According to the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP), the highest body of the country’s akharas (a sect of seers), it is estimated that over 10,000 men and women are taking Deeksha (initiation) and becoming Naga sadhus this Kumbh. Many of whom have degrees in Engineering, Management and other professions from prestigious institutes across the country. The largest of the akharas, Juna Akhara has initiated about 1100 so far and there have been planned a few more mass initiations by them in this month to initiate the enthusiasts into Naga way of life.
The cynosure at the Kumbh Melas, Naga sect, is usually known for its sages subjecting their bodies to extremities by pushing themselves to their limit to achieve the atonement. This is done by applying ash on their bodies and staying naked to attain their spiritual edification. A 27-year-old Rajat Kumar Rai from Kutch in Gujarat, has a diploma in marine engineering. But instead of choosing to pursue a career in the marine engineering field, he has decided to instead relinquish the worldly desires and walk on the path directed by the Naga sect.
Similar is the story of Shambhu Giri, who is a management graduate from Ukraine, and Ghanshyam Giri, 18, a class XII board topper from Ujjain, both of whom have decided to pursue Naga way of life, hailed as one of the toughest streams of asceticism.
As a part of their initiation rituals, in one of the mass initiation ceremony held during the ongoing Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj last week, these three along with others got their hair chopped off (leaving only a ‘shikha’ at the back of the head), completed their own ‘pind-daan (after-death ritual) and partook in a night-long sacred elaborate ritual following which they were enlisted into the Naga sect. On Monday, all of them took a royal dip on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya. The newly initiated Naga Sages were most enthusiastic to immerse themselves in the holy river and complete their rituals.
The Chief Secretary of Juna Akhara and General Secretary of ABAP, Mahuna Hari Giri claims that the initiation ceremony happens only during Kumbh. People come in droves during Kumbh to renounce the world and embrace the Naga culture. When he was asked any caste specific requirements needed to embrace Naga sect, he asserted that regardless of the caste, religion and colour of the person, the akhara only seeks a strong desire and unwavering willingness of the person to become a Naga sadhu.
The chief also said that many interested people from Muslim, Christian and other religions have also been accepted in their sect. Among them are those who were earlier doctors and engineers. Many of the Engineers and graduates who came to get initiated have reasoned that becoming a Naga Sadhu was their true calling and on realisation, they came to Prayagraj to espouse Naga asceticism.