The Feared Saints of Kashi
Hinduism is single religion, but filled with diverse shades of faith, rituals, sects and worshippers. In the wide spectrum of customs and beliefs associated with it, none is more unique than the practices of the sect known as Aghori or Aghori sadhus. Aghori Sadhus are associated with cannibalism and engages in post-mortem rituals. Their customs and rituals are markedly different from other Hindu sects. Some of their strange and bizarre practices are beyond the comprehension of human acumen.
Aghoris are devotees of Shiva in the form of Bhairava and are monks who seek moksha from the cycle of reincarnation. They believe that every person’s soul is Shiva but is shackled by the bonds of sensual pleasure, anger, greed, obsession, fear and hatred. The practices of the Aghoris work towards removing of these bonds. Once released from these bonds they believe that soul unites with God and obtains moksha.
Many of the Aghoris roam around naked representing their detachment from materialistic things. Nothing is unholy or not auspicious for them as God is hailed to be all and in all. They eat left over flesh from human dead bodies found on the banks of Ganga. Drinking alcohol from a human skull, known as kapala, is another common tradition, as is drinking urine and eating fecal matter. They apply ash from the human pyre. A Hindu cremation ground, a place considered ghastly by others is home for the Aghoris. The ritual of sex takes lace in a graveyard where consenting women are smeared with ash of the dead and the consummation takes place on the graves. Aghoris saints can be seen in large number in the various Kumbh Mela celebrations.
Aghoris also consider Dattatreya as a predecessor to the Aghori Tantric tradition. Dattatreya is believed to be an incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva united in the same body. Hinglaj Mata is considered the Kuladevata of the Aghori. The main Aghori pilgrimage centre is Kina Ram’s ashram in Ravindrapuri, Varanasi. This place, where Kina Ram, one of the most prominent Aghori sages, is buried, is a popular centre of pilgrimage for Aghoris and Aghori devotees.
The life of an Aghori Sadhu is tedious, strange and extraordinary. To become a part of their sect one has to complete harsh rituals under the guidance of an Aghori guru. Their ideas, life and ways are no doubt beyond the horizons of the civilized societies. They are as much feared as they are revered. They are considered unorthodox and extreme, and would almost certainly be rejected by the conservative followers of Hinduism. Whether their practices can be condoned or not, whether their way of life is a deviant from the norm or not, are questions for another day. However, it can be doubtlessly said the Aghori way of life is an unusual and unique path that not many would want to, would be able to or even imagine to follow.