Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dealing with disgust: the Aghoris

Radio National's Encounter has a program on the Aghoris, a Hindu sect that worships Shiva and practices necrophagy--the eating of the flesh of human corpses:

In many cultures throughout the world, death is a confronting process. People distance themselves from anything that involves decay, and rituals are often sanitised.

But in India, even though death is regarded as ritually polluting, bodies are burnt openly on funeral pyres, with families looking on. Some religious traditions believe that contact with death and decay is a powerful opportunity for spiritual development. [. . .]

A radical tradition with Hindu elements arose in India many centuries ago that likes to get close to everything that's considered dirty to do with death and decay. The Aghoris are a little-known community in north India who consume substances believed to be polluting to orthodox Hindus. Traditional Aghori practices include: drinking wine and urine from human skulls; smearing themselves with cremation ash, and the practice that has most coloured their image - the eating of human flesh.
The entire transcript is available here.