It is surprising, but there are still places on our planet where holiness is not an empty phrase, and in order to achieve it, people take the path of extreme asceticism. One of these places is India, where several civilizations and eras have intertwined, as well as dozens of different religions, both generally recognized and completely exotic for us.
The Aghori, a small and perhaps the most difficult sect for our understanding, is an excellent example of how progress and ancient gloomy rituals of death can coexist in our world.
As followers of the Conqueror of Death, Lord Shiva, the Aghoris try to imitate their patron in everything. The favorite places of the Destroyer God are battlefields, cremation grounds and cemeteries, human skulls adorn his neck, and he himself is constantly under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Shiva behaves like a madman, and the Aghoris try to conform to these divine principles that are doubtful for us. Almost their entire life, after accepting Shiva as the main god, these sadhus (saints) spend naked or with a minimum of clothing. Their faces and bodies are covered with the ashes of funeral pyres and filth, and all their belongings fit in their hands.
Many Aghori pinch the flesh, wrapping body parts and genitals with ropes and chains, making barbaric punctures and inhuman artisanal body modifications. By these sadhus everything is permitted. The followers of Shiva despise all the conventions and prohibitions of Hinduism - they use alcohol and drugs, eat meat, do not hesitate to have connections with prostitutes and constantly use foul language.
But all these sacred qualities, the owners of which can be found near any entrance, without leaving the banks of the Ganges, seem to be pampering next to the relationship of these strange ascetics to death and the dead. For an ordinary person, corpses and objects associated with death, decay and decay are considered unclean and, often, even talking about them is considered taboo.
In Europe, the Americas and many Asian countries, it is customary to avoid not only the dead, but everything that is somehow connected with them. For centuries, executioners, undertakers and gravediggers have suffered from this in the countries of developed Christianity, which defeated Islam and even denies everything and everything of Buddhism. But these superstitions have absolutely nothing to do with the Aghori, in whose lexicon the words "disgusting" and "unfavorable" are absent altogether.
The traditions practiced among the Aghori can shock the most avid horror movie aficionado. Adepts of this sect eat the meat of corpses, both raw and charred on funeral pyres, meditate, sitting on the half-decayed corpses, and even enter into ritual sexual contacts with the deceased. The fact that the elders do not disdain to eat human and dog excrement can not even be mentioned.
The word Aghori can be translated from Hindi as "unaware of horror." This is a very accurate definition, since the practice of this religious and philosophical movement is aimed at completely merging with fear. The fear of death is the strongest of all, therefore, in order to defeat it, the Aghoris intermarried with the "noseless", letting it into their daily life.
This is how a certain ritual of this sect is described in fiction. But this passage, most likely, has a very distant relation to the realities, which are so terrible that they defy the understanding of the uninitiated.
The favorite place of the Aghori, where they can always be found, is Varanasi, the holy city of the Hindus. Located along the banks of the Ganges River, it is the Indian counterpart of Muslim Mecca or Christian Jerusalem. Every year this city, located in the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh, is visited by millions of pilgrims from around the world.
According to legend, the city was founded by Shiva himself 5000 years ago and therefore the Aghoris feel as comfortable as possible here. But a very dubious historical fact is not the only reason for the love of creepy cultists to this place. Varanasi is a ceremonial burial place where dead bodies are brought for cremation from all over India.
On the ghats - wide stone steps of the embankment descending to the water of the Ganges, the religious life of the city residents and pilgrims is concentrated. The water of the river, according to the Hindus, is able to cleanse both the living and the dead from filth. That is why on the ghats they perform cleansing rituals with ablution, bathe, wash and ... cremate the dead.
It is on the steps intended for making fires that you can meet the adherents of the terrible Shiva - Aghori. These people are considered saints, but nevertheless they are afraid and shunned.
Dislike for ascetic corpse-eaters is associated not only with their rituals, diet and appearance. It is believed that any ominous prediction that flew from their lips will certainly come true. Residents and guests of Varanasi do not tempt fate, therefore they shy away from unpleasant, bad-smelling and foul-mouthed people, who, moreover, are almost always drunk.
The Aghori themselves are neutral towards living people, without showing hostility, and they even love foreign tourists. Cannibals willingly take pictures with guests and accept gifts and donations from their hands.
Despite the hospitality of the owners who want to stay for the night in the Aghori camp, among the charred skulls and gnawed tibia bones, he is usually not even among the extreme. However, there are rumors that everyone can take Shiva into their hearts and become Aghori, but there are very few people who want to join the sect.
As we said, the whole life of the Aghori revolves around death and remains. In Hinduism, very complex funeral rites are practiced that have not changed for millennia. Fire burial is the most honorable and expensive way of burial. In Varanasi itself, there has been no wood suitable for fires for many centuries, so firewood for burials is brought with them or bought from merchants on the spot.
To complete the ritual, you need at least 500 kg of dry firewood, and the process takes about 4 hours. At the same time, complete cremation is not required from the body - the ceremony is recognized as having taken place when the skull bursts from the high temperature. It is believed that at this moment the purified soul leaves the body, and the relatives of the deceased feel that they have fulfilled their duty to the end. The charred remains are thrown into the waters of the Ganges, and some parts of the corpses become the prey of the Aghori.
Cannibals especially appreciate the brain from the skull that has just burst from the heat of the fire - such food pleases Shiva and is a delicacy for corpse-eaters. Up to 300 bodies are burned on the fires of Varanasi per day, so the sectarians do not feel the lack of sacred objects and ritual food.
The behavior of the Aghori is considered quite normal by the Hindus, and cannibals peacefully coexist with ordinary people. For more than three thousand years of the sect's existence, an attempt to eradicate it was made only once, during the period when India was a British colony. The British in the 19th century zealously set about eradicating the terrible phenomena in Indian society and even succeeded in something.
The thugs, a sect of stranglers who worshiped the bloodthirsty goddess Kali, were completely destroyed; sati, the practice of burning wives alive with dead husbands, was abolished. But the powerful British machine could not grind the Aghori - ascetics were not afraid of death and pain, and even the most cruel demonstrative executions were perceived as nothing more than a street performance.
It would seem that everything human is alien to the Aghori, and nothing positive can be expected from these people. However, it is difficult to believe in it, but the community of cannibals is engaged in charity! Material values are despised by the Aghori, and all gifts received from tourists and participants in the funeral are given to a clinic for patients with leprosy. These donations are not episodic - the leper colony has existed for many years only thanks to the servants of Shiva.
India is an unusual country in all respects, and the attitude of the authorities towards cannibals proves this once again. Despite the fact that cannibalism in the country is punishable by law, the police turn a blind eye on everyday Aghori and do not exert any pressure on the followers of the sect. Perhaps it is this kind of loyalty that makes it possible for millennia to maintain a relative balance of good and evil in a country where both the first and the second are in abundance from time immemorial.
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