Naked in Ashes (documentary). Directed by Paula Fouce and distributed by Paradise Filmworks, Las Vegas, Nev., 2005. 108 minutes. http://www.paradisefilmworks.com/
Naked in Ashes offers a colorful and nonjudgmental glimpse into India’s ascetical branch of spirituality. In splendid images and mostly through the translated words of India’s holy men, the viewer is introduced to some of the votaries of radical renunciation, who shed all conventionality, including their clothes, in their uncompromising quest for God realization. This excellent documentary portrays a world that will be utterly alien to most Westerners, who are lulled into a comfortable oblivion by the luxury surrounding them and give little thought to either God or death. Yet, the very alienness of India’s ascetical culture is bound to fascinate and, hopefully, also will jar the conscience of the Western viewer.
Naked in Ashes focuses on the Naga Babas, who wear nothing but ashes gathered from the cremation ground—itinerant holy men, who think nothing of roaming barefoot in the snow-capped Himalayas, putting their lives entirely in the hands of their beloved god Shiva. The camera skillfully follows Shiv Raj Giri, one of the recognized and respected leaders of the Naga Babas, as he and his two close disciples pilgrimage from the Himalayas to the sacred River Ganges to participate in the great kumbha-mela festival held every twelve years and attended by thousands of holy men and millions of Hindus.
The viewer is treated to a rarely witnessed initiation ceremony in which the fourteen-year-old boy Santosh Giri is made into a Naga Baba. He had left his home of his own accord to go in search of God, and found in Shiv Raj Giri his guru who, he feels sure, would help him realize his goal.
Director Paula Fouce and her team have succeeded in capturing a millennia-old Indian tradition whose days, however, are definitely numbered, which makes this movie an especially important document.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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