tutelary goddess of ascetics) and Kali. Gurus
and all adherents were required to be celibate. Cannibalism, animal sacrifices
and other cruel rites were practised. All kinds of refuse was eaten including
excrement (but never horse meat). As excrement is seen to fertilise the soil,
so eating it was thought to ‘fertilise’ the mind and render it capable of every
kind of meditation.
The Aghoris led the wandering life of vagabonds. Each guru was
accompanied by a dog, as was Siva in his Bhairava aspect. The Aghori yogins
were buried and not cremated, and were believed to be in a state of eternal,
Kanphata Yogis or Gorakhnathis
Gorakhnath, a native of eastern Bengal, reorganised the earlier teaching of
this movement. He is identified with Siva by his followers. Gorakhnath was
accredited with great magical and alchemical powers. He synthesised the
Pasupata teachings with those of Tantrism and Yoga.
This extreme order of ascetics is characterised by their split ears (kan
‘ear’, phata ‘split’) and huge ear rings of agate, horn or glass, conferred on
them at their initiation.
The Yogis practised ritual copulation in graveyards and sometimes
cannibalism. The ultimate aim of the devotee is to attain eternal union with
Siva by means of Yogic techniques. Some texts mention 32 yogic positions
(asanas); the Siva Samhita lists 84, all having magical and hygienic value.
Some destroy sickness. old age and death, while other confer spiritual
The 9 nathas and 84 siddhas play an important part in the movement and
a lot of folklore is associated with them. Gorakhnath’s teaching is universal
and hence opposed to caste distinctions. There are few prohibitions
concerning food, except that beef and pork are forbidden. But spirits and
opium may be consumed and Yogis are allowed to marry.
The dead are buried in the posture of meditation for they are permanently
in samadhi, and hence their tombs are called samadh. Representations of the
linga and yoni are placed above the tomb.
Kanphata Yogis officiate in temples dedicated to Bhairava, Sakti or Devi,
and Siva. At one time the Gorakhnathis were associated with the Aghoris.