Sadhus shed manhood for God

Men wear sarees, bangles at Mahakumbh to please Krishna


 When the former IPS officer and then inspector general of Uttar Pradesh police D K Panda clad in a saree with bangles on his hands reached the family court in Lucknow a few years ago to appear in a divorce case filed by his wife, he had become an object of ridicule.

He declared that he saw himself as Doosri Radha (another Radha, the companion of Lord Krishna). While Panda may have been ridiculed and advised to see a psychologist, scores of ‘Pandas’ could be seen at the ongoing Mahakumbh here and for the millions of devotees thronging the fair, they are the ‘lovers’ of Lord Krishna.

For these ‘men-turned-women’, who could be seen chanting bhajans and singing songs to ‘please’ Krishna, Panda was one of them — a sakhi (friend).

Clad in colourful sarees and lehengas with bangles and a ring in their nose, these men have almost changed their gender though technically they still are men.

Jine bhesa mera thakur rijhe, soi bhesh dharungi’ (we shall wear the dress that is liked by our beloved God) is what they say as they make their way into the holy sangam — the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Sarswati rivers — for a dip.

These ‘women’ are sadhus and live the life of nomadics. “They are members of the Sakhi sect. Only men can join the sect. These sadhus appear in public like women,” says Mahant Deenbandhu of Radhaballabhi sect, which controls the Sakhi sect.

“These people do not stay at one place for long. They keep on moving from one place to another, staying at temples of Lord Krishna and singing bhajans to please him,” the Mahant added.

The process of becoming a sakhi is not a simple one. “They are made sadhus first. They undergo some rituals under the guidance of a guru. After a few years, some may become a sakhi. The guru gives him woman’s dress and other things,” he says.

The Mahant said sakhi sect is for those who did not want anything from the materialistic world.

Ganesh Dasi, a sakhi from Punjab, echoes similar sentiment. Dasi had run away to Ayodhya where a priest made him a sakhi after she spent life like a sadhu for 12 years.
The sound of their payal and the armful of bangles create a peculiar effect at the sangam where the devotees just stop for a while to have a look at them.

But the sakhis do not care. Unmindful of the public glare and attention, they simply go about their work. They just want to be with their beloved Lord Krishna.

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