THE AGHORI MONKS OF VARANASI: EXILED CANNIBALS AMONG DEAD

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THEY LIVE ON THE EDGE OF INDIAN SOCIETY,

THEY ARE LIKE GHOSTS,THEY  SEE WHAT IS UNSEEN

THROUGH THE BIZARRE RITUALS TO THE (EVIL) PROPHECIES

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Have you ever felt the fear from the unknown darkness ? Have you ever seen the ghosts of this world ?Have you ever imagined that somewhere  evil energy is awaken and that is crawling to the cracks to our safe daily life? I am sure you haven’t or at least you haven’t had such a great creativity when it comes to the unexplained phenomena around our globe.

I like to think that I do not pick up the stories but rather to believe that interesting things are coming to me and simply ask me to give them place into people’s thoughts. The movie “The other side of the door” would be an ordinary thriller for me if  I haven’t found the pattern for my writing. The story about the mystical occultism in India offered me a chance to upgrade my knowledge with new segments – the urban legend about the Aghori tribe which lives exiled in India, practicing black magic rites and keeping residents over there in fear  from the possible consequences of confronting the dark  spirituality.

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But, what is the reality of this strange tribe of the  monks who claim they can communicate with dead and who can redirect the evil forces as they wish? They are still enigma  to the anthropologists because it is very challenging to get access to this community so some conclusions could be made for a benefit of science. Italian photographer Cristiano Ostinelli spent time with the mysterious tribe to portrait their life and to set up the base for the prospective  scientific approaches. He  explained:“There is a great mystery around them and the Indians fear them, they say they can predict the future, walk on water and do evil prophecies.The monks use a combination of marijuana, alcohol and meditation to help them reach a disconnected state of heightened awareness and bring themselves closer to revered Hindu god Lord Shiva.The Aghori also believe that by immersing themselves without prejudice in what others deem taboo or disturbing, they’re on course to achieving enlightenment.They live among India’s cremation sites – where Lord Shiva and goddess Kali Ma are said to dwell – and feed on what others throw away.Bodies are often cremated and then scattered into the sacred Ganges river, but some bodies are disposed of without cremation.”

So, do they eat human flesh or they only use the parts of the human body which is not cremated for their own rituals? Who they are ? What is their final mission?

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The Aghori tribe is usually known as the odd community of the  Aghori cannbilas who live in the northern India, by the Ganges River. One another famous photographer but from Ireland, Darragh Mason, was also spending some time with these monks, capturing their way of life and trying to reflect it through the set of brilliant pictures. According to his words, these men are growing up through the celibacy and practicing bizarre rites in purpose to reach spiritual enlightenment:”They are known to pull bodies from the Ganges and eat them.“Skulls and other human bones are taken from the cremation grounds and used for ritual purposes. They believe that power comes from the dead.At one point they tried to get me to drink water from the Ganges out of a human skull but around two meters upstream they were cremating bodies so I just couldn’t – the river is teaming with disease anyway.People were attracted to the extreme sect’s way of life. There was an American gentleman who lived with the group for sometime. Amazingly people are really attracted to this way of life.They actively try to be thought of as the lowest in society which is why they do not dress well and their hair is often matted.Despite their terrifying reputation the Aghori are charitable and have set up a leper colony where they have cared for and cured 99,045 patients with full leprosy and 147,503 with partial leprosy.” 

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It means that in spite of their public image, these monks have their own rules they live up on and their own system of values they are following. The Aghori sadhus are an ascetic hinduistic  sect which is devoted to Shiva, god of death and destruction, so called ” The Transformer”. They believe they came from ancient ascetic Kina Ram, incarnation of Shiva, who lived, based on evidence, for 150 years in the late 18th century.They are monists so they do not make differences between purity and impurity so their universe is definitely non-dualistic but rather united in all contrasts. That further means that referent values as good and bad have the same meaning to them because all is from God and all is perfect. Everyone who thinks opposite is trapped in the cruel world of illusion. These monks want to cut off all ties with the physical world and to achieve the final state of incarnation of Shiva himself. It is not an easy process and it requires a lot of denials and self-punishing and embracing the ancient  fears from evil and dangerous phenomena. They want to break up the circle of reincarnation and that is why they try to get transcendence through the darkness and death. They consume marijuana, do not cut their hairs and beards, sometimes smearing ash on themselves and looking like ghosts among people. They do eat anything because they have convictions that in order to come to the Shiva level, you must overcome disgust. Someone can see them eating rotten food, human feces or drinking urine. They take foods from the special items made from human bones. The most famous is their practice to drink human urine from the human skull bowl:”The dark themes of death and the use of human remains also play a large part in the rituals and daily life of the sect. In an effort to totally confront death and decay, the Aghori commonly live in or near cemeteries or cremation grounds, which are thought to be holy places where Shiva lives and are representative of the final living place for everyone. At cremation grounds, the Aghori gather ash with which to cover their bodies. Indeed, often Aghori will wear nothing but human ash smeared all over them, with some only wearing a very small piece of cloth just large enough to barely cover their private parts. They will occasionally wear jewelry or trinkets made from human bone fragments, and some make use of walking sticks made from a human femur. It is also not uncommon to see an Aghori with a grisly bowl fashioned from a human skull, called a kapala, which they will use either as a drinking vessel for liquor, a dish for food, or as a begging bowl.”

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For the civilization, this sect is considered as a horror sect, the curse of the society because of their strong relations to the matters of death. The Aghori monks are obsessed with those who are dead and every dead body they experience as their own dead body, through the rite shava samskara. If we add to it the disturbing cannibalism, the story of madness is complete. The human flesh what they eat is usually taken from the corpses and either consumed raw or cooked. The important fact here is that they do not kill people for their food. All they collect is already dead human flesh from the Ganges River. Many bodies are indeed cremated but in Hinduism there are some of those who do not make cremations, like children, holy people, pregnant women, unmarried women or sick individuals. Their bodies are given to the holiness of this river so their sins could be washed away. The Aghori monks will hunt in the river like fishermen and after they get “the prey”, they will make prayers and rituals so they would be allowed to finally consume their flesh.

I was surprised to read that in spite of their dark image, they are also considered like shamans and healers. They make some kind of disease transfer from the sick to themselves, using the supernatural power they were given by Shiva. This could be a myth but unfortunately there are no many possibilities to be involved in their rituals and to observe the process with an objective mind.

They are not dangerous for the public and they are tolerated by official institutions since they are located mostly around their holy temple of Varanasi, close to the Ganges River. They do not kill so they could be close to death and they do help and heal in their own ways to those who believe in that.

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The modern world is full of controversial sects and strange rituals. Some of them are tolerated and some are considered as unpleasant. Some of them are still hidden from the eyes of the mankind. That is the price of the progress, of the cultural and religious diversity. Everyone can practice everything as long as it is not being enforced upon others. The main concern is where is the line between freedom to do all and freedom from  being exposed to all? Neutral or odd rituals sometimes turn into totally dark side and then it is too late to put the evil back in the hell.

The Aghori monks are mysterious shamans who do communicate, as they believe, with the world of the dead but seeing them among the lives make as wondering  who are the  ghost and who are the  haunted.

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One thought on “THE AGHORI MONKS OF VARANASI: EXILED CANNIBALS AMONG DEAD”

  1. Difficult to fight such cults.
    Perhaps they are linked to some old religious beliefs or myths.
    In fact, I don’t know if government has any strategy on them.
    Or it just has left them exist.

    Liked by 1 person

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