Showing off and making Money – Sadhus and Gurus on the Kumbh Mela – 24 Jan 13


I yesterday said that I did not believe in the cleansing effect that a bath in the river Ganges would have and that I thus did not see any reason why I should go to the Kumbh Mela. I am however not only ‘not interested’ in going, there are a lot of things going on that I actually find repulsive and make me happy that I am nowhere close Allahabad at the moment. The most important of these aspects is the showing off of money, the money-focused behavior of all those sadhus, gurus and religious leaders. The big business that is happening on the name of religion.

I have heard and read reports of people who have been to Allahabad in the past days and the main feedback is that religious business is all around. I have mentioned the sadhus, gurus and all the religious leaders on the Kumbh Mela who are present at the festival. They are not only gurus or sadhus however – they have found a lot of different ways to make business!

They are preachers: It is their normal work to give lectures and hold speeches there. They give ceremonies and of course they also take their dip in the Ganges, taking along the people around them. While they may not charge money for their speeches, most of them do ask money for performing special ceremonies for individuals. They have gathered their followers in their camps and make every effort to find new followers at this occasion. Followers will give them money for their blessings, for their ceremonies and just for meeting them.

They are salesmen: These gurus all have their own shops in their camps, selling malas, pendants with their pictures, altar items and deities and much more. You don’t need to argue that they don’t sit there and take money! Just like every other successful shop owner, they have their store managers sitting there, doing the physical work.

They are hotel owners, too: This is something that I only got to know about in this year. These sadhus have started giving out ‘Spiritual Holiday Packages’ for followers who want to come and rent a tent in their camp for some days during the Kumbh Mela! Our local newspaper published their prices, which were varying throughout the time of the Kumbh Mela – during days when more public and a higher number of interested people could be expected, the prizes were higher. The rates were separated in three different categories: regular visitors, VIPs and VVIPs – very, very important persons.

When I read the experiences of people who have visited the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, people said they did not find one piece of spirituality or divinity around. With all the offers, the shops, the food that was sold and all those people who tried to attract them to come in their tents, it just seemed like a big fun fair.

Amidst all of that there are the sadhus and gurus doing their own drama and exhibiting their wealth. They arrive at the Kumbh Mela in their luxury cars and live in their air-conditioned five star luxury tents. They sit on golden or silver thrones and have an array of silver pots and tables around them, wearing golden necklaces and jewelry with kilos of gems and precious stones. They show how rich they are and in this way, again, are not different from many regular rich businessmen. It is just religious business.

The point to laugh about is that their actual title ‘Sadhu’ or ‘Sanyasi’ means that they are detached. It is a term for those who are not involved in the material world and have nothing to do with money. Their display of material and money is completely against the actual concept of being a sadhu yet this is what you see all around at this festival! No, I really don’t want to go there.

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