Among the thousands of sadhus gathered here for the Kumbh Mela which begins tomorrow is Baba Rampuri, an American who has been living in India for over four decades now. A Naga sadhu of the Juna akhara, he was reportedly among the first few foreigners to be ordained into the order.
While he is now a member of the Juna akhara’s council, and was given the title of “Antahrashtriya Mandal (World Circle) ka Shri Mahant” at the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar in 2010, Baba Rampuri is unwilling to talk about his past. “There is little point in having a back story,” he says.
But he is not so reluctant to talk about his present, having even authored a book, Autobiography of a Sadhu. He also has a website, a Facebook account and a Twitter handle to keep in touch with his many disciples.
“We have to stay relevant. I think of my disciples... many of them are young. I am not a great believer in modern technology, or the consumerist messages being sent out through the medium, but we have to make people aware that we exist,” he says.
He also uses his Facebook page to appeal for donations. The rewards for such contributions vary from vibhuti (sacred ash), rudraksh, and Ganga jal — depending on the amount, which could range from Rs 1,001 to Rs 1,00,001.
“I am shy about issuing such appeals. But money is involved everywhere, since ancient times. Here, it is not about lena (to take), but about dena (to give). Blessing people is our job,” says Baba Rampuri, who first attended the Kumbh Mela in 1971. He is equally comfortable holding satsangs in Haridwar’s Hari Puri ashram or New York.