Any person who is well aware of Hinduism and numerous spiritual paths connected to it might have heard about Aghoris. Even if you are a Non-Hindu there are still chances you might have come across this topic along with some cooked up stories. Are you one of those people who are completely unaware of this word?! Then let me begin from the basics and take you deep into the lifestyle and practices of these misunderstood ascetics.
If you ask any layman to define Aghori, I’m sure you are going to return with lots of stuff that chill your spine. From introducing them as Shiva Sadhus to explaining their bizarre rituals, the lifestyle of Aghoris isn’t something you expect to be normal. You don’t easily find an Aghori roaming in general communities nor do they engage in any activity that we conventionally normal people usually do. They tend to be found in dark parts of the forests where human existence is extremely difficult, but the places where you can find them are the “Smashan Ghats” (Crematorium where Hindu dead bodies are burnt) especially in Varanasi, the sacred city of Shiva. During the Kumbhmela (the mass Hindu pilgrimage held once in 12 years) you can find Aghoris joining the rituals in collective numbers.
Apart from these places, one might not easily see an Aghori Sadhu without a special hunt to find them. So, why is that people are extremely terrified of the practices of these religiously involved ones? Well, you must really look at the points which are said to be the actual lifestyle and rituals of Aghoris and some of them might take you to a completely new dimension of Hinduism. Recognized as the most religious Shiv-Bhakts(One who pray Lord Shiva), Aghoris lives are intertwined with reference to Shavs(dead bodies). Yes, Aghoris often live in crematory grounds and are known to smear the ashes of burnt bodies all over their bodies.
As much they are worshippers of Shiva, they equally worship Shakthi- the female half or in fact the counterpart of Shiva who is known to be the Goddess of death. Aghoris believe that God resides in everything and it is the same divinity that demands them to perform all these activities which are termed as cannibalistic and necrophilia in a regular world. They dwell among dead bodies, consume its meat and there are many controversial stories that Aghoris are involved in sexual activities with dead bodies. As Shiva teaches Oneness, Aghoris believe in the oneness and sacredness of everything irrespective of it considered as holy or unholy. There is nothing called restrictions in their lives nor there are any attachments.
They dive into the things they hate to let go of it and they equally throw things they love both out of their minds and bodies. They also believe that having sex in between the dead bodies actually give rise to supernatural powers we normal people can’t even imagine. But no Aghori ever have a forced sex with women and often it is said that they indulge in lovemaking acts with menstruating women amidst the recitation of mantras.
Often found nude or covered in a piece of loincloth, Aghoris also segregate the bones from the pyres of human and make oils which they believe to cure some life-threatening diseases like AIDS, Cancer, etc. and use a Kapal(skull) as a begging bowl. The other things which afraid most of the people is the Aghoris cursing everyone who surpasses them. They consume Marijuana that is believed to give psychedelic and spiritual experiences. They tend to do each of these things by relating with Mahakala that is Lord Shiva who is referred to as “Adi Yogi” and the greatest Aghor.
All the above facts are known by most of the people who believe them to be wholly aware of them. But looking closely to the truth might alter your perceptions towards them. People are even terrified with words Tantra, Mantra and Aghori, but do you know the real meaning of Aghori?! The word “Aghor” comes from the opposite of the word “Ghor” which means dense and complicated. So, the true essence of “Aghor” is simplicity. Traditionally, Aghoris derive their habits out of simplicity, innocence, and straightforwardness. They practice the customs that they define as the highest form of religion or holiness. There is a reason they believe in every custom or ritual they follow. They pursue a life beyond pure and impure; they look at things beyond holy and unholy.
The omnipresence of God (Shiva) they believe make them accept everything as same, so it is not horribleness or insanity that is hidden behind their traits but the deep understanding of spirituality and consciousness that build their perceptions towards the greater truth. They perform sexual acts with dead bodies to erase the difference between life and death. Nirvana is their pursuit of life and in fact, liberation is their style of living. The true liberation that is free of all materialistic, physical and mental desires. No ritual of theirs is performed without a hidden meaning as even their dwelling among dead bodies is explained as the holy meditation they do where accept and grab the darkness and light in the same form.
Nothing is either clean or unclean to them; they wake up and meditate when the whole world is at sleep, which is how they inculcate peace among crypts and burning pyres. One thing that connects me or makes me empathize with them is their non-judgmental mindset that holds no hate for anyone. You can even find them sharing their small belongings or food with street dogs or any other animal find passing by. That is how they truly inhabit equality in their lives. To find beauty among ugliness, purity among impurity, to erase the barriers that stop them from attaining the oneness is their lifestyle. This is all I have tried to observe their lives that are often tabooed among us. Until there is no harm for anyone and when there is such a beauty of wholeness weaved in their every tact that brings God inside them, the way they live is still intriguing to us.