Subject: nāgā sādhu / fakir warrior monk as infantry skirmisher
Setting: Dadupanth sect, Rajasthan 18th-early 19thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Hartsuiker 1993 p43
"A martial tradition has characterized Hindu asceticism from a very early period. There must have been individual yogīs and various groups of ascetics who bore arms since the prehistoric past, but they were hardly noticed until about the seventh century AD. These armed ascetics formed the nucleus around which the later warriors, who were recruited mainly from the lower castes, became organized. These are called Nāgā sannyāsīs, the 'naked renouncers', or in short Nāgās.
"In response to the aggressive invasions of the Muslim armies who forcibly conquered and ruled much of India from 1200 AD, a vast increase in the number of militant ascetics occurred and they were organized into a system of 'regiments' called Ākhārās. Originally the meaning of ākhārā is 'a place to train the body, to have training in arms'. Obviously, these Ākhārās were not meant to be centres of religious learning, yet many of the Nāgās performed severe austerities and various yogic practices."
* Lewis 1991 p173
"Naga [19C. H. nagna, fr. S. nagna, 'naked'. (Cogn. with E. 'naked'.)] A naked ascetic mendicant belonging to any Hindu sect; spec. one belonging to a Dadu Panth sub-sect, whose members were allowed to carry arms and serve as mercenaries." [references omitted]
* Elgood 2015 p14
"The [Rajput] Kachhwahas ... employed Naga troops, fighting monks who were followers of the religious philosopher Dadu. The Dadupanthi sect was based in the monastery and temple complex at Naraina, west of Jaipur on the Sambhar lake. These men were noted for their use of the pata like the Marathas. Colonel J.C. Brooke described the Jaipur Naga troops in 1868:
The Nagas are a body of religious mendicants who are trust-worthy and true to the State. They receive the small pay of Rs. 2 a man per month, and Rs.1 for each child, averaging Rs. 3 per fighting man. In the roll, children are counted as well as adults. They are armed with matchlocks, and will not undergo any discipline."
* Hartsuiker 1993 p43
"The Khmbha Melās are very important events in the lives of Sādhus. In the past these Kumbha Melās, where all sects assemble every three years or so, were often the scene of fights and battles between Shaiva and Vaishnava Nāgās to determine the order of precedence in the bathing processions. This rivalry was not only based on religious and ideological differences or the determination of sectarian rank and status, for the Nāgās were also involved in warfare between rival princely states, usually fighting on opposite sides. Moreover, they fought for control of religious centres, since these constituted ever-flowing sources of revenue and solid bases of power. With the growth of British colonial domination in South Asia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, martial asceticism was gradually suppressed."
* Hartsuiker 1993 p108-109
"Nakedness, in emulation of Lord Shiva, who is digambar, 'clad in sky' or 'the four directions', would of course best symbolize the ascetic status. It was this nakedness that particularly amazed the Greeks who first encountered India's ascetics in the third century BC [SIC] and who called them 'gymnosophists', the 'naked philosophers'. It seems that in those times, and even until two centuries ago, the 'gymnosophists' were ubiquitous and could be found in most sects. Nowadays only the fully initiated Shaiva Nāgās can be completely naked; but usually they are naked only on special occasions, or in their own territory, and put on some cloth when they go outside. In the past Vaishnava Nāgās were probably naked as well, but now they have to cover themselves with at least a tiny loincloth.
"Nakedness set the Sādhu apart from the populace at large, signifying his transcendence of attachments to the world. Since it is nakedness without any sensuality or shame, it is a clear sign of having transcended sexuality, of having attained a mental state reminiscent of the innocence of the small child. At the same time, being naked or semi-nude in all weathers is a sever austerity."
* Harsuiker 1993 p109
"Almost all Sādhus paint marks of the deity, known as tilak, on the forehead and parts of the body. This is also done by the devout laity, when they visit a temple or after a holy bath, but they usually apply a simple speck or streak of colour to the forehead. As part of their daily make-up, Hindu women paste a dot between the eyebrows. The tilak of the Bābās is more elaborate and the painting itself, accompanied by the appropriate mantras, is a ritual meant to sanctify the body, to metamorphose the body into a 'vessel' fit to receive the divine power. In this ritual, tilak is applied to sacred objects as well, such as the 'prayer beads' (mālā), the water-pot (kamandal), the photo of the Guru -- on his forehead of course -- and the image of the deity."
* Stone 1934 p
* Tarassuk & Blair eds. 1979 p179
"Fakir's horns. A rare form of Indian weapon used by some fakirs, who as holy mendicants have never been allowed to carry ordinary weapons. It consists of a pair of black buck horns fastened together with their points going in opposite directions. The tips of the horns are sometimes furnished with steel spikes".
* Robinson 1967 p115
"The madu or maru was a small fist-shield mounted upon a pair of roebuck horns with steel tips. It was primarily for parrying, and in some instances a pair of flamboyant [that is, flame-like] blades replaced the horns. The shields were of steel, chiselled and gilt, with four small bosses. Pairs of horns were also used, without a shield, for the same purpose. Their use was mainly confined to northern and central India."