Reading the title itself makes you wonder about Naga Babas, “Really?”
If you are an ardent follower of deep-rooted Indian culture (especially Hindu culture), you may be well aware of Naga Babas and Aghori Babas. If you aren’t, this article will enlighten you about this unique culture that makes you ask questions and inspire you to know more. Many hidden facts about Naga Sadhus and Aghoris will open up and leave you amazed as you read through.
So let’s begin….
Who are Naga Babas?
The moment we think of Naga Sadhus, a picture of some long-bearded monk devoid of any clothing comes across our mind. Though the word Naga means naked, there is more to Naga Sadhus just being a naked sadhu than that which meets the eye. The process of becoming a Naga is not easy. Challenging exercises and strict habits along with restrictions are necessary to become a Naga.
Naga Babas live in Akhadas which is a place for their worship and practicing their tradition. The earliest Guru Shankaracharya initiated the practice of Naga Sadhus. The traces of Naga tradition date back to the Treta Yug. They initially lived in the Himalayas.
These sadhus have their bodies covered with ash and have dreadlocks that are in resemblance to Lord Shiva. They stay aloof from typical human habitats and renounce social life to follow their faith. They practice celibacy very strictly and are hence quite respected amongst the Hindus.
Hinduism follows the path of peaceful living. It states that the life cycle is dependent on birth, and then death is the only medium for any soul to elevate to consciousness for reaching God. This has been stated in Bhagavad Gita too. Read more about Death: The only truth of life here.
The Nagas inculcate habits that they believe will elevate them to the levels that will set their soul free of the birth/ death cycle.
Hierarchy of the Naga Sadhus from top to bottom
- Acharya Mahamandaleshwar
- Peer Mahant
- Thanapati Mahant
- Jamapatiya Mahant
- Shri Mahant
Know about the history of Naga Sadhus
Historically, traces of Nagas lie in the images and coins during the Mohenjo Daro times. Images of sadhus worshiping Lord Shiva in the form of Pashupatinath were excavated from specific archeological sites.
It is also said that Alexander also met these sadhus when he and his troops were in India. Impressed by their devotion and penance, Lord Mahavir and Lord Buddha also mentioned them. The Digambar sadhus (Who are Digambar Sadhus?) who follow Jainism also have traces of rituals followed by Naga sadhus.
The Mughal invaders attacked several religious structures and sadhus. During these times, the Nagas revolted by forming Akhadas to fight under a single umbrella. They became a solid force to reckon with and carried saffron flags that symbolize Hindu Vedic tradition. Nagas were trained to fight anti-Vedic aggressors. This led to Hindus still respecting Nagas and considering them God’s representatives.
How to become a Naga Babas?
As mentioned earlier, the process is complex, even strenuous. It is not as if you decide and become a Naga baba overnight. Various harrowing stages need to be passed to achieve your goal of becoming a Naga.
Only some can become a Sadhu. There are several challenging exercises, which even armies across the globe will find hard to perform.
Steps for becoming a Naga Babas are as follows:
Brahmacharya Stage: The Akhadas don’t permit anyone very quickly to become a Naga. They will first conduct a thorough investigation into the background of the interested person. Post complete assurance about the interested person being keenly ready to alter his life, he will be permitted into the Akhada.
Several tests determine the capability of the person to lead the Naga way of life. These tests can go on for around a year to more than a decade. Only on crossing this challenging stage, the person gets Diksha and can go to the next step.
Becoming a Mahapurush: A Mahapurush is the most extraordinary personality. During this stage, the aspiring Naga will have five gurus (teachers). These gurus are Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Shakti, Lord Surya, and Lord Ganesha. The aspirant gets a Rudraksha, Saffron and Ash, and some other spiritual things that complete the attire of a Naga.
The Avdhoot Stage: This stage necessitates going beyond all worries and worldly attachments that normal humans possess. The aspirant shaves his head and performs his death rites (Pind Daan) under the Akhada priest’s guidance. The death ceremony implies that the person is now dead to the outside world. The Naga now has to follow and protect Vedic traditions and Sanatan Dharma.
The Final Stage: This is undoubtedly the most unbearable and torturous stage. The process begins with the aspiring Naga having to stand below the Akhada’s flag for 24 hours. He needs to hold pots filled with water in both hands with a dand (a heavy object) on his shoulders. He is under strict vigilance by the Akhada members during this time.
The penis will then be beaten slowly with the help of mantras to make it inactive. This exercise gradually weakens the penis and thereby negates the libido. All this turns the Naga Sadhu into a Yodha (Warrior) for safeguarding Sanatan Dharma and the nation.
Post completion of this stage, the aspirant will become a complete Naga Sadhu.
Some interesting facts to know about Naga Sadhus
Does all this information about the life of Nagas intrigue you? It does. The surprising and amazing facts that come across when you delve deep into their lives make you want to know more. Well, then here goes. Know about some of the interesting facts about the Naga Sadhus.
Naga Babas are allowed to eat only once every day. Moreover, they can eat only what they get. They may beg for food only in 7 houses per day. They have to eat whatever they get from these houses. If they don’t get anything, they have to starve the entire day.
Once they have their food in the evening, the Nagas go to sleep. The Naga Babas get up at Bramha Muhurta (Around 4.00 am). They begin with having a bath, perform yoga, say their prayers, and thus starts their day.
Let us now move on to an event that is well-known across the globe and its connection with the Naga Sadhus – The Kumbh Mela.
The Naga Babas, as said before, are a highly respected group of Sadhus. They have attained enlightenment and honor taking a dip in the sacred Ganga, Shipra, Godavari, and Yamuna rivers when the Kumbh Mela begins.
During the Kumbh Mela, you will witness a variety of Naga Baba’s having unique characteristics and qualities. Some will have long hair, others will have long nails, and some interesting ones, such as the money makers who will offer you blessings in favor of money.
The most surprising feature of the Kumbh Mela is the Women Nagas. You will read more about female sadhvis later on in the article.
As they carry weapons, Naga Baba’s are thought to be saviors of Sanatan Hindu Dharma.
You will even witness the Nagas performing some death-defying acts and stunts. Just by seeing these acts, you will feel the pain. The Nagas believe that these acts will prove that they are devoted to Lord Shiva. They think that such deeds will strengthen their souls and minds. Some such actions include inserting sharp objects into their sensitive parts and standing straight for hours together. Some Sadhus will bury themselves under the ground for days together.
People may click pictures of these Sadhus, know about their experiences, ask for knowledge, or have a casual chat with them. But, you must take their permission for doing these things.
Who is female Naga Sadhvis?
Female Naga Sadhvis have to follow the same stringent procedures to attain the position of a Sadhvi. Every process that the males follow has to be followed by the females too. The only difference is that female Nagas can wear an orange or reddish cloth across their body. They wear a Tika on their forehead. Even females need to shave their heads.
On completing the entire strict examination process, the female Naga gets the post of “Maa.”
The Naga Sadhvis chant God’s name on getting up and before sleeping and have developed respect in the Akhadas to which they belong.
Even foreigners getting attracted to the Naga Sadhvi tradition and have joined the groups to become Sadhvis. European women form a considerable chunk of these female Naga.
The Naga Sadhvis also take a dip in the holy waters during Kumbh Mela while wearing clothes. Now let us explore one more interesting and often misunderstood clan of Sadhus called the Aghori Babas.
Who are Aghori Babas?
Just like the Naga Sadhus, Aghoris are one of the cults prevalent in India. These Sadhus are often feared, and people always suspect them. These sadhus always incite fear and bemusement in people.
Aghoris are worshippers of Lord Shiva and Goddess Kali. They live in a mysterious aura and use a weird lifestyle. However, most of the stories or rumors circulating about Aghoris are not true, or people don’t have enough information about the truth.
Aghoris do not indulge in worshiping idols. They believe in meditation, marijuana, and alcohol to concentrate. Just like the Naga Sadhus, Aghoris seek upliftment and enlightenment. They think that using drugs and alcohol lifts them to a level that brings them close to God.
Aghoris have a belief that total darkness is something that leads them to self-realization or enlightenment. Though Hinduism is entirely different from this belief, for Aghoris, it proves effective.
Hindus believe in numerous Gods and worship them wholeheartedly; Aghoris thinks there is only one almighty, Lord Shiva. Every other God that Hindus believe in is just a manifestation of Shiva, according to the Aghoris. Bhairava is the form of Shiva that is associated with death.
Mostly, Aghoris choose to live in crematoriums with the dead, as their rituals are primarily associated with dead bodies. They lead a secluded life and hence, stay in places that people usually do not venture. Isolated living helps them stay away from society and perform their rituals without intervention.
An astonishing aspect of Aghoris is that they drink from humans’ skulls for practicing black magic. Aghoris hunt for the kapala or human skull, which is the valid symbol of their sect. They believe that post-death, the life force or prana of deceased beings stays clings to the skull. With offerings, mantras, or alcohol, they summon human spirits to come back to their bodies. They then gain control over these spirits and use them for their services.
A very unusual practice that the Aghoris follow is to have sex with dead bodies. This is part of their religious beliefs. This act is quite disturbing for the common public. A creepy thought process that Aghoris have is to find complete purity in filth. While having sex with the corpse, the Aghori must remain focused on God. If this happens, they think that whatever they do is the correct way of doing it.
There is one more secretive ritual that involves sex for the Aghoris. Aghoris believe that they will acquire supernatural powers if they indulge in sexual intercourse while surrounded by corpses. Aghoris unite to perform this ritual in a crematorium at night. The women who participate in this act smear themselves with ash and participate in sex while onlookers beat drums and recite mantras. It is mandatory that the woman is willing to be part of the ritual and menstruates on a ritual day. The intercourse continues for an hour as the Sadhu cannot reach orgasm till the end of this ritual.
History of Aghoris
The origin of the Aghori clan traces back to an ascetic known as Kina Ram, who is said to have lived 150 long years. Lord Dattatreya is the founder of this clan as he was a combination of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishu, and Lord Bramha. He symbolizes the highest ascetic follower and hence is considered holy by the Aghoris. Though there is inadequate proof of Dattatreya being the founder of the Aghori clan, the ascetic angle is considered to be the reason. Kina Ram is hence considered as the actual connection to the beginning of the Aghori cult.
Is there a similarity between Aghoris and Nagas?
The answer is no. Though there are some similarities between the two, Naga Sadhus and Aghori Babas are different.
Similar to the Naga Sadhus, Aghoris also need to undergo a stringent process to become Sadhus. Nagas have to experience their examinations in Akhadas, while Aghoris have to take their test of penance in a crematorium.
Both types of Sadhus worship Lord Shiva; however, their methods of worship differ. Nagas gain their teaching from a Guru in the Akhada, while Aghoris don’t have a Guru. They practice penance sitting in the crematorium and consider Lord Shiva as their mentor. It is said that the Aghoris have divine powers which they attain during their tapasya.
Nagas and Aghoris both eat non-vegetarian food. Aghoris even feed on human flesh.
Nagas visit the Kumbh Mela, which is the only time when they are in public. The rest of the time, the Nagas are in their Akhadas of the Himalayas. Aghoris lead a nomadic life and reside in crematoriums. They bathe in the ashes from the crematorium, eat the flesh of the corpses, and drink from skulls and even meditate surrounded by corpses. The acts, according to them, symbolizes their rise from Shava (dead body) to Shiva.
Naga babas teach and preach about God, while the Aghoris practice black magic. However, Aghoris use their black magic to help humans and not harming them in any way. As was explained earlier, Nagas are warriors and can fight with their wit and physical wrestling. However, Aghoris apply magical powers using dark arts.
The main similarity between Nagas and Aghoris is that both sacrifice families to follow their beliefs. They stay away from families to avoid any disturbances or distractions in their path to God.
The gist of this article is that both Naga Babas and Aghoris have the sole motto of reaching God. Both have different beliefs, but their intent of following unusual ways is to get enlightenment, which brings them close to God.
There are many things to learn from both clans. Hard work, dedication, struggle, patience, fearlessness, and conviction to reach goals are aspects that are together accumulated in the Nagas and Aghoris and can be followed to get to your own goals in life.