. A cloud of white smoke was quickly diffused all around. When the fuel happened to blaze up the attendant moderated its energy by sprinkling a little water on it, thus bringing it back to the desired smoky condition. The Bairagi now came forth, helped as before, and, after washing his hands, had his hair firmly tied up in a cloth which also covered his face. He next put his foot into a loop of thick cotton rope depending from a branch of the tree, and was hauled up, head downwards, till he hung suspended about three feet above the smouldering fire. With one hand he grasped the free foot, and with the other he manipulated a rosary concealed in a bag called a gomukhi. By a slender string passed round his body one of his disciples kept him swaying over the smoky fire, into which a Brahman was throwing grain, ghee, and other things. For seven-and-twenty
[exact!] minutes by my watch the Bairagi was swung head downwards over that smouldering fire.When he had counted his beads he dropped the bag and was then immediately taken down, looking perhaps a slight degree more exhausted for his half-hour’s constant fumigation feet upwards.
[OJ.2.208] Never a word was spoken throughout the entire performance about right or wrong, not one syllable about duty or worship. There was a dumb show, and nothing more.
As the emaciated figure, resembling a skeleton rather than a man, swayed to and fro like the pendulum of some strange old-world clock — the clock of Indian ideas — I tried to read on the living dial before me what time of day it was. The circle of onlookers was a large one, composed of Orientals, whose thoughts and ideas are very inscrutable, yet it seemed to me that the face of the very complicated, but interesting, dial I was studying indicated that dawn was approaching, though the daybreak had not yet appeared.
A few generations hence the Bairagi clock I have described will be unknown, at least in the great cities of India.

Urdhvabahu
[OJ.2.214] Adjoining the famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is a grove known as Guru Bagh; and here a sadhu, conspicuous on account of having both arms rigidly uplifted above his head, took up his temporary abode attended by a few disciples. This was in the month of October, at the time of the Divali festival, which annually attracts a large multitude of people to the holy city of the Sikhs.
When I saw the sadhu, his emaciated arms were apparently quite rigid, and the clenched hands, which were about six inches apart, were particularly painful to look at —wasted and shrunken, with great curved nails growing like bird's claws out of the thin fingers.
He had his person rubbed all over with white ashes, and he wore a small loin cloth and a neatly tied turban. His features were long, and the expression of his face agreeable. What he looked like, and his utter helplessness, the portrait
[drawing] of him in the frontispiece will, I think, make quite clear.
In conversation with him I ascertained that he was a Bairagi, that he came from Ajudya [
Ayodhya], and had been the chela of a famous guru formerly attached to the Hunaman Gari [Hanuman Gardhi] monastery in that city, but now deceased.

part of the frontispiece


I had visited Ajudya, and could talk about it and the sacred Surayu (Gogra)
[Sarayu], which flows by that ancient town; and so the sadhu, touched by old associations, became communicative. His native place, he told me, was Bas Bareilli in Oudh, and his name Gareeb Das. [Remarkable that he as a Sita-Ram Baba is performing urdhva-bahu.]
What I wished particularly to ascertain from the Bairagi was what motive could possibly have induced him to subject himself voluntarily to such terrible, such almost inconceivable personal hardships as were plainly involved in the penance he had adopted. Not only had he deprived himself of the use of both his arms, but by the awkward unnatural position which he had forced them to assume he had made them a source of constant trouble, weariness, and [OJ.2.215] inconvenience to himself, both waking and sleeping. His replies to my inquiries were evasive and unsatisfactory, probably because he was an illiterate man. At first he said that from the Scriptures he had received his mandate to perform this penance—which cryptic statement he subsequently elucidated by saying that from several penances recommended in religious books he had selected this one, as it had been adopted by several members of his own sect and monastery. His object in thus afflicting himself was to have communication with Permashwar (God), or, as he also said, to obtain mukti (salvation).
An unsympathetic and ill-mannered bystander, on hearing the sadhu's statement of his spiritual aspirations, contemptuously cited a Sanskrit distich which meant, “From penance comes a kingdom, and from the kingdom comes hell”—in allusion to a common belief that, by such mortifications of the flesh, sadhus really strive for raj or power and position in the next mundane life, that they gain their end, and then fall into the hell whither power and dominion inevitably lead one.
Gareeb Das the ascetic, when I saw him, had had his arms up above his head for eight long years, and desired to make no change for a further period of four years, at the end of which time he hoped to restore them to their former state, firstly by presents and feasts to the Brahmans, whose intercession would thus be secured, and secondly by the application of certain emollients with peculiar stimulating properties known to the sadhus. “If it be the will of God ,” added Gareeb Das, speaking on this subject, “then my arms will be restored to their proper use when the appointed time comes.”

[OJ.2.216] As there are European thieves who do not hesitate to rob a church, so there are, it would seem, Indian representatives of the same ancient, if disreputable, fraternity, who have no scruples about appropriating the property of even a helpless sadhu. This was illustrated when Gareeb Das was deprived by impudent thieves of all his portable property, including a book, which rumour declared was actually a bank pass-book, testifying to cash deposits mounting up to as much as a lakh of rupees. The disgusted sadhu promptly removed himself from the Guru Bagh where he had been robbed, and some of my servants met and conversed with him near the railway station, waiting for the train which was to take him away to Jeypore on his homeward journey. Such was the tale which was current in Amritsar, and which I noted down on the 26th of October. What was my surprise on the 7th of November to find my friend Gareeb Das once again established in the Guru Bagh, the story of the robbery having been in all probability a mere invention got up to stimulate public interest in sadhuji. On this occasion the ascetic had a small private enclosure of his own, made up of bamboos and cloth screens. People were crowding in and out of this enclosure in goodly numbers. When I went in I noticed great heaps, 1iterally heaps, of flour, salt, sugar, and such things—in fact, sacks and sacks full. It appeared that a few days previously the sadhu had given notice in the city that he would not eat anything until he had entertained five hundred unmarried girls at a feast. [kumari puja] He hoped to accomplish this before the end of December, but contributions had come in so quickly that the feast day had been fixed for the 9th of November. While I was learning these particulars the sadhu rose and walked a few paces with his arms above his head, and as he did so the poor fellow looked so utterly and painfully helpless that I could not but experience a feeling of the greatest compassion for him, not unmingled with a certain [OJ.2.217] admiration of his steadfastness and prolonged endurance.
Before I took my leave of the ascetic, an attendant, making a very polite speech, offered me a couple of handful of raisins and almonds. I took just two raisins and dropped a rupee on the remainder. The money was removed and the raisins and almonds given to the policeman who was in attendance upon me, in accordance with the rule which prevails at the Golden Temple. The Punjabi policeman willingly accepted the gift, carefully tying up the dried fruits and nuts in a very dirty handkerchief.
The sadhu's feast to the unmarried girls came off in proper time, and was a complete success, for a great many Hindu ladies of good position came on the appointed day and helped to cook and distribute the food amongst the invited guests. In this way Gareeb Das, without spending a single rupee out of his own pocket, and himself a cripple, was enabled, through the liberal contributions and helpful courtesy of his admirers, to play the host munificently to five hundred youthful maidens of Amritsar.

French sadhu
[OJ.2.223] Some years ago at Simla, the summer capital of the Indian Government, I interviewed one Charles de Russette, a young man of French descent, who, although brought up as a Christian and properly educated in Bishop Cotton's school in that town, had, while a mere boy, embraced the life of a sadhu. I understood that he had inherited some property, which he made over to his sisters, reserving nothing for himself. Why he abandoned Christianity for Hinduism I did not find out, as he was disinclined to talk about the matter; but, whatever the cause which severed him from European life and thought, it was evident that he did not regret the step he had taken, and that he was well satisfied with his condition and mode of life as a Hindu devotee— a Sanyasi, I think.
Judging from outward appearances, the man had not suffered any such physical inconveniences as would affect his health, and he was particularly well clothed, though not in any sadhu style that I have ever seen.

He informed me that he lived his solitary life in the neighbourhood of Simla throughout the year, even in winter, when the snow lay deep upon the mountains. Of his fellow sadhus he spoke in terms of high praise, and assured me that he had seen Yogi adepts perform many most wonderful acts. Of virtue and vice he discoursed in the usual way, maintaining that it was not necessary to be a Christian in order to lead a virtuous life. De Russette's intellectual capacity seemed of a very ordinary kind, but I have no doubt he commands the highest respect from the natives, and lives idly, happy and contented, without any anxiety about the morrow.
The photograph reproduced here ... is an excellent likeness of the man as I saw him at Simla in 1894.

Naked sadhu, half-nČked sadhvi
[OJ.2.223] Information that an interesting group of sadhus was encamped on the maidan (open plain) near the Lahore Fort having reached me, I went there one morning to make the [OJ.2.224] acquaintance of the visitors and increase my stock of knowledge about sadhuism. [OJ.2.224] The leaders of the party were a nČked Sanyasi, and an almost nČked Sanyasin who let people understand that she was a widowed and childless daughter of the Rajah of B––––. Not many minutes’ conversation with the sadhu were needed to satisfy me that he was at best a shameless reprobate, but, as I thought his portrait would enrich my collection, I expressed the wish to take a photograph of him and his followers. This suggestion tickled his vanity, and he had the effrontery, though I am sure he did not wish to be impertinent, to offer to have himself taken in a most objectionable and unseemly attitude, which would demonstrate his virility to the greatest advantage. [
chabi, li–gasana?] His female companion was, I should say, under twenty-five years of age, and not particularly attractive. [] Both of them had ashes rubbed over their persons. Three or four sadhus, one of them a Kanphata Yogi, had joined theses worthies as travelling companions. A boy devotee of about twelve years of age also belonged to the company, and seemed devoted to the Sanyasin.
While I conversed with the sadhus under a group of trees, there was a small and ever-changing gathering of about two hundred [
small?!] persons round these queer, though evidently much respected, wanderers. Most of the visitors had dropped in, as it were, to pay their respects to the sadhus after having had their morning bath in the river. The nČked mendicant and his companion, the almost nude Sanyasin, were not edifying sights; yet women [!], girls [!], and children of respectable families were all gazing at them reverentially, without any sign of shame or bashfulness. They were holy privileged people these sadhus, and not to be regarded with ordinary eyes or judged by customary standards. Yet, whilst I was present, a protest was raised by some Aryas — sectarians of a new school — against the Sanyasi’s nudeness. Angry accusations and bitter retorts were exchanged, and in the course of the altercation the Sanyasi tried to turn the tables upon his censors by asking them significantly what they gained by deserting the religion of their ancestors.
Meanwhile, as a sort of practical reply to the Arya objectors, offerings were accumulating near the sadhus — wheat, flour, rice, lentils, ghee, and also copper and silver coins. It was plain that the Sanyasi and his companions were in favour and not faring badly. As we conversed, the leader of the party, followed by the woman and then by the others, indulged in the luxury of pipes of charas, exhaling wonderful volumes of dense white smoke from their lungs. Just a pull or two was quite enough for each one, for the smoke was so pungent that it had to be drawn through a wet cloth applied to the bottom of the tall chillum or pipe which is used in charas-smoking.
At this visit it was arranged that the group should be photographed by me the next morning. When, at the appointed time, I came to the camping-ground with my camera, I found to my surprise that the sadhus had all disappeared, leaving not a trace behind them. However, I was bent on having their portraits
[n‰ked female sadhus must have been rare, even then] if possible, and, after patient inquiries and no little discouragement, followed them up to a little temple of Siva near one of the city gates.
They were dismayed when they saw me, for they had been artfully told that I was a police officer and wished to have their photographs in order to get them into trouble. I learned also that the principal sadhu had been forced by the Aryas to put a rag about his loins.
He and a number of Hindu men who were present at the temple — no women visitors were there — informed me that the ascetics had been very badly used by the Aryas, who had scattered and spoiled all the offerings which had been made to them, and even caused their plates and utensils to be looted. How much truth there was in these allegations I cannot say, but the Aryas knew me very well, and no doubt surmised that I was in quest of materials for a book, and possibly, it did not suit these sectarians to have the n‰ked sadhu described for European readers, hence their opposition and interference. However, the soothing influence of two or three rupees [wasn’t that a lot in those days?] enabled me to dispel the suspicions aroused in the minds of the Sanyasi and his supporters and to secure the photograph I wanted. This I have now much pleasure in reproducing (Fig. 13), as it is, I am inclined to think, unique in its character. [And so it is!]

[OJ.2.233] A party of half a dozen or more Yogis
[Gorakhnathis] came to Lahore and made themselves somewhat conspicuous by occupying favourable positions alongside some of the main thoroughfares. One of these sadhus used to sit at the meeting of three roads, and was the object of a great deal of attention, especially from the women, who paid their respects to Maharaj as they went by him on their [OJ.2.234] homeward journey after the daily matutinal bath in the river Ravi.
These good creatures were much exercised in mind at seeing the holy ascetics eating pinches of wood ashes from time to time, and some, more devout or more impulsive than the others, begged one of the Yogis to permit them to minister to his wants. He haughtily declined their assistance; but to one pious lady, more pressing than the rest in her offers of service, he condescended to explain that he had taken a vow never to lift a morsel of food (or anything but ashes) to his mouth with his own hand. “Permit me, Maharaj,” said the ministrant fair one, “to feed you with my own hands. It will be an honour to me and mine.”
The saint good-naturedly, but still reluctantly, yielded the point. Henceforth the favoured one fed his saintship daily, and so did one or two other women—amongst them a beautiful girl of about sixteen years of age. Every day, when the Yogi had partaken of as much food as he cared for, he would bless the remainder, bidding his kind friends
[i.e the ladies] to partake of it themselves.
The regular meal-time of the lucky Yogi became an event of interest to the passers-by, and a certain man, who probably lived or had his place of business in the immediate neighbourhood, was in the habit of coming to watch the proceedings. Observing, perhaps with a pang of jealousy, the beautiful young girl I have alluded to feeding the almost nČked Yogi with her own delicate fingers, this discontented spectator ventured to wonder in audible terms whether she was as attentive to her husband as she was to the saint. Of course the young wife, drawing her veil over her face bashfully, suggested that the rude fellow might mind his own business; but the Yogi, irritated by his impertinence, showered a volley of abuse upon him, desiring him at the same time to take himself off and not stand there staring at his betters. Uncomplimentary epithets were freely exchanged, till the ascetic, losing his temper, threw his stick at the intruder, but without effect. He next hurled a piece of lighted firewood at the man, and, more successful this time, [OJ.2.235] struck his adversary on the arm, with the result that he was slightly burnt.
In a rage—literally a burning rage now—the meddlesome fellow flew at the sadhu and beat him soundly with a stick. Bystanders in horror hastened to interfere, when a new arrival, pressing forward to see what the excitement was about, grasped the situation and laughingly exclaimed, “Oh, ––––, so you have come here, have you ?”
Noticing his familiar mode of address, several present queried with surprise, “Do you know the Maharaj ? Whence does he come?” and so on.
”Who is he ? Why ––––, the son of ––––, a choorah (sweeper) by caste, and I see that there are several of his caste-mates not far off.”
“A choorah ? Are you sure ?” came from many voices.
“I should rather think I am sure—he is one of my own beraderi. Have I not known him since he was a child ?”
This disclosure was like a bolt out of the blue !
Toba ! toba !” said the horrified bystanders. “And these respectable ladies have been feeding choorahs with their own hands and eating their contaminated leavings.”
The pious women victimised by the Yogi veiled their faces closely and fled without a word, overwhelmed with shame and anxiety. “Toba ! toba !” passed from mouth to mouth, and the crowd was moved by mingled feelings of merriment, indignation, and disgust at the discomfiture and punishment of the low - caste Yogi, and at the terrible—how terrible only the Hindu knows—predicament in which the women zealous of good works had quite innocently placed themselves and their families.

[OJ.2.154] Sanyasis at a religious gathering.

[If this photo were taken at a Kumbha mela today, only the background would be different: e.g. more luxurious tents. The sadhus would look the same.]


[OJ.2.252] ... no Hindu ascetic is ever expected to work. He is to live by alms, and he does so. It follows that the sadhus do not till the lands that may have become the property of the monastery, such lands always being leased out to agriculturists — a fact which cannot fail to recall to one’s mind, by the mere force of contrast, the laborious diligence of the monks of the West, who, at any rate in the early days of Christian monkery, often, by their untiring exertions, reclaimed the wilderness and converted it into smiling corn-fields. At the same time, it should not be overlooked that the time-honoured encouragement of laborious habits on the part of the Western monks has, when stimulated by the powerful commercial spirit of modern times, been productive of those grotesque parodies of unworldliness, the present industrial and meanly avaricious monastic institutions in France and elsewhere, with their dishonesty and their sweating of the weak — features which, it would seem, are unfortunately inseparable from industrialism even in a convent.
{[footnote] I allude, of course, to the grave scandals brought to light, more particularly in connection with the Bon Pasteur order.}

Naked pilgrims at Amarnath
[OJ.2.268] ... the young Jogi said that till recently it had been the custom for persons visiting the sacred ice-cave
[Amarnath] on the mountain-top to divest themselve (both men and women) of every stitch of clothing, as it was thus that lord Siva wished them to appear and dance before him; but my informant added that now, owing to the wishes of the father of the present Maharajah of Kashmir, the women were allowed to cover themselves, but with a single garment only. The men enter the ice-cave with langotis or breech-clouts on; but each man divests his neighbour of his langoti, so in the end they stand in the dark cave stark nČked. [OJ.2.269] Whether these details about the annual pilgrimage to Amarnath are true or not I have not been able to ascertain, but they are certainly in harmony with what we know of Indian sadhus, amongst whom the tendency to run to nudity is a very marked characteristic. {[Footnote] Vigne, who visited Kashmir in 1835, states that the Brahmans at Amarnath divest themselves of all clothing excepting some pieces of birch-bark which do duty for fig-leaves (Travels in Kashmir, etc., vol. ii. chap. i.); and Dr. Neve (Picturesque Kasmir, 1900, chap. vii.) says that the worshippers throw themselves nČked upon the block of ice in the cave which represents Siva.}
[OJ.2.270] If in the ideal of life which claims especial regard or is the object of the supreme ambition of any people their character is discernible, it may be profitable, in connection with the subject of this volume, to pause for a moment to contrast the highest ideals of the busy practical West and of the tranquil dreamy East.
Though Mammon worship prevails largely in England, the loftiest aspirations of the vast majority of Englishmen still tend towards aristocratic ideals, the objects of highest admiration amongst them, after royalty with its old-world glamour, being the hereditary nobleman or landed gentleman who takes a leading part in public life, the strenuous statesman, and the victorious general. Royalty being excluded, the hero-type which in each case attracts the homage of the English world is still the aristocrat [OJ.2.271] successful as a man of action. In the United States of America, which have no royal court and no hereditary nobility, which until recently had no foreign relations of magnitude, where the feeling is intensely democratic, and where the best energies of the people are untiringly devoted to industrial pursuits, the prosperous business man sprung from the ranks of the people, the clever accumulator of wealth, the plutocrat, the self-assertive millionaire, is the beau-ideal of the nation, and next after him the wide-awake pushing politician. Here also, it is evident, popular admiration is given to what is regarded as the embodiment of success in fields of activity congenial with the national taste and leanings. For the professedly religious life there exists both in England and the United States— perhaps in all Protestant countries—a separate and distinct ideal of perfection, yet certain it is that the respect of the pious Protestants of Britain and the States is commanded by the vigorous active worker for the good of others, and not by the retiring self -contained ascetic.
Very different indeed from the business-born ideals we have been considering is the hero-type which for ages has drawn the admiring homage of India and the Far East. The covetous Westerns may have their eyes riveted with greedy appreciation upon the bejewelled Rajahs of India and their barbaric pomp, but, for reasons already indicated, it is the ascetic profession that time out of mind has been of pre-eminent dignity in the eyes of the Indian people. The quiet inactive recluse, the retired ascetic detached from the world and its petty rivalries, has since the earliest ages occupied the very highest place in the national esteem—a fact which speaks volumes for the condition and psychology of the Hindus, because, as Carlyle has well said, “The manner of men's Hero-worship, verily it is the innermost fact of their existence and determines all the rest.”
That the only possible state of a religious (holy) life is [OJ.2.272] one involving asceticism and renunciation of the world, has been for ages such a deeply rooted idea in India that Hindu apologists for the more active life have felt constrained to devise apologues which might be cited in support or justification of men of acknowledged goodness who did not withdraw themselves from the temptations and toils of mundane existence.

[OJ.2.273] Sadhuism in its religious aspect.
Sadhuism, whether perpetuating the peculiar idea of the efficacy of austerities for the acquisition of far-reaching powers over natural phenomena, or bearing its testimony to the belief in the indispensableness of detachment from the world as a preparation for the ineffable joy of ecstatic communion with the Divine Being, has undoubtedly tended to keep before men's eyes, as the highest ideal, a life of purity, self-restraint, and contempt of the world and human affairs. It has also necessarily maintained amongst the laity a sense of the righteous claims of the poor upon the charity of the more affluent members of the community. Moreover, sadhuism, by the multiplicity of the independent sects which have arisen in India, has engendered and favoured a spirit of tolerance which cannot escape the notice of the most superficial observer.

Sadhuism in its social aspect.
Socially, sadhuism has, in its spirit and practice, always tended towards the recognition of the equality of all Hindus, and has therefore been inimical to the rigid caste-system so dear to the Brahman priesthood. The warfare between Brahmanism and Sadhuism has been carried on with varying fortune for thirty centuries; but the democratic leanings referred to have proved too strong for the opposition of the “twice-born” classes, and the inevitable [OJ.2.274] result was long since grudgingly admitted, as the following prophecy, put into the mouth of the Vedic god Indra, shows clearly enough:—
“When this krita (or golden) age,” says the god, “has come to a close, innumerable mendicants and hypocrites shall arise and the four orders become disorganised.”
[] That the sadhu as such should enjoy popular consideration has undoubtedly been at all times a very sore trial for the proud Brahman, and especially hateful to him when it was a low-caste Sudra who, in virtue of being an ascetic, received the respect and homage of the people.

[OJ.2.275] The intellectual aspect of sadhuism.
Intellectually, the spirit of sadhuism has unquestionably proved most baneful, its tendency being to regard passing events—that is, history in the making—with undisguised contempt and the study of nature as useless, since true knowledge and power over phenomena could be acquired only by contemplation and austerities.

Number of sadhus 100 years ago
Industrial effect of sadhuism.
Many estimates have been made, and at different times, of the proportion which the number of religious mendicants in India bears to the entire population. Mr. Ward, the Serampore missionary, writing a century ago and with special reference to Bengal and Behar, says: “I have endeavoured to ascertain the probable number of Hindus who embrace a life of mendicity, and am informed that scarcely less than an eighth part of the whole population abandon their proper employments and live as religious mendicants by begging.” Mr. Crookes, in his North Western Provinces of India (1898), puts the figure for that territory at two millions out of forty millions, or one-twentieth of the population.
[Amazingly, this would be between 12,5% and 5%. If we would extrapolate these numbers to the present day population of India, there would be between 125.000.000 and 50.000.000 sadhus!!! In actuality there are about 1.000.000 at the most, that is 0,1%.]

[OJ.2.276] Naturally, everyone who believes that the chief end of man is to produce things of various kinds grieves over the deplorable waste of productive energy represented by the sadhu population of India. But, after all, is it of no importance that the country has been able to produce for a hundred generations whole armies of men able to practise, with a religious purpose, that contempt of the world and earthly riches which is, at least theoretically, one of the most important of Christian virtues?
No doubt, the philosophy and art, I might say the cult, of chronic idleness is thoroughly understood and acted upon in India; still, in estimating the extent to which its sadhu population is a burden upon the country, several facts have to be borne in mind which the most superficial analysis of the composition of the religious mendicant class brings to light. In the first place, amongst sadhus are included a very considerable percentage of what in other countries are merely the destitute paupers supported by the State out of the proceeds of taxation, but in India out of the alms of the people. Again, sadhus are to no small extent religious teachers (gurus) of the masses, and this must be recognised in any estimate of their value or otherwise to the community.
In the ranks of the sadhus, too, there is honourable room for those men, present in every community, who, as Bishop Creighton once said, “although as good as gold and fit for heaven, are of no earthly use.” Further, the incorrigible idlers who in Europe become intolerable and dangerous vagrants, pursue a more reputable course in India. They simply adopt the religious habit of some sect or order, and enter the ranks of the peregrinating sadhus.
There are other points, also, which in this connection deserve attention. For example, sadhus are prominently in evidence on account of their peculiar dress and appearance, while their wandering habits taking them, often in huge parties, from place to place throughout the circling year, seem to multiply them many times over. Their necessary daily appeals for a dole of simple food to [OJ.2.277] sustain life also helps to keep them before the public eye, and to unpleasantly remind the world of their existence. But, whether or not sadhus are too numerous for the industrial well-being of the country, it should not be forgotten that, though there are undoubtedly many worthless sadhus, the converse is also not less true, and that to the multitude a majority of these religious mendicants are types and exemplars of a holy life, and, as such, help them to make for righteousness.

[OJ.2.278] The future of sadhuism.
If with an eye to the future of sadhuism we consider its present state, the conviction is forced upon us that it is not in as much favour as at many former periods in Indian history; or, perhaps, I should rather say that the thoughts of men in India are now being strongly attracted to more worldly ideals.
British rule, with its strong bias towards material improvements, its encouragement of trade, and the facilities it affords for cheap locomotion and for emigration, has opened up a variety of careers, official and other, to all castes alike, and also many new ways to the acquirement [OJ.2.279] of riches, while its stability guarantees the safe possession of wealth by all races alike. However enamoured of sadhuism Hindu India may have been, there were, of course, at all times good Hindus who fully appreciated the advantages of worldly possessions and were assiduous worshippers of Kuvera, their god of wealth. Merchants, indeed, are prominent characters in some of the oldest tales that have come down to us from Buddhist times, but under despotic rulers the accumulation of riches was not an easy matter, and certainly their display would have been dangerous. The ever-present proportion of wealth-seekers in the population has its opportunity now, and is reinforced by crowds allured away from their old ideals by the special attractions of the new age. As in the West, so in India to-day, the possessors of the world's goods, however their treasures may have been acquired, are objects of popular respect, and receive marked consideration from the ruling powers, sharing with favoured officials to an appreciable extent the honours which the State has to bestow. Hence the desire for affluence and for the ostentatious parade of wealth has become very pronounced; and the more so since outside the “Native States” most of the old hereditary dignities have ceased to be of much account under the new regime. Hindu caste distinctions necessarily receive little, if any, recognition under British rule, and the pride of the “twice-born” classes no encouragement at all. Sadhus are not more fortunate; for, whatever their merits or their claims may be, they are looked down upon with contemptuous indifference by the ruling race, the new twice-borns of the Indian world, now in effect the predominant caste, exhibiting all the virtues and the vices of its peculiar position, privileges, and pretensions.

[OJ.2.282] By no means enamoured of Indian sadhuism, I feel at the same time no particular admiration for the industrialism of Europe and America, with its vulgar aggressiveness, its eternal competition, and its sordid, unscrupulous, unremitting, and cruel struggle for wealth as the supreme object of human effort. But, whatever may be the merits or demerits of these two systems, they are essentially antagonistic, since the economic ideal of life, being frankly worldly and severely practical, excludes imagination, emotionalism, and dreamy sentimentalism, and consequently religion also, except of the philanthropical or pharisaical type. Hence a momentous, if unobtrusive, struggle in India is inevitable under new conditions between the forces which make for the renunciation of the world on the one hand and for the accumulation of wealth on the other; and there is no doubt that, as a consequence, the immemorial civilisation of the Hindus will undergo change, both in its spirit and practice, under the stimulus [OJ.2.283] of the potent foreign influences to which it is now exposed. Yet I cannot help hoping that the Indian people, physically and mentally disqualified for the strenuous 1ife of the Western world, will long retain, in their nature, enough of the spirit of sadhuism to enable them to hold steadfastly to the simple, frugal, unconventional, leisured life of their forefathers, for which climatic conditions and their own past history have so well fitted them, always bearing in mind the lesson taught by their sages, that real wealth and true freedom depend not so much upon the possession of money, or a great store of goods, as upon the reasonable regulation and limitation of the desires.


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