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Millions of Hindus dipped into the frigid waters of three converging rivers in India Wednesday morning, marking the beginning of a 42-day bathing festival. The pilgrims say the river water in the northern city of Allahabad is holy and has the power to wash away sin and stop the endless cycle of reincarnation.

Ignoring the cold wave gripping northern India, Sadhus (hermits) at the Ardh Kumbh Mela are able to withstand temperature with mercury dipping to single digit.

These hermits, who are the cynosure of all eyes and arousing lot of curiosity, are known as “Naga Sadhus” or “Naga Babas”. The move around stark naked in their unkempt knotty long hair but keep their bodies smeared with vibhuti (ash).

Their abodes, whether they are in transit like at the ongoing Ardh Kumbh Mela or the permanent hermitage known as Akhadas, are called Akhada in local parlance. Thus the hermits putting up in these Akhadas are known as Akhada Sadhus.

These Akhada Sadhus, known for their unworldly ways like moving around unclad, weird long hair tied over the head and above all practicing or performing activities and rituals in the most unconventional manner, enjoy life in their own style.

It is these unusual traits and acts that draw anyone’s attention passing them from nearby.

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