Photograpy, India, Portraits, Anglo Indians, Family and me

Month: August, 2012

The Aghoree,

Aghorpunts, or Aghorees, are a class of people who frequent the ghats at Benares, though they are occasionally to be found in other parts if India, and have been met with even in Assam. They are Ogres (indeed, the similitude of the word to Aghoree is noticeable), and affect a practical philosophy, which disbelieves in the existence of any difference between things, and asserts that all distinctions depend on the imagination. A cuff or a kick is immaterial to them as a blessing. They go about in  puris naturalibus, with a fresh human skull in their hands (off which they had previously eaten the putrid flesh. And afterwards scraped out the brain and eyes with their fingers), into which is poured whatsoever is given them to drink. They pretend to be indifferent whether it be ardent spirits or milk or foul water. For they take the first thing which offers, whether it be a putrid corpse, cooked food or ordure. With matted hair, blood-red eyes, and body covered with filth and vermin, the Aghoree is an oject of terror and discust. He looks like a wolf, ready to destroy and then devour his prey, rather than a human being.

Hindoos, however, look on these wretches with veneration, and none dare to drive them from their doors. They are among the worst of the many turbulent and troublesome inhabitants of Benaris, and there is scarcely a crime or enormity which has not, on apparently good grounds, been laid to their charge.

One of the ancient Hindoo dramatists, Bhava Bhutt, who flourished in the eighth century, in his drama of  Malati and Mahdava, has made powerful use of the “Aghorees” in a scene in the Temple of Chamunda, where the heroine of the play is decoyed in order to be sacrificed to the dread goddess Chamunda or Kali. The disciple of “Aghoree Ghanti,” the high priest who is to perform the horrible rite, by name “Kapala Kunda,” is interrupted in his invocation to Chamunda by the hero Mahdava, who thus describes the scene:-

Passage from, The People of India volumes 1868-75, Birmingham Central library.

Passage taken from Malati and Mahdava a drama written in the eigth century by Bhava Bhutt.

Now wake the terrors of the place, beset

With crowding and malignant fiends. The flames

From funeral pyres scarce lend their sullen light,

Clogged with their fleshy prey, to dissipate

The fearful gloom that hems them round.

Well, be it so. I seek, and must address them.


How the noise…………………………………

High, shrill, and indistinct, of chattering sprites,

Communicative fills the charnel ground:

Strange forms like foxes flit along the sky.

From the red hair of their lank bodies darts

The meteor blaze: Or from their mouths that stretch

From ear to ear thickest with numerous fangs,

Or eyes, or beards, or brows, the radiance streams.

And now I see the goblin host: each stalks

On legs like palm-trees: a gaunt skeleton,

Whose fleshless bones are bound by starting sinews,

And scantly cased in black and shrivelled skin,

Like tall and withered trees by lightning scathed,

They move, and as amidst their sapless trunks

The mighty serpent curls-so each mouth

Wide yawning, lolls the vast blood-dripping tongue.

They mark my coming, and the half-chewed morsel

Falls to the howling wolf-and now they fly. 

Extract taken from The people of India volumes 1868-75 Birmingham central library