In India, the color orange and other warm tones like saffron and turmeric symbolize the quest for knowledge. Orange is associated with fire which has the power to burn away the darkness and thus brings light or knowledge.
All over India, Hindu’s holy men and ascetics wear orange and its variations. It is the color of purity. Though the purity of many of India’s holy men and ascetics may be dubious, their appearance certainly is arresting and each and everyone manages to have his own style.
Although he is dressed in orange, stylistically, for India at least, he is dressed in an ordinary manner. It is his face that attracts my interest.
This sadhu’s attire is lighter in color. Maybe his clothing was washed so often that it has faded into a pastel hue or maybe he prefers a paler palette. I doubt if he gives it a lot of consideration. A sadhu has given up all material concerns for a life of an ascetic. Typically, he lives off the benevolence of others who contribute to his pursuit of a spiritual existence by providing him with food and other necessities in exchange for his blessings. Their few possessions usually consist of a begging bowl and a blanket.
This sadhu has a collection of sacred prayer beads, known as malas, strung around his neck and wrist. They offer him protection and in a left-handed manner, make a fashion statement. With his spear-like walking stick and lime- yellow turban, he instantly grabbed my attention. I pointed to my camera. He nodded, smiled and stopped.
The mark on this woman’s forehead indicates that she is a follower of Vishnu. In this particular case, Lord Jagganath. She covers her head with a saffron-colored prayer shawl as part of her devotion.
India’s faithful display their devotion in many ways; each form catches our eye and for me, inspires awe. Awe for the passion and enthusiasm that one sees in every far-flung corner of this enormous land. In the West, we almost associate this kind of intense devotion with madness. To feel this joy and love and to show it so openly is a pleasure to witness and of course, a huge part of India’s great appeal.