Aghori: Human-Flesh Eating Monks

26Aug09

Picture 2-80The Aghoris are members of a Hindu sect who worship Shiva (a major Hindu god and one aspect of Trimurti – the Hindu trinity), whom they see as the supreme god. Because they believe that Shiva created everything they consider nothing to be bad. For this reason they engage in a variety of sexual practices (for example they perform a secret Tantric ritual involving sex with a lower caste, menstruating woman during which the Aghori becomes Shiva and his partner Shiva’s female energy), they drink alcohol, take drugs, and eat meat. Nothing is considered taboo. But the thing that makes their ancient traditions bizarre is that they are also practicing cannibals and their temples are cremation grounds.


Aghori Practices

An aghori lives in the cremation ground and is able to support himself there – his clothing comes from the dead, his firewood comes from the funeral pyres, and food from the river. When a person is cremated, an aghori will coat himself in the ashes of the body and meditate on the dead. Aghoris survive by begging with a bowl made from a human skull. The most shocking aspect of the Aghori life is their cannibalism. Dead bodies that are found floating in the river are gathered up and meditated on. The limbs are then removed by the Aghori and eaten raw.

6-AghoriThe corpses, which may be either pulled from a river (including the Ganges) or obtained from cremation grounds, are consumed both raw and cooked on open flame, as the Aghoris believe that what others consider a “dead man” is, in fact, nothing but a natural matter devoid of the life force it once contained. Therefore while for ordinary folks cannibalism may be seen as primitive, barbaric as well as unclean, for aghori’s it’s being both resourceful and subverting the common stereotypes placed on such taboos into a spiritual ascertainment that indeed nothing is profane nor separate from God, who is hailed to be all and in all. In fact, the Aghoris see it as a scientific approach in trying to discover how matter converts from one form to another.

There are many aghoris walking the streets of northern India with their skull cups. These aghoris eat anything, including rotten food, food from the dumps, animal feces, animal urine, etc. They regularly perform rituals to attain the highest level in enlightenment. Many aghoris walk around completely naked.

An American Aghori

Main LargeA typical American kid from a typical if affluent family, Gary Stevenson’s life first veered off the normal path when he was stricken with polio as a child. A troubled youth and rebellious adolescence coincided with the Age of Aquarius and Gary set off on a spiritual path that took him to San Francisco, Hawaii, and finally into India and Nepal in an ever-deeper slide into the extreme. Along the way he shed his identity, legally changing his name to Giridas Rama Sitanatha as he sought a magical path to immortality and enlightenment. Eventually, he turned to Aghor and its dark tantric rites.

As he studied and excelled at his new religion, his guru christened him “Kapal Nath,” and he became lost in a lifestyle of grave robbing and cannibalizing the bodies to consume the Shakti (life energy) of the dead. [Source]

More Information

If you are interested in watching another fascinating documentary on the Aghoris, you can watch an excellent one here in full. If you want to watch an extremely gruesome video of the aghoris, you can do that here. Be warned, however, it contains video footage of cannibalism.

The aghori featured on the Listverse Another 10 Bizarre Traditions.

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54 Responses to “Aghori: Human-Flesh Eating Monks”

  1. 1 Cheeshygirl

    Loving the new site, Jamie. This particular item is one I did a little more research on after seeing it on LV. Creepy and yet intriguing. If only I had waited for you to do all the work. ;)

  2. Cheeshygirl: thanks :) This was a topic I found especially interesting. It was a real struggle to keep the entry on the top 10 list to only two paragraphs. Finally I have been able to expand on it!

    • 3 erickarthik

      Actually many Hindu sadhu’s walk naked :P . these aghora’s are usually covered with the ashes of the dead body. that wats scary about them. skull scalps ??? i havent personally seen that but its possible.
      actually these guys are imitating God Shiva.

  3. 4 Alberto

    Sites like yours fascinate me! There’s so many strange things out there that I didn’t know could even exist (I’m still amazed at the “most bizarre relationship ever”). Your writing’s great and the only problem with that is I want to read more! Great topics. Thanks for posting them.

  4. Alberto: thanks :) I love these topics as well – which is why I get so much pleasure out of writing them.

    • 6 empresszien

      I have so much pleasure reading them. Keep on writing! :)
      I’m loving this new site. <3

  5. So, I think there’s one question in particular just begging to be asked:

    How long do the Aghoris typically live?

    To flesh it out (pun definitely intended), when do the Aghoris start eating all this “garbage” that most of the rest of the world would consider disease-ridden, unsanitary, and completely unsafe to eat? I’m guessing the Aghoris don’t live that long, and perhaps the reason they look old in these pictures is because either they age quickly or don’t start this type of eating until their later years. But this is all speculation. As someone who doesn’t even like to let someone else drink from his cup, I’m curious to know how long someone can go on eating raw human flesh from a decomposing corpse floating down the river.

    • Apparently the fact that they do live long time is seen as mystical to many Hindus.

    • 9 erickarthik

      its not like they are aging quickly, but usually the people who become aghora’s are usually from sects like naga sadhu’s. they live a normal life, they eat, drink, become high and follow there religious duties. i have seen an aghora in his late 60′s so i can tell these guys are not dying young.

      one more thing, if one drinks water from ganges( after haridwar) there are high chances that he might die :P

      • Hm, seeing one person in his late 60s doesn’t really say much, considering the average life expectancy of the average male in India is 67 years, and elsewhere in the world it goes to as high as the upper 70s.

        If drinking water from the Ganges is bad, I’d imagine eating the raw flesh from a corpse floating down the Ganges must also be somewhat bad, no?

        • 11 erickarthik

          Actually you are right about one thing, one cant generalize.I asked some Upper Caste Hindu Brahmins about them and I got to know that these people usually perform witchcraft and all sorts of things associated with Black Magic and stuff like that. Some of them join temporarily. To catch a glimpse of them one needs to head to Varanasi or Kasi. One more thing, I also learn t that consuming cow urine was part of several Hindu customs back in the old days and many common people in rural India do follow that custom till date ( Lucky me :D). So maybe the consuming animal feces is not a special trait of these aghora’s.

          Well one thing is for sure Ganges (the holy river) is probably the most polluted river in India. The stretch from Haridwar( in Uttar Pradesh State) to the Bay of Bengal is heavily polluted with all sorts of chemical contaminants apart from rotting corpses. Well in the upper stretches from Gangotri (Himachal Pradesh) to Rishikesh (Uttar Pradesh) is crystal clean.

  6. 12 sagirl

    Freaking dusgusting!!! It’s boggles my mind that there are still such primitive, savage communities out there in this day and age. I live in South Africa and when you are here you can get pretty used to squalor and a simple primitive frame of mind due to deep-set cultural beliefs and lack of education but for God’s sake, even the most desperate communities have their boundaries. These weirdo’s have definitely over-stepped the line.

    • 13 erickarthik

      dude this is a very very very small group of followers and live along the banks of the river ganges.

      They are very religious people and treat a corpse exactly as we treat a dead chicken. and i have seen aghora’s when i went there and its not like they eat the whole body or anything. they eat only bits and pieces of flesh. they are not cannibals. and they dont attack or pounce on people. they are feared by the public because of there appearance and are usually not seen publicly interacting with many people.

      • 14 MissMeggle

        They are eating human flesh! Whether or not its the whole body or bits and pieces is irrelevant, they are still cannibals. Also do you eat your chickens washed up from a river and raw? ‘Cause I certainly don’t! lol

        • 15 erickarthik

          Agreed. what they are doing is freaky to all. but again i saw that man cook his flesh on a bon-fire at the edge of the river.

          Well do you exactly know where your chicken/pork/beef comes from and what it has been through before being put on your plate ??? Think again . :)

          • 16 OneWhoKnows

            They no eat bodies anymore, or eat wine, they yes eat rotten food and such. Your sources of information are completely wrong. This sect follows many things from the old ways but not its cannibalistic past, closest thing they use human skull as cup. Thank for take my know.

            Ne post pripomb o tem, kako lahko jaz ne, kako narediti dober urok

      • 17 telosphilos

        They are cannibals by definition. They eat human flesh. What they are not, is they are not murderers, criminals, or really in any way evil. Because they believe everything is sacred, nothing is taboo. The world in it’s completeness is very real, sacred and there for them. It is a path to enlightenment that is truly extreme and exceptionally difficult to follow.

        While I could never follow this path myself, I do understand it. They try to experience the world at a very high level. The very immediacy of their experiences allows them to see the path of enlightenment.

        • 18 erickarthik

          Ok agreed !!! they are cannibals :D i just checked the definition and they fit in perfectly. My BAD

    • 19 Gemma

      Eish. I too am a SAn and I find your intolerance despicable. When are you migrating to Australia. SA doesnt need you. Of all the nations in the world, we should know what cultural relativism is. I find YOU disgusting actually.

  7. 20 totalstranger

    I pretty much classify as one of these “monks”. well I bite my gums….

  8. 21 LoonyMoon

    Hi JRafter,
    Great site! Great work. So much knowledge! I dig your lists and work.. Since I am from India, I would like to add my 2 cents.

    These are rumors, and from random readings and please feel free to add/delete.

    Aghoris dont just pray to Shiva, they pray to the Rudra aspect of Shiva. So that is one big distinction. The main stream Hindus pray to a more mellowed Shiva or to Ardha Narishwara (Half Lady God) – which is half Shiva/half Parvati (Parvati is wife of Shiva). You can easily identify with prayers to Shiva – Songs, and cymbals, chanting, and lights – like rock music ? Rudra puja usually features more savage forms, which we have duly westernized. like large vats of saffron water (red colored water) instead of blood. and other fun stuff.

    Shiva cut one of Brahma’s heads, because he told a lie. Now nobody escapes karma. In order to redeem himself, Shiva doused himself with ash, wandered cemeteries, carrying Brahma’s cut skull as his begging bowl and lead a life of an ascetic. Aghori principle starts here.

    They believe that since all paths lead to salvation, one can reach there by other route .. being extremely depraved. Point is one needs to become detached to practice depravity.

    And the practice of meditating on top of a dead man is not trivial. Many a Aghori have gone mad, sitting on a corpse.

    • 22 erickarthik

      Well said puttar !!!!

      I am from Hyd,AP and had the chance to see one in action at Kasi. Great info

  9. 23 Looser

    creepy. how macabre.

  10. 24 Ruth

    “They perform a secret Tantric ritual involving sex with a lower caste, menstruating woman during which the Aghori becomes Shiva and his partner Shiva’s female energy ”
    That is possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve read I think ever.YUCK !
    Great list BTW

    • 25 ly

      im really confused by that paragrah, what is it saying really, that they have sex with a women while she has her period ?

  11. 26 Ruth

    Oh sorry I’D read it wrong,still a great list

  12. 27 Cuntageous

    Wow,I had no idea. Ghoulish but fascinating.

  13. 28 empresszien

    fascinating.. and macabre.

  14. Wow..Wow.. Wow…

    All I can see is a bunch of chuckholes talking about practices and traditions of a country which they have never visited. These shitheads don’t even know how developed we are in terms of knowledge, culture and the list continues….

    @ erickarthik : I would suggest you not to try and explain something which these MF will never be able to relate to in their holy freaking life…. They only know Lord Shiva because he glorified the use of MARIJUANA

    • 30 Susan James

      Shivaranjan,,
      Do some Reading on the Shiva God and the SHIVALINGAM,,,, LINGAM means male PENIS,,
      SHIVA LINGAM means the penis of SHIVA ,,the symbol repersents a hard male genital copulated to a female vegina,, the milk you people put on the shivalinga is the reperesentative of semen coming out of the male genital and flowing into the female genital,,
      do not respond with emotions,, put some fact together,,

      • 31 Amit Abhyankar

        Susan, I won’t blame you. Understanding true meaning of lingam and entire Vedanta philosophy for that matter, requires a very broad mindset & sharpest of minds. Not many have that. You are welcome to continue with your derogatory narrow-minded interpretations. But that doesn’t change the ulterior meaning of all such rituals. Does it?
        If you really care to know about Hindu philosophy, read some Upanishadas.

  15. 32 Ab

    Hi,

    I have some things to add..
    Aghora’s do the extreme yogic practises, which normal human’s can only imagine of…
    for example having a fire pot on head while meditating…
    hanging on a tree with head facing ground for many hours & probably days

    worshiping skulls…
    and many more..

    and most important thing.. when they eat corpse on a day.. they don’t eat any thing for next few days… As you know, fasting is treated as biggest remedy & immunization factor even for big diseases..
    Coz, they follow many other practises.. which we are not aware of..all i can say is what we know is a drop and unknown is an ocean.. bcoz no human can live long eating diseased. Only the Researches have to tell us about the secrets of their lliving…
    but unfortunately, no researcher will unfold the truths to public as you know… they keep many things as secret or sell it to Rich or communities like ILLUMINATI…

    Ab

  16. 33 Follow Right way

    Aghori: they are really psychos. They indulge in unhealthy habits like having heroin and marijuana and eat deadbodies and they give a great explanation that they become “God” by doing so.. Does not sound like crazy.?? They make their religion even low by doing so… hinduism is not a religion at all, its just a bunch of fabulous stories they follow and its slowly declining too.. These Aghori’s say their sins are blot out by eating dead bodies, its full of bullsh*t to hear. They actually follow the Satan’s way not the God’s way.They do all unlawful things in the name of Shiva (actually they are lakhs and lakhs of gods), which is not at all acceptable. Does God says to follow unlawful things? to eat deadbodies? The Religion itself is a bundle of falsehood.

    • 34 mahi

      Do you know that you are a moron?

  17. 35 pete

    This is symbolic not actual.

    It is no different from weirdo catholics eating blood and flesh in the mass thing that they do.

    The difference is that the catholic cannibals think they are eating gods flesh and blood so they are not only mental but blasfemmers as well.

    The indian guys are deeply spiritual and really into the alternative lifestyle without nuclear power and gas guzzler cars or ice boxes destroying the planet.

    We should learn a lesson from these cool dudes and be more like their holy gods.

  18. Почитаю что Вы пишете – дом 2 почему-то вспоминается :)

  19. 37 lokesh

    please send the video for aghori for my email

  20. 38 Susan James

    Guys, I was in Rishikesh/Hydwaar 3 days back,,
    I have been reading about these aghoris for years,, and learnt abotu their practices from many priests across india.
    Got a chance to meet a few of the hardcore aghoris,,,
    now the fact remains, no matter what rationality ppl may put in this,, they are evil worshippers.
    No sane person will eat feces, drink urin,,, have sex with dead female bodies,, sex with animals (goats, dogs etc.),, whores and drink their semen instead of letting it enter the woman’s body,,,
    it is disguisting to read and know of their rituals,,
    all such practices take them closer to the supreme evil power the Satan,, represented in the indain mythology as Shiva.
    Beware of them,, the rural folks dread them since they possess evil powers,,
    so they get food n water where ever they go begging,, nobody wants to face their wrath,,,
    they are on drugs every moment of their life,, the moment the effect subsides, they take another shot,,,,
    trust me this comes from authentic source and person interaction,, as recent as 3 days back,,

  21. 39 d3sp

    I find it interesting how many of you would dismiss a set of religious practices by deeming them evil using your religion as the only frame of reference. Also in regards to Shiva being “satan” you should probably read about Mara befoe you make that distinguishment.

    • 40 TR

      I agree. I consider myself very much a Christian in the biblical sense (meaning protestant, no offense to Catholicism) but I don’t think you can judge these people following other religions. If you actually care, all you can do is pray (if you believe in prayer) for these people. You are the only person you are accountable for.

  22. 41 Renjith

    Here is a video link
    http://www.break.com/usercontent/2008/11/aghoris-606708.html

  23. 42 Andrew

    Superstitious bullshit, all of it. Religion is exactly what keeps us from enlightenment.

  24. 43 One2one Baba!

    Anonymous said…
    Wish Someone would emasculate George W.Bush ,behead him and ship his body to India ,and offer him as a meal ‘Bhojan’ to these ritualistic cannibals
    Aghoris .
    That would be such a blessing !It would rid the world away from all sins and wash and cleanse all of mankind.

  25. 44 Lucky

    I don’t see how some of you people can judge like that. Most religions i have studied all have one thing in common, it is not the place of man to judge others, only he without sin has that right. So, I really don’t see how some1 could judge the Aghori for their beliefs and feel they are still right in their practices. I was raised a southern baptist and I now practice bhakti yoga. No matter what path you choose to take, you cannot be wrong. If u truly beleive that you are following the wishes of your lord. Plus i don’t see nething wrong with cannibalism. Hell, it’s only meat.

  26. 45 balan

    hai i like to have look of aghori people n where they located?

  27. 46 kapalnath

    hey. da baba on da pic? boom boom baba a riksawalla and a bloody hook crook kine a guy.last seen klinged to china girl.aghoreshwar.sri avdhut ramji mahakalalik was as kinaram da only true(sad guru).love respect kapalnath

  28. 47 asthami ghurani

    Well, how can you even get close to God or superior Force etc…eating rubbish,rotten human flash,drinking urine,eating dung,sleeping in a cemitery and having sex with a woman in her period? All this pratices are disgusting and won`t lead to any liberation but all these spirits or conscienses will be lost in maya.
    the liberation is in the spirit through mind, eating rotten human body and smoking cannabis will make them sick and senile. chating mantras,yoga pratices and mudras will do the job. Those guys will die with hepatites they live in the darkness of conscience.

    • well if you are a christian, then how can you get close to god by eating his body and drinking his blood? that seems odd to me. yeah i think actually eating people is going a little too far, although having sex with a woman on her period really shouldn’t be up there on the monstrosity scale. this is what religion does, and then other religious people come and criticize that religion because it’s weird.

  29. 49 sangos

    Yeah!… eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood….i see an Aghori connexion!?…seriously Aghor is just another ‘way’ like Astanga Yoga to awaken the Kundalini and acheive samadhi. Just do what works best for you like Aghor does for the Aghoris (am sure Hatha is weak medicine for them – there are many yogis like Vimalananda who are a curious mix of both worlds). In practical terms each practice is about ‘stilling the fluctuations of the mind’. Aghor is taking a different approach with extreme practices that accomplishes this goal. my 2cents..

  30. 50 kishore

    i hav a freind in kashi he is a aghori he maintains secret freindshiop with me, though aghories give up everytrhing in their life they always try to exhibit a kind of relationship with people whoever try to talk to them

  31. 51 Kamal Kannan.J

    I am also want more details of Aghori

  32. 52 Chinni

    I am totally confused with above arguments. Tell me one thing whether aghories eat raw food of human,taking drugs,taking urine they are all bad things to do how can we say that they are praying the God. By doing all that things they are going away from God i think so…..?

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  34. AGHORA & AGHORI
    Most common perceptions about Aghora and Aghories are– Aghori’s are supposed to Be One of The Most Powerful and Dangerous Saint’s In Indian Mythology. They Never Wear Any Clothes And Don’t Come Out Generally In Day Time. They eat Human Dead Bodies And Drink, Eat Water And Food In Human Skull. They Don’t Speak To Anyone And Are So Powerful That Just With Their Eyes They Can Do Anything.**
    THIS IS TOTALLY WRONG PERCEPTION/ STUDY ABOUT AGHORA. DUE TO THIS TYPE OF WRONG INFORMATION ALWAYS CREATE CONFUSION AND MISCONCEPTION AMONG COMMON PEOPLE.
    I would like to clear (with my 15 years research and study) that Aghora OR Aghori is not concerned with particular kind of Religion OR dress code OR eating code. Most of the Research scholars say that—Aghora is related with Hindu religion, but it is not true. Aghora is symbolically represented by Lord Shiva, because it is believed that –*The Lord Shiva is the Creator & Destructor of this whole universe*. Apart from -Cremation ground is symbolic representation because of **It always represents the last truth of a life**. Father of modified form of Aghora is Baba Keenaram (Born in 1601 AD). According to devotees and scholars -*Baba Keenaram is incarnation of Lord Shiva himself *. The World fame Place BABA KEENARAM STHAL- KRIM KUND, Varanasi -U.P., INDIA, is the Pilgrim and center of Aghora across world . You can visit this place and can check that there is no dress-code or eating habits visible.
    According to World fame, one of the greatest Saints , Aghoreshwer Bhagwan Ram alias Avadhoot Bhagwan Ram popularly known as Sarkar Baba (born in 1937) — **Most of SO-CALLED SAINTS having human skulls, eating daed human flesh , drinking wine and showing magic (Like magicians) are not Aghories. They are just diverted follower after attaining some kind of spiritual power. He has described that *A true Aghori never show His/her spiritual power openly, but uses it very secretly towards human welfare in a very simple method*. Bhagwan Ram said that **Aghori is not the name of danger but the name of purification and having the nature of most kind human being with all powers of this Universe**. Aghoreswer Bhagwan Ram proceeded that **A true Aghori always concerned with social cause and devote Himself/herself towards social welfare**. Aghoreshwer Bhagwan Ram always devoted himself towards many social services like- Treatment of leprosy patient, conduct marriages without dowry, Manufacturing of Aayurved medicine, Fought against alcoholism, Give messages towards Nation building programme and aware all kinds of social evil.
    Aghori is not found everywhere but once in billions. An Aghori having all powers of this whole universe (Regarding creation or destruction). He or She is the supreme authority of this whole universe. Today, Head of Aghora, across world, is 39 Years old Baba Siddharth Gautam Ram (present Chief / Abbot , since 1978, of Baba Keenaram Sthal , Krim-Kund and main disciple of Aghoreshwer Bhagwan Ram ) . According to devotees and scholars -*Baba Siddharth Gautam Ram is reincarnation of Baba Keenaram himself *.
    There is a lot of things about Aghori, I will write upon but till now————————————–
    Aghora is the highest stage of spirituality and only once in a billion can achieve the stage of become an Aghori.


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