Pictures: Meet the Mandaeans — Disciples of John the Baptist

 | Updated: Mar 15, 2021, 09:34 PM IST

Mandaeans, a minority religious group following the teachings of John the Baptist, have worshipped at the banks of the Tigris River for hundreds of years.

Mandaeans attend Tigris ritual in Iraqi capital

On March 15, Several Mandaeans have gathered at the Tigris River in Baghdad to take part in a baptism ritual. Mandaeism follows the teachings of John the Baptist, a saint in both the Christian and Islamic traditions, and its rites revolve around water.


Baptism ritual

The Mandaeans immerse themselves in the running water three times to ease the worries of life and relieve any sin they have committed. Mandaean women practise the ritual along with the men. They are also dressed in white with their heads covered.


Mandaeans have remained separate and intensely private

Dressed in white robes, these followers of the ancient Mandaean religion slowly lower themselves into the Tigris River. They're here to purify their souls, in a baptism ritual, they have been practising for centuries.


ethnoreligious group

Mandaeans are an ethnoreligious group native to the alluvial plain of southern Mesopotamia and are followers of Mandaeism, a monotheistic Gnostic religion. 


the language of Christ

Mandaeans traditionally speak a variety of Aramaic, the language of Christ. They call Adam their prophet and revere John the Baptist — "saba" is Aramaic for baptise, "manda" means knowledge. They trace their roots to pre-Christian times and some scholars believe the sect was a heretical branch of Judaism that spread south through the land of the two rivers, or Mesopotamia, in the second century AD.