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This article is an extract from


Ethnographic Glossary.

Printed at the Bengal Secretariat Press.
1891. .

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Aghorapanthi, the lowest class of Saivite religious mendicants, who eat human ordure, bones, and filth of all kinds, and extort alms by threat¬ening to exhibit these practices or to pollute the bystanders. They sometimes carry staves set with human bones, and use the upper half of a skull as a water¬pot. In 1881 one of these wretches was caught at Rohtak, in the Panjab, in the act of devouring the body of a newly¬buried child, which he had dug out. According to Lassen (Ind. Alt. III, 881, and IV, 629) the Aghoris of the present day are closely related to the Kapalika or Kapaladhrin sect of the mIddle ages, who wore crowns and necklaces of skulls and offered human sacrifices to Chamunda, a horrible form of Devi or parvati. In support of this view it is observed that in Bhavabhuti's drama of Malati Madhava, writ¬ten in the eighth century, the Kapalika sorcerer, from whom Malati is rescued as she is about to be sacrificed to Ohamunda, is euphemistically described as an Aghorakautha, from aghora, 'not terrible.' The Aghoris of the present day represent their filthy habits as merely giving practical expression to the abstract doctrine of the Paramahansa sect of Saivites, that" the whole universe is full of Brahma," and conse¬quently that one thing is as pure as another. The mantra or mys¬tic formula by which Aghoris are initiated is believed by other ascetics to be very powerful, and to be capable of restoring to life the human victims offered to Devi and eaten by the officiat¬ing priest. The sect is regarded with disgust by all respectable Hindus, and is believed to be dying out. In 1881 it numbered 565 votaries in Bengal (all but two in Behar), 316 in the Panjab, and 93 in the Central Provinces.


(From People of India/ National Series Volume VIII. Readers who wish to share additional information/ photographs may please send them as messages to the Facebook community, All information used will be gratefully acknowledged in your name.)

Synonyms: Bhatuk, Giri, Gosain, Gulgulia [Bihar and/or Jharkhand] I056 Communities, Segments, Synonyms, Surnames and Titles Aghorc [West Bengal] Aghori, Aghorpanthi, Anghar [W. Crooke] Titles: Chowkidar, Mahato, Sardar [West Bengal] Surnames: Giri, Gossanie, Gouyar, Kunjara, Mahato, Sing, Sonar, Toriyar [Bihar and/or Jharkhand] Gouyar, Kunjara, Mahato, Sing, Sonar, Toriyar [West Bengal] Exogamous units/clans (jati): Chamokdal, Kachchua, Kunjara, Mahra, Sankhowar, Torhiyar [West Bengal] Gotra: Kashyap, Sandilya [Bihar and/or Jharkhand] Exogamous units/lineages (bansa): Gowala, Kunjara, Maghaya, Mahato, Sonar, Tornuria, Trihutia [West Bengal] Exogamous units/lineages (khandan/vansh): Kunjara (vegetableman), Maghaya, Mahato (chief), Toriyar (milkman) [Bihar and/or Jharkhand]

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