Aghori sadhus

Aghori sadhus
   Paradoxically named, the Aghori (“non-terrible”) SADHUS are among the most strange and frighten-ing of all the mendicants of India. Their practice is similarly called aghora—“non-terrible.” They inhabit cremation grounds, where they perform their esoteric rituals. They eat the flesh of human corpses and smear their bodies with ashes from human cremations. They carry begging bowls made from human skulls (they do not beg but will not refuse anything) and eat their food from them. They are popularly known as evil sorcerers who command fearsome magic powers.
   The practices of the Aghoris are calculated to outrage; they are known copraphages (eaters of human excrement), and folklore reports their kidnapping and sacrificing children for their out-rageously transgressive rites. They trace their sect to the great guru of the NATHS, GORAKHNATH; they embody the extreme left-handed tantra (see TA N-TRISM), which finds the divinity everywhere, and they believe that complete release is to be found in discovering the essence of the divinity in that which is most horrific. They are often devotees of the fierce aspect of the GODDESS, but also, of SHIVA. Their origins are probably to be found in the ancient SHAIVA cult of the Kapalikas. These sad-hus are given a wide berth by most contemporary Indians and are looked down upon as evil.
   Further reading: R. G. Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems (Banares: Indological Book House, 1965); N. N. Bhattacharya, The History of the Tantric Religion (Delhi: Manohar, 1982.); Shashibhusan Das Gupta, Obscure Religious Cults (Calcutta: Firma KLM, 1995); Sadhus: India’s Holy Men, 3, Aghori, Liv-ing with the Dead (videorecording)/a Bedi Films/Denis Whyte Films Production for BBC TV, Canal Plus, Premiere (Princeton, N.J.: Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1995); Robert Svoboda, Aghora: At the Left Hand of God (Albuquerque: Brotherhood of Life, 1986).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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