- A sadhu (from Sanskrit fisadhvi, “good”) is a renunciant, most commonly a mendicant who wanders in search of alms. Such people are regarded as good, pure, and religiously devoted. The terms sadhu and SANNYASI (more rarely their feminine forms sadhvi and sannyasini) are gener-ally used interchangeably for wandering mendi-cants. The name SWAMI is also sometimes used.Customs and characteristics vary greatly among sadhus and depend upon the sect to which they belong. They may be devoted to any divinity or to the BRAHMAN, the ultimate reality. Celibacy is universally required. Sadhus who worship Lord SHIVA may freely partake of hashish and marijuana to inspire their devotional chanting; for all others such drugs are strictly forbidden. Sadhus are very often devoted to a particular GURU (almost always a man) and follow his dictates strictly.The sadhu or wandering mendicant is a very familiar feature of the Indian landscape and a distinctive aspect of Hinduism. While they are typically welcomed, there has always been some skepticism about their authenticity as well.Further reading: Ramesh Bedi and Rajesh Bedi, Sadhus: The Holy Men of India (New Delhi: Brijbasi Printers, 1991); Agehananda Bharati, The Ochre Robe: An Auto-biography, 2d ed. (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Ross-Erikson, 1980); Robert Lewis Gross, The Sadhus of India: A Study of Hindu Asceticism (Jaipur: Rawat, 1992); Dolf Hartsui-ker, Sadhus: India’s Mystic Holy Men (London: Thames & Hudson, 1993).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.