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Photographer's Note

2001 Kumbha Mela. One of the main attractions was "Ek Bahu Baba", a naga with the Juna Akhara. His tapasaya, or austerity, also a big money/hashish maker, was/is his upraised right arm. The arm, according to sadhu expert Dolf Hartsuiker whom I interviewed, had been in the up position for 27 years. Sounds incredible, but there is physics behind it. The arm, with the aid of a crutch, is raised gradually over time until it stands erect. Once erect the musculature/scar tissue locks the arm in place. He couldn't lower his arm now if he wanted to. There is a process, but it is also gradual and takes many, many painful months.

The Shaivas smoke charas, hashish, constantly.

As for the photo itself, it could have been framed slightly better vertically, and could have been focused on his face rather than the smoke. Taken at about 150mm. I like the timing though. Note the atrophy and the fingernails. I heard of another Ek Bahu whose fingernails had actually grown through his hand and stuck out the other side.

Anyone interested in learning about Sadhus in depth, Dolf Hartsuiker's book, "Sadhus", is a must. His photographs, of which there are a hundred or more--though he claims not to be a photographer--are the best collection on the subject I've ever seen.

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