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Under the sacred protection of Babas (Saddhus)

TRAVEL ESSAY: I spent the corona quarantine in an ashram in legendary Rishikesh, India, spiritually led by Juna Akhara naga babas – naked men smeared in ash.

The corona madness started in March while I was living with aghori babas (who use human ash instead of holy fire ash to cover their bodies) in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, one of the most important holy cities in Hinduism. I had been traveling in India for two months when I had a motorcycle accident on my way to the train station in Mughalsarai. It was midnight, and the accident happened on the highway, but miraculously I escaped unscathed. The Aghoris interpreted the event as a sign from the god Shiva and offered me protection and guidance.

At an underground altar of worship of the goddess Kali, two naked, ashes-smeared aghoris guarded the eternal fire. They smeared a tilak mark on my forehead for protection: three horizontal strips of thick ash. I suddenly realize that it is Manikarnika ashes from the nearby crematorium, dry and hot human ashes from corpses that were cremated. . .

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Diana Pascu
Freelancer.

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