While in Varanasi, I learned it will be the final day of the Sangam dipping in Allahabad… Screw the itinerary, I’m in.
The holy Ganges (starting at Varanasi), Yamana, and Swarasati rivers meet at this time of the year. The intersection of the 3 rivers is called the Sangam. Thousands and thousands of Hindus do pilgrimage to this spot to dip into the river and perform their rituals. Thousands of Indians camp in tents on the desert-like river banks for the entire month in order to be close to the holy dipping place. The tents had nothing more than stacks of hay to sleep on and pots for cooking. Multiple times per day, they walk down to the river to perform poojah (ceremonial prayers) and dip 3x into the holy water.
I went to witness the extent of this holy Sangam, and to participate in the dipping!
I woke up at 5am and walked with the thousands of others who traveled to Allahabad for this final dipping day.
I described my experience of dipping into the holy Sangam to my family in an email:
“…What a powerful feeling. You could feel the energy of the millions of Indians who pour their hearts and souls into their religious rituals and ceremonies performed in the river. You could feel the strong faith, purity and sincerity of the millions of people who came all the way here to dip in these waters.
This was a strong sensation running through my body that hadn’t feel in the holy city of Varanasi.”
I took a stroll through the tents after dipping, and stumbled upon a tent with three Baba Ji’s. They waved me into the tent, and I hesitantly entered.
Cut to: What’s a ‘Baba Ji’?
Here’s my definition based on my experiences with Baba Ji’s in India. I’ll expand on my intimate experiences with Baba Ji’s in upcoming India posts.
A Baba Ji’s life purpose is to live a life of simplicity (i.e., by renouncing their home, families, and all of their possessions), have a connection with Shiva (a Hindu god), and do acts of good karma.
I describe Baba Ji’s as ‘Wandering monks’ because they are constantly moving from one ashram to the next throughout their lives, and they simply live. Baba Ji’s don’t make any plans; rather, they go about their days by following what their heart wants to do in the moment. They don’t pay attention to the time (they typically don’t wear watches), they simply flow through it.
Although they’re homeless by choice, true Baba Ji’s are not beggars. They do not ask for any money or food; they simply accept whatever is offered to them by other Hindus (i.e., food, blankets, money donations, marijuana 😉 ). And because Hindu persons believe in the power of these Baba Ji’s, true Babas are always taken care of.
When they’re not helping others solve their issues, Baba Ji’s spend all day in meditation to be in close connection with Shiva.
Many Baba Ji’s attained much of their wisdom from living in solitude in a cave, or in the jungle among wild animals, for years. During these years, they would only meditate, do yoga, and survive in jungle life on their own. Sometimes the Baba Ji’s would not see any other human for years.
Many more stories with Baba Ji’s to come in the next few India posts!
In an email to my family, I shared my whereabouts with the Baba Ji’s for the remainder this spontaneous day…
“After dipping, I spent the remainder of my day in a tent with the Baba Ji’s- I ate their community Indian food, I slept in their tent with them, and I had long conversations consisting primarily of direct eye contact and Hindi that I did not understand (they had a total English vocabulary of 20 words). I also showed them the drawings in my notebook, and began a new drawing of Shiva, which one of the Baba Jis contributed to.
… The beauty was how we were able to communicate on a universal level, where ‘awkward moments’ did not exist. Moments of silence were moments of peace.
I did not see a single white person for 2 days in this city, but it honestly felt amazing to finally be the only tourist! Also, from the number of stares and weird looks I received in this city, I don’t think I will ever have a problem being in the spotlight again- my stage fright has been eradicated.”
Start getting excited for the next post, where I’ll begin sharing a series of posts describing the adventures of my spontaneous one month stay with an Indian family in old Khajuraho.
Sending good vibes your way,