Call it the entrance exam of the most prestigious school of Naga sadhudom. To pass it, you need to register by paying Rs 501, declare yourself and your parents dead, and take instructions from five senior alumni of the school. On Tuesday afternoon, some 700 initiates from all over India and Nepal went through the secretive process at Juna, the biggest of the six Naga schools, in Ardh Kumbh.
Herded by kotwals, the school police, the bare-bodied initiates — aged 10 to 60 — first got themselves tonsured and performed the last rites for themselves and their parents. Then they were given the koupin (loincloth) that would be their only garb for another 24 hours. Sitting thus in front of log-fires and chanting mantras through the night, they would await a morning instruction class from Swami Avdeshanand, the head of the Juna school. On Tuesday evening, the school principal was busy organising a dance recital by Hema Malini for his own followers at another corner of the sprawling tent city at Sangam.
After the morning instructions, the initiates will take the oath of the school. Then would begin the three-year course to become a Naga under the guidance of five chosen gurus. If they pass the tests at the next Kumbh, their loincloths will be taken off and they will join the 5-lakh-strong alumni association of the Juna school.