[Please note that this is an extremely rough draft and not intended for quotation or citation beyond the confines of the present festschrift]

William Pinch Subaltern Sadhus? Political Ascetics in Indian Myth, Memory, and History 1
William R. Pinch

Wesleyan University
E-mail: wpinch@wesleyan.edu
Peasant Symposium: Hauserfestschritt, Draft copy, May 1997

[1. Betrayal] [2. Sadhu Patriots] [3. Gosains, Bairagis, and the Eighteenth Century] [4. From Soldier to Subaltern in the Nineteenth Century] [5. Discipline. Devotion, and the Ascetic Armed] [6. Ascetics. Archers, and Institutionalization] [7. Subalternity and Discipline]

1. Betrayal
Early on the morning of February 3rd, 1954, while Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his guests watched from a boat on the Ganga near Allahabad, the Prayag maha-kumbh mela, India's premier festival, descended into utter chaos. At the center of the commotion were armed naga sadhus, who tore indiscriminately into the throng of jostling, hapless pilgrims. A stampede ensued, there was great loss of life. A Government Inquiry Commission was set up, which in the course of its investigations obtained the testimony of numerous witnesses to the carnage. Shanta Devi, who was present at the scene with her 5-year-old daughter, described the crush of the crowd and the onset of violence: "The Sadhus, instead of helping the distressed...by allowing them to pass through their own Shamiana, began to assault [them] indiscriminately...with their long Chimtas. My daughter first drew my attention and asked me...why the Sadhus were beating the people with their Chimtas. Scores of people who wanted to ascend the slo