In this talk we are going to discuss ethnographic work among ascetics (sādhus, bābās) in India. After a practical introduction on how to undertake this kind of research, we will enter the field of the Kumbh Melā and of various āśrams to describe four main traditional ascetic orders (the sampradāyas of Daśanāmīs, Nāths, Rāmānandīs, and Udāsīns) stressing differences and similarities. In the end, we will analyse some of their practices: austerities and yoga sādhanā. The aim of the talk is to provide a wide understanding of contemporary Hindu asceticism and to question the information we usually find in textual sources.
Daniela Bevilacqua is a South-Asianist and received her PhD from Sapienza University of Rome and the University of Paris Nanterre. Her PhD research was published by Routledge under the title Modern Hindu Traditionalism in Contemporary India. She is now a Post-Doc Research Fellow at SOAS, working for the ERC funded Hatha Yoga Project (2015-2020).