What’s a Sadhu?

Traditionally, Sadhus and Babas are holy men who have left behind all material possessions and sexual attachments in their quest to achieve nirvana: the fourth and final goal of Hindu life.

However, in today’s modern India, these men often congregate in touristic locations posing for photos in exchange for bakshish (a tip or bribe).

While I do worry that supporting this might be sending the wrong message, the photographer part can’t help but shell out some rupees from time to time.


A sleeping sadhu/baba in Varanasi, India
Sometimes, all a Sadhu wants to do is get a little shuteye. Even if it’s alongside the Ganges River in Varanasi: the holiest destination in India and one of the loudest too.

Babas and a Bovine
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

All around India, Sadhus pose for photographs and hope for a tip in exchange.

I came across the above man in an alleyway in the desert town of Jaisalmer, India. There only was a brief moment to take the photo, and I didn’t even realize that the cow was up on a ledge behind him until I looked at it later.

Today, this is one of my all-time favorite portraits.


A Baba in Jaisalmer, India, Alleyway
A Baba in Jaisalmer Alleyway

Sadhu on the Shore
Hampi, India

A familiar face to Hampi’s visitors, this Sadhu man spends his days wandering the town blessing tourists and locals and posing for photographs before asking for a small donation.

He is usually surrounded by several other men in the same traditional clothing his family and friends, all dressed in similar outfits and all looking for a handout.


A baba on the shores of the Hampi River, posing in exchange for a tip
A baba on the shores of the Hampi River, posing in exchange for a tip

all of these photographs are a part of my
Interesting People of Backpacking the World photographic series