An in-depth photographic study of the ascetic holy men of India -
Includes more than 100 striking color photographs of Sadhus, their
extreme austerities, and their holy festivals, including the Kumbha
Mela - Examines the practices and beliefs of Sadhus from several
different sects - Traces the historical and mythological roots of
the Sadhus and shows how they have fundamentally shaped Hinduism
since remote antiquity Spiritual adventurers, philosophical monks,
naked ascetics, or religious transvestites, the Sadhus of India
form a vital and unbroken link between the birth of yoga millennia
ago and its present-day expression. Numbering in the millions,
these mystic holy men are worshipped by the Hindus as
representatives of the gods, yet they remain largely unknown in the
West because they often live in far-off places, hidden from
everyday life. In this full-color study of Sadhus more than 20
years in the making, photographer Dolf Hartsuiker illustrates the
Sadhus' world of ancient magical rituals, religious symbols, and
ascetic practices. In his photographic quest across India, the
author visited many holy places, attended religious festivals
including the Kumbha Mela, and encountered and photographed
thousands of Sadhus, befriending several as he was drawn into their
inner circle. Sharing more than 100 striking color photographs from
his travels, he reveals the Sadhus' utmost devotion to their
spiritual path through meditation practices, yoga exercises,
penance, and austerities--sometimes taken to the extreme of
prolonged self-imposed silence, bodily mortification, such as
holding an arm above the head for years, or even ritual suicide--as
well as their profound involvement with the mundane world as
healers and teachers or magicians and sorcerers. It is a path of
knowledge and devotion, renunciation and realization, sexual energy
and spiritual power, divine intoxication and mystical union. The
author examines the different beliefs and behaviors of each Sadhu
sect, including the "sky-clad" Naga Babas, and traces their
historical and mythological roots to show how they have
fundamentally shaped Hinduism since antiquity. Revealing the
powerful "otherworldliness" of the Sadhus, the author also exposes
the mystical beauty that emanates from those who have chosen the
path of asceticism in pursuit of knowledge of the Absolute and
liberation from all earthly bonds.
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