Varanasi: City Of Death

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03 Dec 2012 13:30

The Aghori are a Shauvite Hindu sect in India that believe nothing is blasphemous or independent from God. What differentiates them from other Hindu sects is their taboo rituals, which include cannibalistic and alcohol-related ceremonies. These rituals are associated with death and dead bodies; participants cover themselves with human ash, wear human bones, and sleep on and among dead bodies. They are all based on the belief that even in death, a human body is beautiful because it is God’s creation, and remains contain a life force to be harnessed.

The majority of the Indian community believe that the Aghori are a lower-class sect because of such rituals. However, traditions are changing among some Aghoris. In Varnasi, one of oldest inhabited cities in the world, there is a temple called Avadhoot Bhagwan Ram Kustha Sewa Ashram which welcomes the more progressive Aghoris who no longer take part in old rituals. Instead of claiming lower-class qualities, they tend to those who are truly the lowest on the sectarian hierarchy in society, as they run a center for the lepers in Varnasi.

This photo-essay explores the ancient rituals of the old and new Aghoris, including a yogi, Sri Baba Nagnath Yogeshwar, who has not bent his elbows in 17 years and has not eaten in seven, all to prove his devotion to God. The essay also portrays how some of these followers are changing to benefit those who need help most in Varnasi, India.

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Aghori Ascetic Hermeticism Ritual Ritual Pract... Religion Cremation Cremation Pyre Cult Arts & Culture South Asia Varnasi Photo Collec... Photo Essay