Tag Archive for: Varanasi

Aghori: Cannibal Sect of Hindu Monks

The Aghori monks are a Hindu sect known predominantly for their taboo practices such as the ritual cannibalism of the dead.

An Aghori man drinks ritual alcohol from a human skull

The Aghori are Shaivites, ascetic sadhus devoted to Shiva. They believe the Hindu god of transformation through death and destruction is the supreme being, embracing death and devoting their lives to living in filth. They often live in or near cremation sites, covering themselves in ashes of the dead, and use bones to make bowls and jewelry.

More: Cannibalism on Cult of Weird

An Aghori man with a human skull

An Aghori man with a human skull

Human remains for the Aghori rituals are gathered from the sacred but highly polluted Ganges river, where the ashes and bones of cremated dead are thrown from the Varanasi ghats. During cholera epidemics of the past, thousands of uncremated bodies were dumped into the river.

Still today, the bodies of holy men, pregnant women, people with leprosy/chicken pox, people bitten by snakes, people who have committed suicide, the poor, and children under 5 are not cremated at the ghats but weighted down in the Ganges. The bodies eventually come loose and float down the river.

The corpses are worn, used as alters, or consumed to serve as a reminder of mortality and the challenge to transcend the duality of life and death. For an Aghori sadhu, they are symbolic of himself.

The flesh is eaten raw or cooked over an open flame.

Drinking alcohol from a human skull, known as kapala, is another common tradition in Aghori ritual, as is drinking urine and eating fecal matter.