They are the Naga Babas, “the naked ones”, belonging to an order founded by Dattatreya (a naked philosopher not totally unlike the Greek Diogenes) in the Treta Age (a long long time ago), and finally organized into a sect by Adi Shankara in the 5th century BC. They see themselves (as many Indians do), as the ultimate protectors of the Sanatan Dharma, or what we call the Hindu religion, but in fact, what they call the natural order of the universe. They are charged with ultimately maintaining the law of nature.
Going through the door of initiation into Sannyas or the state of renunciation, an ordinary person, a householder, becomes a denizen of another world, a mythic world, where different laws are in effect, and becomes transformed into a different kind of being, an almost mythological being with mythological powers, sometimes performing miracles, certainly mythological capable of such things consistent with the laws of his extraordinary world.
He joins the world of gods and demons, and is a member of a family not determined by blood and genes, but by esoteric tradition, the mystical genes coming from Dattatreya. The “mating”, the “procreation”, and the “empowerment” of these “families” exclusively take place at a Kumbha Mela.
“As a member of the Naga Sannyasis for the last 37 years, I am the first foreigner ever to be an initiate and member of Juna Akhara, the oldest and largest grouping of the order. As such, I have taken my initiations at the Kumbh Mela, and have participated in 15 Melas. As the approach of the 21st century has had it’s eroding effects on the order, as it has on all traditional societies around the world, I am able to show the world one of the last glorious manifestations of an age long passed, of a mythology quickly being replaced by Disney, and a tradition spawned from a very ancient gene.”