SADHU, a Hindu ascetic, corresponding to the Mahommedan fakir (q.v.). The Sadhus, who are known also as Sanyasis, Gosains and Bairagis, are of various sects, hold peculiar opinions, indulge in strange practices, and subject themselves in many cases to cruel hardships and fantastic disciplines. They range in moral standing from the peripatetic philosopher to the idle vagabond. Some lead the life of contemplation, which Hindus consider especially holy; others pose as alchemists, physicians, fortune-tellers, palmists or acrobats; while others yet again practise voluntary tortures, such as holding one arm upright until it withers, or lying continually upon a bed of spikes. Some go about almost naked, or smeared all over with ashes; but the usual garment of an ascetic is stained an orange red with ochre. Hence was derived the colour of the Mahratta flag. Alone among Hindus their dead are buried instead of being burned, usually in a sitting posture, and often in salt. During the disturbed period of Indian history, before British rule was firmly established, armed bodies of Sanyasis or Gosains attached themselves to the Mahratta armies, and also ravaged Northern Bengal in the time of Warren Hastings.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)