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Travelling Godmen – the Spiritual Healers of India

Travelling Godmen are wanderers that travel from village to village, restricting themselves to a particular geographical area (usually dictated by the language).

They sell spirituality and its benefits in different forms. There is no one place in which they may be found – except the occasional religious fair – and therefore it is a matter of ‘luck’ or ‘chance’ (or of ‘luck-by-chance’ as said in the special form of indlish)to come across these travelling mendicants.

The following pictures were taken on serendipitous encounters across 5 years in India –  an idea of the rarity of finding these people.

First is a couple that belongs to a group seen in Maharashtra. The women provide the sound effects with the drum that is ‘rubbed’ by a stick (not beaten), while the men create a beat with the jhanjhars(bells) on their feet, and dance in a trance like fashion as they whip themselves with the heavy rope. They provide spiritual services through fortune telling which usually contains a good dose of negativity, but for a small fee paid in the form of faith and fanams, they offer to save your souls. Note the beautiful colours and contrast of their dress and costume !

Another two boys from a similar ‘back-whipping’ group from South India:

One more whipper

Back whipper

Back whipper

Next are two travelling godmen encountered in Goa, a place they were exploring for the first time with the aim of spreading ‘jan – jagruti’ or enlightenment among the people. They walk about in residential areas, early in the morning, with castanet-like musical instruments singing bhajans or hymns in deep captivating voices that filled up the neighbourhood with enchantment!! Their hymns are all devoted to Krishna / Vasudev and they call themselves Vasudeva Janaa, hail from the Pandharpur area, and have forsaken the ‘householder’ life to spread enlightenment. Amazing experience to be woken up by their clear beautiful singing!

Encountered next were the ladies  from Karnatka – Shaivite worshippers of Yellamma, whose portable deity they carry from village to village and receive money from people as offerings to the goddess and her son. Language, unfortunately became a barrier in finding out more about this group.

After a gap I cam across another pair of Vasudeva Jana – this time in Mumbai – 2009 – where I managed to shoot pictures of an ON-THE-ROAD counselling session.

The last set is that of the whipping boys with the women – carrying photographs instead of deities – encountered in Vile Parle in 2009.

May 2011 :The light-green eyed soothsayer from Warangal Andhra Pradesh with his grey-eyed wife set up shop near my home in Bombay. A passer-by stopped to ask his fortune and the soothsayer spent about half an hour with him. The little shop they set up included interesting items like peacock feathers, the scalp of a bear or goat, bones and roots and herbs along with red and yellow powders…. all very intriguing and curious objects brought in to create a mystic air and evoke faith in the un-understandable!

The Soothsayer counselling a passer-by

The soothsayer’s wife with the ‘tools of trade’ – herbs, roots, scalp, bones and feathers

The light eyed gypsy soothsayer from Warangal, Andhra Pradesh

This photoessay “hopefully” isn’t complete yet….am looking forward to experiencing and sharing more of these intriguing & hard-to-find groups of people …


Feb 2013


Wovensouls-Mumbai-local-trains-blog-6Asking passers-by for offerings in exchange for blessings



Read a related article on the Street Shrines of India here


6 comments on “Travelling Godmen – the Spiritual Healers of India

  1. продавам земя
    February 13, 2013

    Hi! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tanehsa Garnett
    February 13, 2013

    I wanted to thank you for this fantastic read!! I certainly enjoyed
    every little bit of it. I have got you saved as a favorite to look
    at new stuff you post…

  3. Christina
    February 17, 2013

    Hi! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the great work!

  4. Marshall
    June 19, 2013

    It would be nice to see more explanations … this article is like a beginning to a greater exploration. Good job though! Keep it up.

  5. Pingback: Traveling Godmen | Wovensouls Journal

  6. soma
    October 15, 2015

    Thanks, enlightning encounters, belief in many forms! plurality flourishes.

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