Ganga Aarti on the Ganga Ghat in Varanasi

Ganga Aarti on the Ganga Ghat in Varanasi

Dhamek Stupa at Sarnath

Dhamek Stupa at Sarnath

Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Varanasi

Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Varanasi

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aughar or the Aghori - do they really feast on dead bodies?

I had long been fascinated by the Aghoris or “aughars” and my fascination was born out of the many weird and incredible stories that are associated with “aghoris”, their way of life and their supernatural powers.
In Varanasi lies one of the oldest schools or peeth of the 'Aghori' way of life - Aghor Research and Service Center, Krin Kund. This ashram or school was established by Baba Kinaram in the 16th century.Before I talk about Aghoracharya Baba Kinaram and his teachings, I want to state here what “Aghori” stands for and what are the origins of this aghor sect?

The word “Aghor” when translated literally means “that which is easy or non-terrible” which is the underlying philosophy of the Aghor sect. Contrary to popular perception that “Aghoris” are human flesh eaters and urine-drinkers who practice black magic, “Aghor” philosophy is about absolute renunciation. However, the “Aghoris” do drink liquor and eat flesh as opposed to practitioners of other spiritual sects in India where these things are taboo. But these acts are just symbolic and not a part of their lifestyle. For the “Aghori” these acts are a way of breaking all social conventions.

The “aghors” believe that by breaking these social taboos, true realization dawns. Secondly, for the “aghor” their Lord Shiva is perfect and since he is responsible for everything hence everything that exists must be perfect and so for the “aghor” nothing is dirty or untouchable or unpalatable. So the “aghori” would wear the shroud taken off a dead body, or chose to remain naked or rub himself with ashes of the dead, or drink in vessels made of human skull only to negate the popular perception that these things are unholy or impure in a way emphasizing their core belief that nothing is impure as everything stands for Shiva and Shiva is perfect. Out of these very acts of the “aghoris” were born some of the incredible rumours that surround these unique followers of shiva.

Speaking to one of the senior members at the Baba Kinaram ashram, which is the main “akhada” or ashram or school of aghoris, I learnt that some of the rather revolting practices attributed to the “aghoris” were actually a sort of trick to which some of the “lost” followers of the sect resorted to instill fear in the minds of people and to eventually reap benefits by claiming to have attained supernatural powers. The real “aghori” would not resort to such cheap practices. To him, the path of “aghor” is the path of “swa-atmarama” or the realization that the “self” is the abode of the Supreme Being and in fact He resides in everything and hence everything is pure.

The “aghoris” claim lineage from the Avadhuta Siddhas of Kashi(Varanasi) which in turn emanated from Lord Shiva himself. The first aghor was Aghor Bhairavacharya of the 5th-6th century and his lineage was revived by Baba Kinaram in the 16th century after receiving darshan of Bhagwan Dattatreya who is a combination of divine trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.

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