The training of these teenaged naga sadhus begins under the watchful eyes of their revered guru. By the time they become adults, they are adept at handling these roles efficiently. Currently, there are over 350 child naga sadhus in the akhara.
The history of Sri Panchayati Akhara Naya Udaseen dates back to the days of Lord Srichand, who was the eldest son of Guru Nanak Dev. The ordination ceremony is conducted in secret and is witnessed by hundreds of other child naga sadhus who were ordained in earlier Kumbhs.
Unlike adult naga sadhus, who renounce clothes completely, these children are allowed to cover their body with a small piece of loincloth called langot and a smaller version of shawl. Called Tangtodas after their ordination, these children can remain in this state for 12 years, 24 years or for life. “The ones who take the vow to lead the tough life of a naga sadhu for life are called Akhand Bhabhuti. After the children are ordained as nagas, they are given proper education, be it in traditional Vedic or Sanskrit schools or modern schools run by the akhara. They are given full freedom to choose their role in the akhara. They are not bound to any rigid role,” says mukhiya (head) Mahant Dharamdasji, one of the four ‘Jakhira’ prabandhaks of the akhara.
Dharamdasji informed that unlike sanyasi naga babas, who do pind daan (symbolic ritual done after the death of family members), these children are not allowed to do pind daan once they renounce their families.
“The children will come with their revered gurus from different parts of the country to become tangtodas here at the Kumbh Mela. The decision to make them Tangtoda is not taken immediately. After they join us, we allow them to live with their gurus for several months so that they have the choice to return to their families,” Dharamdasji said.