Naked in Ashes Premieres in LA
By Paula Fouce
On a cold winter day on the banks of the River Ganges, we met a group of Indian Yogis who renounce all material things in their quest for the Divine. San-tosh Giri, a young boy, had decided to follow their 5,000-year-old Path. This 14 year old embarked on an ancient tradition handed down by Masters — who still today wear only ashes from their holy fires.
Santosh’s Guru, Shiv Raj Giri, and his disciples invited us to accompany them on pilgrimage in the Hima-layas. While making the film, NAKED IN ASHES, they allowed us to have full access to their lives. I felt privileged and humbled. It was wonderful to share their view of life — that everything is Divine. Living outside, they build a fire wherever they go, to them it is a symbol of God.
Along with a small crew of adventuresome filmmakers, I became very close to Santosh, who delighted in our candy and cho-colates from the West. We Americans were like creatures from another planet to this child who grew up in Calcutta, and got lost in a mass of humanity at the Ganga Sagar festival, where he met his teacher. We delighted in his childlike laughter and innocence. And remarked at his uncomplaining nature when he walked barefoot in the snow naked, on the footpaths of the Himalayas.
These modern-day Yogis are confronted with the world’s increasing chaos and change. Just like us in the West, they are alarmed at the pollution, rampant dishonesty and downward spiral of society. But when they looked me in the eye — although I am foreign to them, they saw me as spirit and greeted me as another soul on the same path they are on — to find everlasting peace.
Santosh took the ultimate initiation; he became a Naga Baba, a Yogi. Because the Yogis want the world to know about their Path and their beliefs, they allowed us to film the secret ceremony when he renounced everything to wander in search of Ultimate Bliss.
Santosh now lives as his forefathers — ancient mystics who were the first to discover man’s soul, and who left society to dwell in solitude – in Himalayan caves.
This film chronicles the lives of these hermits in India as they go on pilgrimage from the Ganges to sacred places high in the snowy Himalayas, and to the holiest festival of Hinduism.
Other sages eat only fruit for decades; these are some of the many practices done with the intent of realizing the Self within. Yet these sages were delighted to share their lives with us, and I felt accepted and enriched by their utter simplicity. The poorest were always giving to us, offering whatever they had, even their food.
We were accompanied by Raman Giri, “Standing Baba”, who has been standing continuously for 12 years, even while sleeping. These tapas, or bizarre austerities of pain and suffering, are practiced by ascetics to overcome their physical body and to realize the Divine.
Wandering through India, the Yogis finally arrived at the holiest bathing festival, held every twelve years. Here we met hermits who only leave their refuges high in the Himalayas for this blessed occasion. Their presence and the constant chanting of prayers filled me with overwhelming awe.
Believing all our sins would be erased, they prodded us too, to immerse ourselves in the sacred waters of immortality, and be blessed, by taking the holiest ritual bath on earth.
An award-winning team of filmmakers came together to produce NAKED IN ASHES. This documentary film serves up a slice of life — the ascetics of the Hima-layas — who walk away from everything worldly in their quest for the Divine. Beautifully shot on location throughout India.
This amazing film is edited by William Haugse, A.C.E, Academy-Award nominee, HOOP DREAMS. Creative Consultant is Maria Florio, Academy Award-winning Producer, BROKEN RAINBOW, producer TIBET: CRY OF THE SNOW LION. Cinematography is by Christopher G. Tufty, Emmy-Award Winner. Editorial Consultant is Lisa Leeman, Academy Award-winning documentary short, BIG MAMA. Original Music by Tony Humecke. Produced by Tim Kettle, nominated for several Emmys and Director’s Guild Awards. Produced and Directed by Paula Fouce, co-author of SHIVA, photographic book on the Yogis of India.
NAKED IN ASHES is a Paradise Filmworks International Production. The Los Angeles
Premiere will open October 21-28 at the Nu Art Theater, located at 11272 Santa
Monica Blvd. in West L.A. For tickets or more in-formation, call (310) 281-8223
You can also view the trailer at www.paradisefilmworks.com
Publisher’s Note: What an honor and privilege for all of us to be allowed to share the path of this amazing yogi. This is an extraordinary film — one you will not want to miss!!!
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