December 28th, 2016
Were there sadhus and fakirs in ancient Indus times?
It is not unlikely that ascetics, both men and women who had renounced their possessions and lived off of the land or the generosity of donors, wandered about between the Indus towns and villages. In later periods there are textual references to similar ascetics associated with various religious traditions. In Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Islamic/Sufi traditions, men and women, often in the later stages of life, renounced their possessions to focus on spiritual thought and service. Referred to in Sanskrit as sanyasi (male) or sanyasini (female), such individuals would often grow their hair long and matted. The common term “sadhu” (good man) or sadhvi (good woman) also refers to individuals who have refocussed their lives on liberating themselves from the social bonds of the dominant society. Fakirs are associated with Sufi traditions and many tombs of saints throughout South Asia are frequented by such mendicants who pray at the tombs and leave their hair to grow long and matted.
Dr. Mark Kenoyer suggests that "the long hair behind the heads of many images on seals looks a lot like the matted hair of sadhus," and encloses the six seal images shown here. The five 100 year-old postcards accompanying them are not nearly as old of course, but nothing their protagonists are wearing would have been out of place four and half thousand years ago.
What do you think?