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The Aghor Tradition of Ascetics in India

December 12, 2012 - 14:15-16:00

Open guest lecture by Jishnu Shankar, Senior Lecturer, Department of Asian Studies, University of Texas at Austin.

Aughaṛs have historically been regarded as a set of transgressive ascetics in India who dwell in cremation grounds, away from attractions of a domestic life, and have practices that are looked at fearfully by the general milieu of lay Hindu practitioners, especially those who belong to the Brahmanical orthodoxy. Such a view can be traced in the classical Sanskrit literature, as well as in the colonial accounts of them. However, in recent times a more benign social face of “Aghor” has emerged starting with Baba Kinaram, founder of the Kinaram Sthal in Varanasi in the 17th century, but specifically with reference to the work of Baba Bhagawan Ram Ji.

Aghoreshwar Mahaprabhu Baba Bhagawan Ram Ji, a well-established saint of the holy city of Varanasi in north India belonging to Baba Kinaram’s lineage, initiated many changes into the Aghor tradition. As a result of his efforts this tradition has not only become accepted in the city of Banaras, but it has also become respected, largely because of its contribution towards the treatment of leprosy patients, simplification of marriage and death rituals, the education of children, and many other kinds of social work. In my talk I discuss both these views about the Aughaṛs, and the implications it has for the future development of the tradition.

Jishnu Shankar will be in Oslo in week 50 within the frame of the Oslo – Austin exchange program.

Place: Sem.rom 10, PAM, UiO Faculty of Humanities

The Aghor Tradition of Ascetics in India


December 12, 2012