The first time you come across a Naga Sadhu, you will most likely look twice. Once, because his skin is completely grayed from ashes. The second time, because you won’t believe what you just saw. But yes, there it is. His penis is dangling freely for the whole world to behold. By then you will not be able to pull your eyes away. Because there is no shame. There is no lack of self-esteem. Obese or fit, well-hung or dwarfed, wrinkled as an old apple or taut as a newborn babe, these men have nothing to hide.
Whether this sect has been around for thousands of years or was founded in the 9th century CE, the Nagas clearly stand out among their clothed peers. Following Shiva, their master deity, they discard their clothes, renounce all worldly possessions and join a group of men living in complete seclusion. Wearing their hair knotted like dreadlocks and their bodies smeared with holy ashes, they spend their lives in frigid Himalayan caves, meditating, practicing yoga and smoking cannabis in search for enlightenment.
During the Kumbh Melas, which take place every 12 years in four different cities in India, the Naga Sadhus come back to civilization for a month and a half to meet with other akharas (groups) and for spiritual cleansing. It’s their fair. They philosophize with others and play-fight them with sticks and swords. They lead the parades, initiate rituals and are the axiomatic main attraction of the celebrations. Hindus and tourists alike seek them out to stare at their bare bodies and to receive a blessing: a smear of ashes on the forehead. But they inspire both fear and awe. Like animals, they don’t talk a lot, keep to themselves and are notorious for their rash temperament.
On the holy bathing days, thousands of naked wise men march behind their teachers shouting “Har har Mahadev” (Hail Lord Shiva). Wearing nothing but their birthday suit slightly covered by a garland of orange carnations, they run towards the river. They are barely aware of the millions of people who may have been waiting for hours just for a peek of the close to divine nudists.
Unfortunately, their perfect snow-globe world may be dissolving more rapidly than they know. With fewer and fewer men willing to give up worldly pleasures, the number of authentic Naga Sadhus is dwindling. In recent years, the leaders have commissioned destitute laymen to undress and join the parade in exchange for free food. It’s a scam as good as any, until one of the fake sadhus gets an erection and the fraud is revealed. Because a true Naga never gets a hard-on. During their initiation ceremony, a guru has forcefully pulled their foreskin back until the membrane snapped. And over time, the exposed organ has numbed and together with mind-control, all these gloriously naked men have managed to become completely asexual.
It would be incredibly sad to see the Naga Sadhu tradition disappear. More than just eye-candy for desperate women, they are living proof that mind over matter truly works. Fortunately for all of us, two thousand young men were initiated during the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013.
Here’s to hoping these young men stay on the naked path and encourage new “members” to join.