The Gruesome Flesh-Eating Monks of Varanasi

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aghori-sadhu-baba-cristiano-ostinelli-photographer-photojournalist-italy-kumbh-mela-2013 (7)
Image: Cristiano Ostinelli

Tracing the Aghori’s origins is problematic. Given a lack of religious texts, explanations as to their roots are largely based on theories and assumptions, with the mystery perhaps only deepened by accounts from those who’ve witnessed their bizarre practices.

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aghori-sadhu-baba-cristiano-ostinelli-photographer-photojournalist-italy-kumbh-mela-2013 (4)
Image: Cristiano Ostinelli

One theory is that the Aghori parted from the infamous – and now supposedly defunct – Kapalika “skull bearer” sect during the 1300s. Like the Aghori, the Kapalikas are thought to have practiced dark, unconventional rituals, including group sexual rites and cannibalism.

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