The Simhastha fair in Ujjain attracts sadhus from all corners of the country, with over 10 lakh expected to attend the month-long event from April 22. But even in this mammoth gathering, some are able to stand out with their quirks or colourful past.
This high-flying baba is always accompanied by two bodyguards. Not surprising, given that he is always wearing gold jewellery worth crores. Goldenpuri Baba says the jewellery is his way of pleasing the gods. Three years ago, when floods devastated Kedarnath, he donated his entire collection to a relief fund for the victims. Over time, he has rebuilt his collection and has gold jewellery weighing about 11.5 kg. Twenty-one lockets with symbols of Shiva, Laxmi, Saraswati, Durga, and Hanuman adorn his neck today.
Pilot Baba earned this sobriquet because of his time in the Indian Air Force, during which he fought in three wars — 1962, 1965, and 1971. Before shunning worldly pleasures to become a sadhu, he even had a brief stint in Hindi movies. “My life changed in 1972, when I met my guru, Hari Giri Maharaj,” he says. The baba then accompanied his guru to the Himalayas, where they spent a long time in meditation. Today, Pilot Baba has ashrams in Haridwar, Vrindavan, Nainital and Gangotri.
This loincloth-clad baba has a particular liking for the cold, inhospitable climate of the Himalayas, and has spent a lot of time meditating there. “I belong to Badrinath in Uttarakhand and like to meditate in the high reaches of the mountains,” he says. His disciples believe he is nearly 100 years old, and has spent half his life among the snow-capped peaks.
Mangaldas Naga, 68, is a biker boy at heart. He claims to have toured every state of India, covering more than three lakh kilometres, on a motorbike. He is popularly known by his followers as ‘bike wale’ baba. “I like travelling,” he says. The Naga sadhu from Jammu and Kashmir says he has been riding since 1986 and renounced worldly affairs at the age 18. “I have changed 12 bikes so far.”