A sadhu is a sage or a holy man who practices Hinduism. The Aghori sadhus belong to a Hindu sect, who are intense followers of Lord Shiva – The Hindu God of Destruction. They are well known in South-east Asia for their uncanny rituals and way of life. The sole purpose of an Aghori is to blur the line between holiness and un-holiness. They can be easily spotted on the banks of the Ganges, which also happens to be the holiest river of the Hindus. The Aghoris, also known as “Tantriks,” are often associated with cannibalism and intoxication. They are the more extreme Hindus, yet completely cut off from the general public. Aghoris are seeked by some for their healing and “vashikaran” (possession) abilities. In vashikaran, the person from the general population seeks an Aghori to attain success in professional and love life
The 3 Major groups of Hinduism:
According to the census data of India, as of 2011, almost 80% of the country is Hindu by religion1 .Hinduism also has a trinity of 3 main gods, namely, Brahma- the creator, Vishnu- the preserver and Shiva- the destroyer. Brahma is rarely worshiped as he was cursed by Shiva, on one occasion where Brahma tried to show his superiority over Vishnu (vaguely put).The following are the 3 main sects of Hindusim:
- Vaishnavism – The followers of Lord Vishnu and all his avatars; Ram and Krishna being the main ones.
- Shaivism – The worshipers of Lord Shiva as the main god. Shiva also advocates duality, he is both form and formless.
- Shaktism – The followers of the mother goddess Shakti and her forms like Durga, Kali,etc. Shakti is considered to the feminine half of Shiva. Kali, the fierce one, is often associated with “Tantra” which literally means technique.
The Agohori Sadhus are the most extreme Shaivists, who might also worship Kali during their practice of Tantra. The goddess Kali is often praised during ritual or “pujas” that involve black magic.
Core beliefs of an Aghori:
The word extreme has been used here, as their beliefs are contrary to orthodox Hinduism. In simple terms, Aghoris would do everything that is not considered holy by the general public. The sadhus generally work towards Moksha, which means to be free from the cycle of rebirth or reincarnation. The Aghoris believe that, the world has been created by Shiva, who is the most supreme being in the universe, and is perfect in itself. Every human being has Shiva’s soul in him or is a kind of manifestation of Shiva himself, but consist of an overlay of the 8 bonds that act as a barrier from seeking god. In Sanskrit the 8 bonds are referred to as Astamahapasa, which comprises of pleasure, hatred, anger, obsession, fear, ignorance, discrimination and greed. An Aghori through his rituals or techniques, gets rid of these 8 bonds that serve as an obstruction to seeking Moksha.
8 most bizarre practices of the Aghori are:
- They live in cremation grounds: Lord Shiva also is known to have loved to meditate in cremation grounds. It is said that the soul leaves the body and is free from all worldly ties at the cremation grounds. The Aghoris dwell in crematories as it is away from the general population. They also live in the Himalayan mountain ranges, to meditate while being undisturbed. Most Aghoris are covered with ashes, possibly attained from cremation grounds.
- Dreadlocks and nudity: As explained earlier, these sadhus believe that everything in the world is perfect, hence they do not trim or wash their hair, thus leaving them to form dreadlocks. The Naga sadhus of Varanasi, a place where the Aghori population peaks, are seen roaming naked.
- Cannibalism: In the 21st century, it is hard to believe that cannibalism still exists in broad daylight. Most Hindus cremate dead bodies, while a miniscule fraction sends them floating on the river Ganges. Aghoris are feared mainly because of their bizarre practice of cannibalism. They are often see pulling out dead bodies from the river or from the cremation grounds while the flames are still burning. There are videos of these sadhus eating raw human meat.
- Marijuana: One of the signature moves of an Aghori is him smoking pot in a chillum – an earthen pipe. It helps keep their minds calm and away from worldly desires.
- Sexual rituals: Aghoris have sex with corpses in graveyards during ritual ceremonies. They fornicate with lower caste women while they are menstruating. Apparently, the logic behind this is pretty simple, they find purity in the filthiest of things.
- Human sacrifices and offerings: Since people of this sect are associated with black magic and healing abilities, attaining such powers require sacrifices. Nobody ever messes around with an Aghori, you respect them and move on. There are certain stories where Aghoris have sacrificed humans to the goddess Kali. A catholic or a traditional Hindu would offer candles or flowers whenever he visits a holy place, on contrary to this an Aghori offers alcohol to the worshipped.
- The Human skull: It is an unsaid rule that every Aghori must have a Human skull from which he should drink and eat from. This skull is obtained from cremation grounds (we hope).
- Medicines: Deriving oils from Human bodies, the sadhus claim to cure deadly diseases like AIDS and cancer. There is no documented proof of any such incident.
It is easy to judge people who do such bizarre things, and it might feel unnecessary. Let’s focus back on to the point of blurring the line between what is holy and unholy. Who really decides what’s pure and what’s unpure? Is it being pure to live in a society that is full of greed, lust and hatred? The fundamental principal of an Aghori, is not to have hate. God has always been defined as someone who is perfect, someone flawless, if God has created the world, how could it have imperfections? Maybe the secret lies in the dual nature of things. There can’t be a high without a low, and nothing can be holy without the existence of un-holiness. The Aghori practices do sound extreme, but we could question ourselves about the definition of holiness.