Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh): He sits in sharp contrast to the dark-skinned sadhus around him at Kumbh, smoking from a chillum, his white hair tied atop his hair. And yet, he too is an ascetic. It turns out that an Australian baba has become the centre of attraction in this year's Kumbh Mela.
The ascetic, who goes by the name Sharabhang Giri says he was an aethist before turning into a Hindu sadhu and his name was given to him by his first guru Baba Mangal Giri.
Talking about his name, Giri says, "Sharabhang was the name of an ascetic in Ramayana, whom lord Rama had met when he had visited Dandakaranya." He further revealed that his change in faith was at Girnar hill in Gujarat where he met his guru Duttatreya.
Giri says that before adopting the life of an ascetic he was not much aware of Hinduism. "I had some experience in Yoga. But it was only after I came to India that I was introduced to Sanatan Dharma." It was in 1998 that Giri first visited India and was subsequently taken to Mount Girnar in Gujarat. "That experience changed the course of my life," he reminisces, adding, "That is how my journey started."
Speaking about the dual life he leads in Australia and India, Giri reveals that he does not roam around much in the continent Down Under, but rather has a small 'kutir' in Melbourne where he stays. However, when in India, he is usually in constant move from one place to India. "The only place I stay for any period of time is my Guru's ashram," he reveals. Giri says that his Guru's ashram is in Rudraprayag, in Uttarakhand, on the banks of the River Alakananda.
Speaking as a Kumbh veteran, Giri says it is his tenth Kumbh which includes his 4th time in Prayagraj. He says he had first come to Kumbh in 2001, adding that while earlier the only constructions in the mega-festival were made from canvas, bamboo and mud, now there are all kinds of buildings in Kumbh. He is the part of the famous Juna Akhada which is known for its ferocious naga sadhus.