The land of Varanasi, the most ancient holy city of India has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for the Hindus.  Situated on the banks of the sacred river Ganga it has been a centre for Hindu Renaissance. For thousands of years it’s been home for flourishing culture, knowledge, philosophy, religions, Sanskrit, languages, yoga, Indian philosophy, spiritualism, mysticism belonging to different ancient sects of Hinduism, Indian arts and craft. It has produced great mystical saints and personalities.  One such ancient mystical sect of Hinduism existing in Varanasi are the Aghoris.

Fearless, Dreadless Monks

The Aghoris are an ancient mystical sect of Hinduism and are Monists (monks). They are Shaivites (worshippers of Lord Shiva). A + ghor = Aghor means absence of fear, dread, difficulty. Aghor is a state that can be achieved through the practices of discipline known as Aghor Sadhana. It is a state beyond waking, dream and deep sleep. The person who is instructed and initiated into this practice is called an Aghor, Aghori or an Aughar (au+ghar= aghar, means other house).

Origin of Aghoris

The origin of Aghoris is as old as Hinduism itself. Their lineage originates from Avadhuta Siddhas of Varanasi which in turn originated from Lord Shiva himself. Lord Dattatreya is the patron and the ideal Master of the Aghoris and Aghori tradition. He is the Adiguru of Aghori tradition. Lord Dattatreya is an incarnation of all the three gods, Bramha (God of creation), Vishnu (God of preservation) and Shiva (God of rejuvenation and transformation) in a single human form. The first Aghoreshwaracharya was Bhairavacharya of 5th– 6th century. Later his lineage was revived by the great mystical Aghori saint Kinaram Baba in the 16th century.

Aghoreshwaracharya Kinaram Baba

The period before Aghoreshwaracharya Kinaram Baba is completely shrouded in mystery. There are no texts  or chronicles. The Aghoris did not have residences as they wander in forests, mountains and live in cremation grounds and visit sacred places. Aghoracharya Kinaram Baba revived the ancient tradition of Aghoris in the 16th century. He was an incarnation of Lord Shiva Himself.   He was born at Ramgarh in Chandauli district of Varanasi.

A Wandering Monk

As a young Baba he wandered throughout the country. One of the places he went to is the Girnar mountain, a holy place in Gujarat and performed tapasya (penance) for some time. There he was initiated by Lord Dattatreya. From there he left for Mata Hinglaj Devi’s Shakthi Peetha in Baluchistan (now Pakistan). Mata Hinglaj Devi is the goddess of Aghoris. Baba performed penance there for some time, received her blessings and left for the Himalayas.

Ashram at Varanasi

After practicing for some time in the Himalayas he came to Varanasi. Finally on the bank of the river Ganges in Varanasi as per the guidance of Hinglaj Mata Devi he established his Dhuni (the sacred fire) and continued to serve humanity by starting a mutt (monastery). He lived for a very long time, about 150 years!

The Legacies of Kinaram Baba

The Akhand Dhuni of Kinaram Baba and the samadhis of all the siddhas of Aghori lineage in the place called Krimkund are a witness to the lineage of avadhuta siddhas (mystical saints). There is also a record of history of siddhas who headed this Aghor mutt after Baba Kinaram at Krimkund.

The traditions of the Aghoris survived, were absorbed by and flourished in Varanasi due to the extraordinary deeds of Baba Kinaram. Baba was famous for his fights with Rajas and Nawabs of those times. He fought in favour of sadhus and poor people. He revived the Aghori tradition and promoted dialogue among main Hindu currents and other religions existent during his time.

The only  original Aghori literary works are  those  left by Kinaram Baba. Baba has mentioned the principles of Aghor in his books Viveksar, Ramgita, Ramsal and Unmuniram. The book called Viveksar is said to be the most authentic treatise on the principles of Aghor.

Baba Kinaram’s Flying Cot:

In the article on Varanasi-A Most Ancient City, we have observed how Varanasi with its three feet narrow streets was so because they were not made for walking. The streets were meant for highly evolved souls and other worldly beings – it was planned for rishis, gandharvas, kinnaras, kimpurushas, ganas, ganadhyas, who had the powers of levitation and flying. Baba Kinaram was a living proof of this in the 16th century.

Preserved at his ashram is a cot on which Baba Kinaram sat, slept, moved, flew about! The cot moved by simply his order and his elevated pure siddha energy. During the July 2015 Inner Awakening program Paramahamsa Nithyananda shared how, when in a deep state of samadhi that morning, he was visited by Baba Kinaram swooshing in on his flying cot, to seek his blessings!

What Happened to Kinaram Baba’s Body?

In modern times the members of this mystical sect can be found mostly alongside of river Ganga in Varanasi where their most sacred temple is found. The holiest temple of Aghoris holds the remains of Kinaram Baba – or more precisely, his skull!

According to Paramahamsa Nithyananda, due to the immense siddhis, penance and fearlessness the Aghoris gain over their years of practice of living Aghoratva, they radiate it from every fibre of their being. Therefore, when Kinaram Baba attained samadhi, his followers ate the flesh of the body so that no part of him would go wasted and they themselves could imbibe some of his powers. The only part of the body that remained is the skull, and this is preserved in his Samadhi at his ashram in Varanasi.

The Aghoris’ Universe – Abhorred and Awed by Society

The Aghoris believe that the universe is non-dualistic. For them all opposites are indistinguishable from one another. Everything is a manifestation of God. To deny anything is to deny the Supreme Being. The true Aghori is a human symbol of Lord Shiva himself.

According to Aghoris every human is a shava (dead body) with emotions and has to rise to the state of Shiva or Aghor. Some of their practices are terrifying to the common man. The Aghoris overcome this terror by going through these practices. All their practices are centred around the removal of bonds of sense pleasures, fear, greed, anger, possession, hatred, shame and obsessions.

Most of the Aghoris roam around with a loin cloth or naked. They wear jewels made of bones. They carry a kapala (human skull) as their begging bowl. They live in cremation grounds. They follow the simple rule that the universe resides in them. They perform rites and rituals regularly to allow the highest level of Aghoratva (enlightenment) in them. The part of their ritual requires a minimum of one eating putrid human flesh and also meditating on a dead corpse. This is a symbol of rising from shava to Shiva.

As the Aghori advances in his practices he attains many siddhis (powers). They start manifesting powers like altering the environment. But they don’t use these powers for any vested interests because the basic rule of the Aghori is to deny human pleasure. For example, change in climate is an event that should happen on its own and not be manipulated by anyone.

Though Aghoris are feared and opposed by some segments of population in their own home land, yet there are others who revere them for their amazing healing powers. They do not inflict violence on others to further their religious practices and are highly non violent by nature. This is the true nature of an Aghori. One who has gone beyond fear cannot carry any violence in his inner space. The human society would benefit a lot from revering these beings for their high level of courage, simplicity and authenticity towards their spiritual path, rather than merely tolerating them as an ostracised part of the society.

By – Veena Nagaraj