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Sadhus...depending on your point of view or experience, they can be spiritual ascetics, devout mystics, philosophic vagabonds, or homeless charlatans. I can say that many of the sadhus I've encountered (and I have met a lot during my countless travels in India) are a bit of all these descriptions, but most are charlatans, preying on the generosity, spirituality and superstition of lay people...many of whom are equally poor. That said, they are photogenic and they know it.
It is estimated there are 4 to 5 million sadhus in India, and these belong to two main sects: the Shaiva sadhus, who are ascetics devoted to Shiva, and Vaishnava sadhus, who are renouncers devoted to Vishnu (including Rama and Krishna). Although some sub sects have properties that generate revenue to sustain members, most sadhus rely on donations, and poverty and hunger are realities for many sadhus.
Alexis Pazoumian's Sadhu Hundred is a photo gallery of sadhu portraits; some of which were photographed at the Pashupatinath Temple located on the banks of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu. It's one of the most significant Hindu temples of Shiva in the world.
You'll note the sadhus following Shiva wear a tilak of three horizontal lines across the forehead, while the tilak of Vaishnava sadhus usually include two or more vertical lines resembling the letter U, which symbolizes Vishnu's foot.
Alexis Pazoumaian is a photographer in France who, after completing a two-year course in a graphics school, turned to photography. He spent six months documenting and living in one of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, and was finalist in a contest by “Paris Match” for photojournalism students.
His clients include Agence Elan, Premicefilms, Elie Saab, Maje, Hilldale production, Toshiba, Caviar Agency, We love Art, Monsieur White, Société Général, Maison Sauvage, Grand Palais, Groupe Vendôme, and Agence moderne.