The Inimitable Lives of THE AGHORI MONKS

The Aghori monks are ash-smeared ascetic Shiva sadhus, found mostly near charnel grounds seeking a different way of life as per the teachings of Lord Shiva. They practice black magic, eat flesh from corpses, wear jewellery made from human bones and meditate at cremation grounds to attain their true calling. Found in small groups in Varanasai, their lives are both simple and unique…

WORDS: SANGEETA S

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AGHORI Sadhus (or monks) are a small group of ascetics who indulge in after-death (post mortem) rituals. These Lord Shiva worshippers are generally found in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, and can be identified by their ash smeared bodies with human bones in hand. The Aghoris believe in Lord Shiva manifested as Bhairava who seek moksha from the cycle of reincarnation. They often use human bones to make jewellery and can be found with Kapalas (skullcups) in hand.

It is believed that they have lot of healing powers which they gain through renunciation and tapasya (deep meditation). They are mostly found influence of dope and alcohol and, can be found in cremation grounds or in the Himalayas or in hot deserts. They are mostly found where normal civilization cannot habitate.They are often feared because of their extreme practices; they eat human flesh and drink from skulls. It is the combination of alcohol, marijuana and meditation that helps them attain their enlightenment. They are often seen without clothes and with their faces painted. They discourage attachment to anything materialistic and believe that a human body is transitory medium for the soul. This is the reason why they surround themselves with decay and death. They believe in doing things that is taboo for others that helps them achieve enlightenment and bring them closer to Lord Shiva. However, it is because of these practices that they are looked upon with fear and disgust.
These devotees of Lord Shiva seek self-realization with absolute spiritual enlightenment. For them, reaching Lord Shiva is the ultimate; they believe that Shiva is perfect and is responsible for everything that happens. Since Lord Shiva is responsible for everything according to them, calling anything imperfect would mean denying Lord Shiva. As per the Aghoris, every human soul is Shiva but it is because of sensual pleasure, anger, greed, fear, hatred, and obsession that soul becomes impure. They do sadhana to remove these bonds. Staying in cremation ground removes fear, staying naked removes shame and similar such practices help them remove all the bonds and they become one with Shiva.
Aghoris are respected as well as feared. Their rituals using human skulls and sex with corpses arouse curiosity. They are also associated with cannibalism and other bizarre rituals. Like sex, alcohol and meat is something one does not associate with sadhus but Aghoris are exceptions. According to them, it is Goddess Kali who demands these things and to satisfy her, they consume alcohol and meat. They do not believe in any discrimination and that is the reason they eat everything, including things like faeces, human flesh etc.
They live a life of celibacy but according to them, when Goddess Kali demands sex then they have to comply. And to appease the Goddess, they have intercourse with corpses. Their focus is on finding purity even in filthy objects. They remain focused on God even while having sex with corpse or while eating meat. Everything is pure for them.
There are also other rituals related to sex which do not sound normal but for them, it is sacred. They have rituals for intercourse and it is believed that sex amongst the dead gives rise to supernatural powers. The Aghoris often assemble in a graveyard to perform special sex ritual amidst the dead.
To conclude, one can say that we find Aghoris unnatural because they do not fall in line with our regular (socially acceptable) way of life. They have their own logic and thinking which is different from ours but they do not mean harm to anyone.

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QUICK FACTS ABOUT AGHORIS:
 An Aghori has no hatred in his heart. He believes that one who hates cannot meditate
 They share meals with dogs and cows and, they eat from the same bowl
 They believe that worrying about little things will move their focus away from their higher goal of becoming one with Lord Shiva
 Aghoris are fearless; they do not fear the dead or the cremation ground
 They fearlessly smear ashes of burnt corpses on their bodies to be like Lord Shiva
 They will always have human skull or kapal with them. Before a sadhu starts his life as an Aghori, he must acquire the skull
 He also has to eat human flesh and take baths in the icy, chilled waters of the Ganga
 He will meditate in cremation grounds at night which normally people fear
 They eat what normal people find filthy; faeces, urine, human flesh etc. They believe that eating such things destroys the ego
 They practice cannibalism but they do not kill humans for their needs; they consume flesh from the corpses at cremation grounds
 They are mostly nude or with minimum clothes
 They claim to have miracle medicines which they make by extracting oils from corpses. However, the authenticity of their claim has not been tested
 They practice black magic which they never use to harm anyone
 The Aghoris believe that though they follow a different way to reach God, their way is quicker