According to Hindu Mythology in everyone’s life there should be four parts of life, called also the four Ashrams: Vidyarthi, Grihastha, Vanprastha, and Sanyasa. Vidyarthi ashram, the first comprises the first 25 years. From 25 to the age of 50 people should get married and have a family. At 50 then the renunciation phase starts and all preparations for Sanyasa (from 75 to death) should evolve: Meditation, getting rid of all familiar responsibilities, rituals. They wear orange cloth as orange is the colour of Hinduism. Brahman cast Sanyanis get also a stick which they cover with orange cloth and which they carry with them even when their dead bodies will be given to the Ganga river. Once they decide to become a Sanyasi they will not go back home. Family members can visit them, but often the contacts become less. They stay here until they die.
When I visit a Sanyasi centre in Varanasi, I’m very impressed. It is a small world on its own. Clear rules, men and women communities, in a kind of monastery. There is an admission fee but it is rather low. Those who decide to live here and to follow the rules can live for free of cost. It has a high religious character, however the ‘social effect’ is clearly there.
Especially, in the women community, the social cause of joining and becoming a sanyasi is often more socially- driven. Most of the women living here have a bad past, such as a destroyed family, no home, no care. Here they find peace. Here they find support and a basic structure.
It is an amazing, but also strange world. At least from a European perspective.