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Father & Son, Saddhus in India. Laughter. Beads and beard. Postcard.

Father & Son, Saddhus in India. Laughter. Beads and beard. Postcard

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In Hinduism, sadhu, or shadhu is a common term for a mystic, an ascetic, practitioner of yoga (yogi) and/or wandering monks. The sadhu is solely dedicated to achieving the fourth and final Hindu goal of life, moksha (liberation), through meditation and contemplation of Brahman. Sadhus often wear ochre-colored clothing, symbolizing renunciation.

There are 4 or 5 million sadhus in India today and they are still widely respected: revered for their holiness, sometimes feared for their curses. It is also thought that the austere practices of the sadhus help to burn off their karma and that of the community at large. Thus seen as benefiting society, sadhus are supported by donations from many people.

Sadhus are not unified in their practices. Some live in the mountains alone for years at a time, eating only a few bananas. Others walk around with one hand in the air for decades. Still others partake in the religious consumption of charas (hand-made cannabis hashish) and contemplate the cosmic nature and presence of God .

There are naked Naga (Digambar, or "sky-clad") Sadhus which are non-shaven and have thick dreadlocks, and Jata, who carry swords.

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