The ascetics of India

Amal Chatterjee
7 min readJul 28, 2020

Source : Google photo of Deoraha Baba

Synopsis : We see and hear of people who dedicate their life to God and voluntarily choose the hard life of an ascetic . They are found in all religions but in India such spiritual people are called sadhus by the Hindus. The blog looks at the extraordinary life of such a spiritual person called Deoraha Baba who had a great impact on millions of people called his devotees.

An ascetic is a highly spiritual person who has renounced all worldly comforts and lives the life of penance and sacrifice. He finds joy in his penance and sacrifice and lives anywhere that suits his fancy as a wandering sadhu. The word sadhu means a moral and a good person who lives by the grace of God and does not worry where he will sleep or where he will find food. He finds shelter in ruins of old places or sleeps under a tree where people leave some food for him. Often he goes without food but does not beg or complain because he is a sadhu who dedicates his life to God and believes in Him to take care of him.

In India you will notice numerous sadhus in saffron or white robes who have long matted hair piled on top of their head and long beard and mustache because they do not cut their hair once they renounce the world and its comforts. They do not talk of their past life although many were employed and lived comfortably somewhere but one day they decide to become a sadhu and just leave, never to keep any link with anyone.

Asceticism is a religious tradition among Hindus but you will find them in all major religions. They may go to extreme length to separate themselves from the common people so you will find them in remote mountains or caves or in famous religious pilgrimage sites all over the country. It was the practice of kings or queens in the past to build huge resting places called Dharma Shalas meaning religious dormitories where any passing sadhu could stay for free. They also stay at some temples where they are welcome to stay for a few days at their rest houses and get free food every day.

But the life of a sadhu is at best very uncertain and full of self deprivation that they willingly accept as their way of life. People give them alms and seek their blessings. My Ma never turned away a sadhu from our gate and always gave some food or money to them and received their blessings.

Source : U tube video on Deoraha baba

But today I will write about an extraordinary sadhu called Deoraha Baba who lived in North India that all people came to know as a sadhu who performed miracles, who only took some milk and honey to survive and wore only a loin cloth even in the freezing winter. He lived in a grass hut that his followers built for him 8 feet off the ground from where he received his followers and gave them his blessings.

What will surprise you is the long list of who were his ardent followers. It included King George the V, Dr.Rajendra Prasad, the president of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru as well as his father Moti Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi, Prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Sampurna Nand, Sanjay Gandhi and numerous others. What attracted them to this sadhu who gave them advice and touched their head by his feet as blessing?

Dr. Rajendra Prasad said the once he had visited this sadhu with his father when he was just a child and was amazed that the sadhu called Deoraha Baba looked just the same seventy years years later. If King George V came to see him in 1910 then it was some 110 years ago but how come the sadhu looked the same as ever? No one knew his real age, his provenance and who was his guru. My Ma used to say that she saw him once as a child and many years later he still looked the same as before. He had no wrinkles or other signs of ageing except his white hair and beard. A judge in Prayagraj said that 7 generations in his family visited Deoraha Baba to seek his blessings.

He had a huge following because people were attracted to him because of his high level of spiritually. He made predictions about many things that came to be true later on. When Indira Gandhi went to see him to seek his blessings and advice after her defeat in the election, he said that she will win big the next time so she formed a new party called Indira Congress and used the raised palm of the sadhu as the symbol of her new party. She won the election and regained her Prime ministership.

There was an incident when Rajeev Gandhi was to visit the saint so some preparations were made in Prayagraj that included cutting down a tree near the abode of Deoraha Baba. He objected because he said that tree was his companion so it should be spared.When the workers insisted on cutting down the tree, the Baba said that he will cancel the visit of the Prime Minister. Soon the word came from Delhi that Rajeev had indeed cancelled his trip. People said that the Baba could read the minds of people and could communicate with anyone no matter where he lived. I am not alluding to the internet and e mail.

Those who were his followers sat on the ground while he gave them blessings and often threw some fruits or food to them that he seemed to conjure out of thin air that was nothing short of miraculous. People said that the sadhu could be seen at different places at the same time meaning he was capable of teleporting himself and he could submerge in the Yamuna river for more than 30 minutes at a time showing extraordinary abilities.

India is full of such great people who are of highly spiritual nature. Who has not heard of Swami Vivekananda or Shri RamaKrishna Dev ? Many people choose the life of an ascetic sadhu wandering from one holy place to another in search of spirituality and often find a guru in the mountains. Some join groups of sadhus who live together in large numbers in some place but once every 12th year they congregate at Prayagraj ( formerly called Allahabad ) to participate in the world’s largest religious fair held there. Deoraha Baba said that he attended 12 such fairs meaning 144 years so how was that possible ? How old was he? Some said that he was over 200 years old but is that physically possible? He himself accounted for over 144 years plus whatever his age was then.

His famous prediction that came to be true was about the establishment of the Ram temple in Ayodhya that the Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation of on August 5, 2020 fulfilling the wishes of millions of Hindus in India and abroad. Deoraha Baba had predicted it many years ago and said that all the difficulties will disappear and people of all faiths will build the temple together as a symbol of unity in India. It will be one of the grandest temples in India that will put Ayodhya firmly on the map. It will be developed as a major pilgrimage as well as a tourist site with new airport, new infrastructure and new water front.

I am often amazed by the spiritual people who seem to be a class apart . There was such a spiritual man in my home town who once told my Ma that I was safe in Saigon during the Tet offensive and I was with two white Americans but how did he know ? It was true that I was safe and with two Americans but how did this man know it in India? These are the mysteries to which it is hard to find an answer but I have met such mysterious people who seem to have special powers.

The story of Deoraha Baba is extraordinary even among the spiritual people of whom even the King of England had heard of and went to see him. There must have been something extraordinary in him that attracted the dignitaries seeking his blessings.

In my last blog I wrote about another spiritual person who in just 12 years set up the ISKCON worldwide promoting the teachings of Krishna through the Geeta. His followers have established numerous majestic temples of ISKCON in numerous countries so take a look at that blog to read more. ( A man with a vision )

Deoraha Baba himself did not want anything , did not preach or promote Hinduism or establish a worldwide movement like the Pravupada . He was content to meditate most of his time, ate practically nothing, wore only a loin cloth or deer skin and lived in a grass hut from where he blessed his followers . He gave his message of love and tolerance towards each other and said that love for the humanity is the only way forward.

Blessed is such sadhu and blessed is the country that produces such sadhus. India is called the land of spirituality that has given the world Geeta , Vedas and Upanishads that are a treasure trove of wisdom and high philosophy. This alone makes India unique.

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