Naga sect
   The Naga is a sect of SADHUS or holy men devoted to SHIVA. Many of its followers go about naked, as the word naga implies. In doing this they fol-low the example of Lord Shiva, who was himself a naked mendicant. They often live in mountain caves completely naked, with the mountain snows outside. Following the example of Shiva, Naga sadhus smear their entire bodies with ashes from cremation grounds and wear dreadlocks. As does Shiva, they smoke great quantities of hashish, par-ticularly when singing praises to that god.
   The Nagas are also known as ascetic warriors. Though most Indian holy men are known as peaceful seekers of truth and higher conscious-ness, Nagas have been known to be extremely militant. In the past they have taken up arms against other sects of ascetics, Muslims, and the British.
   Today Naga sadhus still carry weapons as they wander the countryside—sticks, spears, swords, and most especially the trident (which is a symbol of Shiva). At the KUMBHA MELA (festival) at ALLA-HABAD, these sadhus are usually the first to have the honor of entering the confluence of the waters of the YAMUNA and GANGES.
   Further reading: Shashi Bhushan Dasgupta, Obscure Religious Cults, 2d rev. ed. (Calcutta: Firma K. L. Muk-hopadhyay, 1962); Dolf Harsuiker, Sadhus: Holy Men of India (London: Thames & Hudson, 1993); John Campbell Oman, The Mystics, Ascetics, and Saints of India: A Study of Sadhuism with an Account of the Yogis, Sanyasis, Bairagis, and Other Strange Hindu Sectarians (New Delhi: Cosmos, 1984).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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