In Hinduism, the terms Sadhu, Swami and Sannyasi refer to renunciates and spiritual masters, who have usually left behind all material attachments to live in forests, temples and caves all over India. The word "Sadhu" is the general term for a Hindu ascetic who has given up the pursuit of the first three Hindu goals of life: kama (pleasure), artha (wealth and power), and even dharma (duty), to solely dedicate himself to achieving moksha (liberation) through meditation and contemplation of God. The title Swami literally translates as "owner of oneself," denoting complete mastery over instinctive and lower urges. Many yogis and gurus (teachers) of the Hindu tradition hold the title of Swami as a sign of respect denoting spiritual accomplishment.
Holy men and women have long played an important role in Indian culture and religious traditions. As a result, there are a variety of Hindu terms used to denote religious mendicants. The most famous terms are "Yogis" (those who practice Yoga), "Gurus" (those who dispel spiritual darkness), "Sadhus" (medicants), "Swamis" (Spiritual Masters), "Rishis" (Seers), and "Sannyasis" (Renunciates). The number of these terms is a sign of the importance of holy men and women in Indian life even today.