Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern by Ronald L. Barrett, Jonathan P. Parry

By Ronald L. Barrett, Jonathan P. Parry

For centuries, the Aghori were often called the main radical ascetics in India: dwelling bare at the cremation grounds, meditating on corpses, undertaking cannibalism and coprophagy, and eating intoxicants out of human skulls. in recent times, notwithstanding, they've got shifted their practices from the embody of ritually polluted ingredients to the therapeutic of stigmatized ailments. within the method, they've got develop into a wide, socially mainstream, and politically strong association. in line with vast fieldwork, this lucidly written ebook explores the dynamics of toxins, dying, and therapeutic in Aghor drugs. Ron Barrett examines more than a few Aghor remedies from ritual bathing to transformed Ayurveda and biomedicines and clarifies many misconceptions approximately this little-studied team and its hugely unorthodox, strong rules approximately affliction and healing.

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In this manner, Aghor medicine served as a medium for the exchange of pollution and power between healers and patients. The dynamics of medicine as medium were present for patients at both the Kina Ram and Kusht Seva Ashrams; they commonly referred to the efficacy of Aghori medicines in terms of dawa m aur duwam (“medicine and blessing”), with special emphasis on the latter. The duwa m of Aghor medicine lay in the waters of Krim Kund, the ash of the dhuni, the herbal medications, and the people who provided them.

Nevertheless, the time I spent working at the street clinic before starting my research, and the numerous times that I accompanied patients, both Indian and Euro-American, through the labyrinth of Banaras’s unfriendly and often dangerous medical establishments, helped me make some sense of healer-patient interactions during my research. These experiences, as well as my visits to a variety of clinics and hospitals in other parts of northern and southern India, helped me approach an Indian frame of reference for evaluating the quality of care that I observed according to standards of access, rapport, communication, and holism that some observers characterize as “medicine answering” in parts of South Asia (Nichter and Nordstrom 1989).

Just after his birth, the infant was visited by Lords Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva disguised as wandering sages, who whispered an initiating mantra into his ear. As a young child, Kina Ram gave inspirational teachings to his age-mates and lived a pious life. His marriage was arranged by the time he was nine, but he correctly foresaw the death of his bride-to-be on the eve of their wedding. The circumstances surrounding her death were considered ominous, and the young Kina Ram was released from the obligations of family life to become a wandering ascetic.

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