Updated: Mar 29, 2019
Naga Sadhus evoke burgeoning interest amongst denizens, media, pilgrims and photographers. Everything about the Naga Sadhus is either novel or mystique. Their lives, minimal ensemble, the sudden appearance, the chants, the enormous love of cannabis, the volatile nature- Little surprise, that they draw scores of visitors , specially seeking blessings or just wanting a glimpse of the ' Naga Sadhus'. Its a small attempt from my end to share the learnings & tips to photograph the Naga Sadhus
My journey from Kumbh ( Allahabad) to Banaras was not only gratifying but also an experience like no other. Following the Naga Sadhus and their rare brush with civilization ; from the highly charged confluence during the Mela to the Ghats of Banaras . After spending about a month in Allahabad , the Sadhus move to the ghats of Banaras and spend time in this holy city. They stay there till Mahashivratri.
A quick check list and tips to photograph the Naga Sadhus
1) Respect and knowledge : First and Foremost, The Naga Sadhus live a reclusive life and follow principles that spike interest from general civilization. Gain knowledge , know-how of both their lifestyle, rituals , causes, their love and devotion to Shiva and Cannabis and their principles. Respect, even if you have difference of opinion!
2) Proactive approval : Never take a photograph of the Sadhus without asking for permission or seeking approvals from at-least one of them ( if they are in a group). Some of them may be nonchalant but some may be reactive.
3) Media frenzy : There isn't a dearth of the number of photographers around these Sadhus or reporters scrounging to cover the strength and tenacity of their bodies. Believe it or not, they are aware of the ripple they cause when they are seen amongst the civilization. They are also aware of the TRP game and how valued a good portrait can be. You may find some babas make an identity; almost a brand of their own . The ' Ray - Ban' baba, or the ' Ghanti wale Baba' are where the maximum crowd is! Pay Respect and maintain respectable distance. These tips to photograph the Naga sadhus is my personal learning , and in no way comprehensive
4) No aversion to dakshina : Infact some babas proactively ask for money. They might not let one photograph unless an amount is paid, else they can be rude and offensive. Carry bunch of 50's but be prepared to shell out much more. I was also asked to give dakshina of my equipment.
5) Praise & flatter : Once on the grounds of Kumbh, be one with them. Mingle, Praise and flatter the Sadhus - they love it. This is a good chance to strike small conversation, get them comfortable in your presence and take pictures.
6) Small goodbyes: Do not linger around one set of Sadhus for too long. Once you have a photograph ( or not), move on .
7) Money isnt everything : A certain set of Sadhus are not interested in the worldly charms and will refuse a photograph and will hide their faces and no amount of money can buy them to agree. However interesting a frame , this is a sign to move on ..
8) Take blessings yet avoid touching the Babas , specially women should abstain from touching them. Naga Babas have embraced celibacy and this is a matter of principles.
Like I mentioned before, these tips to photograph the Naga Sadhus is not comprehensive and only relates to my experience with the Naga Sadhus
Tips and photographs by Navtej Singh
Narration : Amita Ambwani