Many people come to India in search of spirituality but very few actually live amongst India's Hindu holy men and become their disciple. That's what makes the story of Dianne Sharma Winter, a New Zealander, so unique. Following the tragic and unexpected death of her Indian husband, she headed to India to get closer to the god that he was a devotee of -- Lord Shiva. Her journey led her to become the cheli (female disciple) of a tempestuous Naga/naked baba called Chandon Giri.
Dianne recounts her experience in her book called Chasing Shiva. When I read it, I was absolutely fascinated by her remarkable quest and insight into what she refers to as "baba life", complete with its seemingly continuous chillum smoking and unexpected rivalry between sadhus. She even attended the Kumbh Mela in Ujjain with her guru, where she was included in the renowned procession of Naga babas to have a holy dip in the river.
"Inside every tent, a sweetly scented army is preparing for battle. The sadhus, fresh from their bath and smeared with Baba Oil, smell divine. Their hair shines and men of all ages are being plastered with Bhisma, holy ash. Probably 50% of them will take their initiation today or renew their vows by leading the march to the river in the traditional style of the Naga, naked.... The sadhus are as excited as bunches of cheeky boys I have seen on the riverside at home, daring the world to react to their nakedness.... The scene is a page from the Mahabarata. Great wooden wheeled carriages line the path. Sitting atop each carriage is a sadhu entertained by a group of students who fan their faces with peacock feathers while teams of white horses or painted elephants wait to pull the load."
With not long to go until the 2013 Kumbh Mela, now is the perfect time to read Dianne's book and take a peek into "baba life". It's available for purchase as an ebook for $5.99. You can also find out more about Dianne over at her attractive and informative website, Women Travel Mother India. She's a fabulous and witty story teller!
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