Before the cosmetic industry brought so many expressions to market, Face paint was used as a far more potent symbol of identity. Few people express this tradition as vividly as the Sadhus of Nepal. The Sanskrit terms sadhu (“good man”) and sadhvi (“good woman”) refer to renunciants who have chosen to live a life apart from or on the edges of society in order to focus on their own spiritual growth. Camped in cloisters around the Pashupatinath temple complex in Kathmandu, these Hindu holy men cover themselves with ash or chalk, and paint their faces in accordance with the deity they have devoted themselves to. The ash represents their death to their worldly life – in fact, many of them are required to attend their own funeral as part of their holy training.
Combined with copious hashish smoking, the face paint and long locks on these guys can make them seem more like P-Funk reggae stars than austere mendicant monks. But for the people coming to them to perform religious rituals, these holy men are revered for their devotion to the spiritual realm.
You can find these Sadhus camped in premises of Pashupitinath, a Hindu temple located on the banks of the Bagmati river in Kathmandu. It is considered to be one of the most holy temples in Nepal, and is one of the most important temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in the world. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple. Needless to say, if one wanted to find holy men with painted faces, Pashupatinath is a sure bet.
Sadhus have been around for thousands of years and today there are about five million men that are considered to be true Sadhus. Living without ties to family, social obligations, or worldly wealth, the Sadhus of Nepal nevertheless enjoy a fairly easy life. Because it is thought that their austere practices help burn off their karma and that of the community at large, Sadhus are seen as benefiting society, and are supported by donations from laypeople seeking to share their holiness. They are also allowed to smoke hashish and marijuana, which is illegal for everyone else in Nepal, but is said to help them commune with Lord Shiva. ✨👁👳🏼🕉🎨🌀📿🎨🙏 #facepainting