By Swami Harshananda
The Nātha Cult, also known as the Nāthapantha, is an esoteric cult closely related to Saivism and Haṭhayoga. Ādinātha, Matsyendranātha and Gorakṣa-nātha (or Gorakhnāth) are the three, the most prominent, of the teachers.
The aṣṭāṅgayoga as taught by Patañjali (200 B. C.) along with certain practices of Haṭhayoga by which the sādhaka (spiritual aspirant) can rouse his Kuṇḍalinī and get it united in the sahasrāracakra with Siva, is the main mode of spiritual practice. One who has achieved the goal, shakes off all bonds and becomes an avadhuta or a siddhayogi, ever immersed in bliss.
Piercing of the earlobes and wearing big ear-rings (because of which they are commonly known as kānphaṭa yogis, ‘yogis with torn earlobes’) as also a woollen thread-like yajñopavīta (sacred thread), holding a horn and smearing bhasma or holy ash all over the body—these are some of the characteristic marks by which they can be distinguished.
Their names—after initiation into the Order—generally end with the word ‘nātha’.
A disciple who desires to be initiated into this cult must have 36 qualities some of which are: jñāna (knowledge), viveka (discrimination), santoṣa (contentment), śīla (pure character) and so on.
This cult seems to have spread in most parts of India and Nepal.
Dharmanāth, a brother-disciple of
Gorakhnāth, is said to have spread it in the Kutch district of Gujarat.
See also GORAKHNĀTH and MATS-YENDRANĀTHA.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore