A total of 36,000 Sadhus (Hindu holy men) were part of the estimated crowd of 40 million attending the two month Kumbh Mela festival in India last spring. More than 200 American Sadhus of the Hari Krishna groups brought millions of dollars worth of Hindu literature to the festival. One of our partners in South India explains the purpose of the ritual bathing in the river, “They come for forgiveness of sins and salvation. Some thousands come stark nakedsome of them rolling on the rough roads for miles, believing the festering sores on their bodies would earn them salvation. Hundreds have kept one arm lifted up for years until the arm gets shriveled with dry gangrene others have stood on one leg for years, hanging on to a suspended sling while sleeping. All these are done to appease angry gods.”
During the festival, which takes place in the heat of summer, our Indian Christian partners set up free medical clinics. About 150 Christian students passed out literature and talked with pilgrims about the love of Christ. “Some received us with friendliness, some merely tolerated us, and others ferociously objected to the spread of Christianity,” wrote our partner. A number of pilgrims accepted Christ, though circumstances prevented them from taking an open stand at the Kumbh Mela. But five Hindus, including two Sadhus, were baptizedthe ultimate step of courage for a Hindu.