He’s 10 years old, his voice hasn’t quite cracked and he can twist his nimble body into yogic postures that would impress Chinese acrobats. When he grows up he sees himself as a sadhu or holy man.
A member of the juna akhara, one of the prominent sadhu sects participating in the Kumb Mela, ‘Baba’ Manish Giri is firmly on his way to official sainthood, the impish smile and childish voice notwithstanding.
Giri is a pupil of Mahant Vedgiri at the panch dashnam juna akhara, known for its naga sadhus.
He has been with the sect for two years since Vedgiri got him in ‘daan’ (religious offering) from his family eight years ago.
The boy’s village, Kwal, at Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand, was near his guru’s village, Danda.
“I used to go to his village and the boy’s parents, who were farmers, decided to give him in daan to me so he could move on the path of spirituality,” said Vedgiri.
At the juna akhara, the guru’s writ runs supreme, and listening to him is believed to be the way to attain salvation.
“My motto in life now is to serve the guru,” said Giri, adding that simple boyish pleasures like flying kites don’t excite him.
“I have learnt how to control my feelings and this is the first stage of being a sanyasi (monk),” he said. “I get the pleasure I would have got from flying a kite by obeying the orders of my guru.”