Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Aghori are a Hindu sect believed to have split off from the Kapalika order (which dates from 1000 AD) in the fourteenth century AD

Aghori ascetics, while being devotees of the Hindu God Shiva, are monists who adhere to the common Hindu belief in liberation (moksha) from the cycle of reincarnation (samsara). This liberation is a realization of the self's identity with the absolute. Because of this monistic doctrine, the Aghoris maintain that all opposites are ultimately illusory. The purpose of embracing pollution through various practices is the realization of non-duality through transcending social taboos, and seeing the illusory nature of all conventional categories.

In essence, Aghoris base their beliefs on two principles. First, that Lord Shiva is perfect. Second, that Shiva is responsible for everything; every rock, tree, animal, and even every thought. Due to this, everything that exists must be perfect, and to deny the perfection of anything would be to deny the Gods.

Although akin to the Kapalika ascetics of medieval Kashmir, with whom there may be a historical connection, the Aghoris trace their origin to Kina Ram, an ascetic who is said to have lived 150 years, dying during the second half of the eighteenth century.[2] Kina Ram is thought to have been an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva, as have been each of Kina Ram's successors.

The Aghori ascetic is himself a symbol of the God Shiva. He goes naked or wears the shroud of a corpse, he covers himself in the ashes of the cremation ground--which would be polluting for an orthodox Brahmin--and his ritual practices are symbols of his non-dualistic beliefs. The corpse upon which he meditates is a symbol of his own body and the corpse devouring ritual is a symbol of the transcendence of his lower self and a realisation of the greater, all pervading self.

Due to the secrecy of this religious sect, no official figures are available. At the end of the nineteenth century there were an estimated two or three hundred Aghori ascetics in Varanasi, though now there are perhaps as few as twenty living in their main centre.

The main akhada of Aghoris is Kina Ram's hermitage or ashram in Varanasi. Kina Ram's samadhi is a centre of piligrimage for aghoris and aghori devotees. Here Kina Ram is buried in a tomb or samadhi which is a centre of pilgrimage for Aghoris and Aghori devotees.Another centre is Aghor Sodh Sansthan, Ravindrapuri, Varanasi. Apart from this, any cremation ground would be a holy place for an Aghori ascetic.

The Aghori distinguish themselves from other Hindu sects and priests by their alcoholic and cannibalistic rituals. The corpses afloat on the river Ganges are pulled out and consumed raw as the Aghoris believe it gives them immortality and supernatural powers.

In Hindu culture, Kapalika means bearer of the skull-bowl, and has reference to Lord Bhairava's vow to take the kapala vow. As penance for cutting off one of the heads of Brahma, Lord Bhairava became an outcast and a beggar. In this guise, Bhairava frequents waste places and cremation grounds, wearing nothing but a garland of skulls and ash from the pyre, and unable to remove the skull of Brahma fastened to his hand. The skull hence becomes his begging-bowl, and the Kapalikas (as well as the Aghoris of Varanasi) supposedly use skulls as begging bowls and as drinking and eating vessels in imitation of Bhairava. Although information on the Kapalikas is primarily to be gleaned from classical Sanskrit sources, where Kapalika ascetics are often depicted as depraved villains in drama, it appears that this group worshiped Lord Shiva in his extreme form, Bhairava, the ferocious. They are also often accused of having practiced ritual human sacrifices. Ujjain is alleged to have been a prominent center of this sect.
The Kapalikas may also have been related to the Kalamukhas ("black faces") of medieval South India (Lorenzen 1972). Moreover, in modern Tamilnadu, certain Shaivite cults associated with the Goddess Ankalaparameshwari, Irulappasami, and Sudalai Madan, are known to practice or have practiced ritual cannibalism, and to center their secretive rituals around an object known as a kapparai (Tamil "skull-bowl," derived from the Sanskrit kapala), a votive device garlanded with flowers and sometimes adorned with faces, which is understood to represent the begging-bowl of Shiva (Meyer 1986).
posted by JEI @ JEIZONE at 22:02 |