VARANASI, UTTARPRADESH, INDIA.
Photographer: Aman Chotani
Having fulfilled his worldly commitments, the wandering ascetic (known as a Sadhu in many parts of India) is required by ancient customs to attend his own funeral before he can begin his spiritual journey under the tutelage of a Guru (teacher). This purely symbolic rite, based on a death and rebirth theme, is meant to represent the ultimate severance from the past and the start of a new way of life. However, it is also a legal death certificate as far as the Government of India is concerned. And once the ritual pyre is lit, the initiate ceases to be counted among the living.
The path of India’s wandering Sadhus has, historically, never been an easy one. But then again, Moksha (liberation), isn’t something that you can walk into a store and buy. Severe practices aside, the path asks one to renounce all materialist desires and willingly embrace hardship, hunger and poverty. Not to mention, indulge in meditation, sometimes standing on one leg for unimaginably lengthy periods of time. Still, it’s a path many choose to walk on.
About the photographer: Aman Chotani is a full time professional photographer in Noida, India and founder of the Gorillas Travel Photography Club.