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  Sky Clad Monks: In the Words of Foreigner Manuela Pop in her own words.

 During our four-month trip in India this year, my husband and I stopped in Khajuraho to visit the Erotic Temples. While there, we heard of a small village, Kundalpur, where hundreds of Jain Monks gather in a two-day festival to celebrate fifty women becoming Jain mothers.
  We left with a local Jain couple and their family to take part in the festival. Kundalpur turned out to be a very enriching and deeply spiritual experience. It changed our perception of Jainism a Indian religion forever. Among the group of temples, there is one, which is a Jain temple where we were told that a Skyclad Jain monk just left the place a few days earlier.  Not knowing what a Skyclad Jain Monk is exactly, I asked my husband. "They are the Naked Monks." He said. 
  Mike and I became curious about the Naked Jain Monks. Back at the hotel, we asked where we could go to see these monks. We were told to talk to the Jain family who owned The Jain Hotel next door. The family turned out to be very friendly. The father insisted we go to Kundalpur with his son and daughter-in-law for the festival. 

  The following day, we joined the Jain couple in a two-day excursion to the Jain temples that sheltered the Skyclad Monks. Along the way, I had the opportunity to ask the Jain couple questions about their religion, Indian costumes and Indian cooking recipes. They are enlightened gurus who preach how to live a proper life. Gurus are well respected and are considered saints who know all the answers. 
  We arrived at Kundalpur around three o'clock in the afternoon. We were shocked to see thousands of cars parked in the fields nearby. There was hardly any place left. Kundalpur is a religious pilgrimage destination, formed exclusively of Jain temples built on the surrounding hills. The place has a divine and peaceful feeling to it. The white temples are connected through paths which Jains pilgrims follow to go from one temple to another. 
  Immediately after we arrived, we joined the ceremony where fifty women embraced the Jain mother positions. They swore celibacy and renounced possessions. The ceremony took place in a huge tent, filled with thousands of Jain followers. Being the only foreigners, Mike and I attracted a lot of attention. It was nearly impossible to sneak into the front seats and watch the ceremony, but the people made a huge effort to let us pass through to watch up-close. 
  We sat on the ground and were told to be quiet. I couldn't understand the  language, but as I watched closely, I noticed that the Jain Mothers were wearing white saris and the part of the sari covering their heads had blood spots. The Jain Monks and Mothers had shaved heads. We were later told that they use their own hands to pull their hair out. 
  There were probably about eighty Naked Jain Monks sitting on benches. To the left, fifty sat down on the stage. Their guru Aacharya Vidya Sagar Ji Maharaj was on a big wooden chair at the right end of the stage. He is the best known of the modern Digambar Jain Acharyas. 

  He spoke through a microphone with each Jain Mother who would be called to approach another microphone positioned not far from him. They would engage in a conversation. The crowd listened carefully and laughed from time to time. The guru must have had a great sense of humor. I believe this was the time when each Jain Mother fully embraced her position. 
  After an hour of watching and taking pictures, we walked inside the main temple. We spent the next couple of hours visiting a few temples. We climbed to the top of the hill to see the Bade Baba statue, which represents Lord Adinath, the first Jain to reach enlightenment. 
  At six o'clock we stepped into the cafeteria. A free dinner was served to hundreds of people. We were told they would soon stop serving due to the temple's religious costumes. After dinner, we went back to the room to sleep. We were going to wake up early to take part in the praying temple circuit. 
   In Kundalpur, prayers are performed before sunrise. That is when everybody starts climbing the stairs to the first temple in the sequence. There are approximately sixty four Jain temples. Around noontime, we arrived back where we started - at the main temple in the valley. We saw the Naked Jain Monks sitting inside a large open-air room around their guru Aacharya Vidya Sagar Ji Maharaj. The Jain Mothers surrounded the Naked Monks. They formed a beautiful circle of naked brown skin- men and women in white saris. We later learned that this was the time when each Mother adopted a new name given by the Jain Guru.
  By: Apurva Jain



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