Benaras – The Funny Sadhus

“Myself Pradeep Sharma, no wife, no children, no mummy, no papa…”, he effusively stated while extending his hand for a quick handshake. “Chaye pee ke jaiye”, he continued “humari taraf se”, pointing towards the tea shop right behind him. (Have a cup of tea, it’s on me). I politely refused, while my sisters giggled right behind me.

This was one of the many sadhus we came across in the ghats of Benaras. The sadhus were of all kinds – some in their own world, some wandering aimlessly, some looking to earn a quick buck, some asking for alms, some irritated and upset, some busy performing pujas and yagnas.

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I will narrate two funny encounters.

The Jovial Sadhu

We were passing by Darbhanga Ghat towards Dashashwamedh Ghat when we noticed this man talking to a family of 4-5 people. It appeared like they were seeking a solution to some problem and our man was happily obliging. We paused a few meters away watching him. The ash-smeared skin, the disheveled looks, the unkempt beard, the red dhoti, presented us with the perfect photo opportunity.  By now, we had learnt that if you approach any such person for a photo either they outright refuse to oblige or ask for money in lieu of a photo. But this time it turned out to be different.

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The man called us and said that we could freely click pictures of him if we wanted, he wouldn’t mind, and that he doesn’t want money in return. Having seen tourists in plenty, he had guessed our intention.  After the family left, he posed for us in various ways. His enthusiasm was hilariously enjoyable.

The next day, we happened to pass by the same area when we saw someone smiling at us. It took us a while to recognize our jovial sadhu as he was wearing a woollen cap and a sweater. Though we said nothing this time, he offered to pose with us. We were busily headed somewhere but he insisted and wouldn’t take no for an answer. We just had to agree to his enthusiasm. In return, he took off his cap and sweater in the cold winter morning and posed in many different ways making sure all three of us had separate pictures with him. It didn’t matter whether we wanted a picture or not.

Happy with his earnest enthusiasm, we offered him a fifty rupee note, which he readily accepted.

The Santa Clause Sadhu

We were standing at the turning of a narrow alley waiting for the doors of a nearby temple to open for the evening. That was when I noticed a plump pot-bellied man with a flowing white beard and a red/orange robe walking towards us through the alley, which was empty until now. I alerted my sister, who was creating a photo series on sadhus. My sister jumped into action forgetting to be discreet.

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As expected, the man asked for money the moment he approached the turning where we were standing. We looked away pretending not to listen. At the same time a small boy appeared from the neighbourhood and started teasing him – “Sadhubaba, Sadhubaba, zara Hanuman Chalisa toh padke sunao!”, (Sadhubaba, why don’t you recite the Hanuman Chalissa for us!).  The man laughed boisterously and playfully brandished his stick as if to hit the small boy.

Suddenly the atmosphere became light. Digging into my pocket, I found a ten rupee note that I handed over to him. As if obliged by this gesture, he recommended a weird remedy for some unknown problem. We were supposed to take a peda (an Indian sweet) every Saturday, encircle the same around our heads three times and then feed it to a dog. This antidote to some non-existent problem was hilarious and led to a lot of playful bantering.

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Later in the day, we encountered the same sadhu once again and this time we noticed he looked a lot like Santa Clause. We had to click a few pictures.

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

22 thoughts on “Benaras – The Funny Sadhus”

  1. Good you were able to take it in a funny note. I too had gone with my brothers. One sadhu made us sit with him and started asking for money. When we denied, and gave an excuse that we don’t speak in Hindi, he started abusing in Hindi. Obviously we understood his abusive words and moved away from him.

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    1. Haha, all of these are self-proclaimed fake sadhus….we also noticed such incidents. We were sitting on the steps of one of the ghats and there was this sadhu right behind us, fully intoxicated. A group of 3-4 guys came, sat next to him and started talking with him. After a while something happened and the sadhu was hurling abuses at them with all kinds of swearing words 😀

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  2. Interesting and funny. Normally I don’t interact with the Sadhus as it is difficult to find out the real sadhu from the fake one. I don’t know whether the Sadhus you interacted with were true or fake but one thing is sure, they were all funny !

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  3. Funny experiences 👍👍 If you had the time, you could have stayed on for some more days for some more funny experiences 😊 By the way, in both his pictures, the pot-bellied sadhu has a glove on his left hand. Just for style or to hide something, maybe a burn?

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  4. Not just here. This asking for money from tourists happens in many places, and not just in India (for example, some of the Buddhist monks at Angkor Wat, which I’d visited) and is very irritating. On the flip side, many tourists too indulge in irritating them by taking too many pictures. So maybe the savvy ones have found a way of compensating their irritation with a few bucks earned, or maybe this is just a way to shamelessly earn money for some.

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