Nāgas

Religion could be a good thing. Scriptures of all religions in one form or other talk of life being a journey wherein man aspires to overcome the guilty pleasures of anger, pain, pride desire and longing. These scriptures help man gain wisdom and seek the eternal truth of the “Self” which is being wise, tolerant, open and one with the Creator.

But looking at the world today, a lust for validation, fame, greed and instant gratification seem to contort these principles as one’s outward behaviour rather than a personal and a very intimate, internal conflict with the soul. Instead of realising the truth within himself, man has used religion as a weapon to destroy everything in his path and seek dominance over everything around him.

The Nāgas (naked holy men), worshipers of Lord Śiva, are warrior saints who embark on a life long journey to be devoid of yearnings and attain emancipation from the cycle of rebirth. They endure hardships, pain and sacrifice to detach themselves from the very desires that many of us hold so dear.

These carefully staged portraits tell a story of a journey. A journey that begins with detachment from worldly possessions and ends in realisation of the “Self”. A journey that often takes the effort of a lifetime.

Oh mind, why do you wander about deluded, like an unclean spirit?

Behold the Self indivisible.

Be happy through renunciation of attachment.

– Avadhoot Gita – Chapter 1 – Verse 18

— Kumbh Mela, Nashik, Maharashtra – September 2015.

Over one hundred thousand pilgrims visit the kumbh Mela. I deliberately wanted to isolate the nāga sadhu’s from their environment so that the viewer could appreciate the unique and intense personality that each of these saints embody. Also, an isolated environment helped me build my narrative without being influenced or distracted by the surroundings of a rather chaotic setting.

The captions of the images are literal translations of verses from the “Bhagvad Gita”.