|Photo © Eric Lafforgue-Screen Grab: Daily Mail|
The work of the highly respected Eric Lafforgue has recently been featured by the Daily Mail, a British daily tabloid newspaper and the second biggest-selling daily newspaper after the infamous The Sun.
One of Eric's recent spreads has been his photo essay on last year's Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, and whose headline reads "Inside India's Kumbh Mela festival where holy men (and women) reach the gods with a little help from some marijuana and technicolour make-up".
Ah well, I say to myself...some acceptable poetic license to attract readers is not uncommon for newspapers, and The Daily Mail is certainly one of the more creative in that regard.
However, my scrolling down comes to a screeching halt when I come to the above photograph and its caption which is "A young 'black Sadhu' who takes care of cremations. They a (sic) rumoured to eat the human flesh of corpses".
I don't know for sure who the writer of the captions are, but I assume it's Katy Winter of The Daily Mail, and writer of the article itself who let her fertile imagination go wild.
After all, she's the author of intellectual gems like "Talk about tending to the flock! Female farmer juggles looking after 2000 acres and 1000 sheep with raising her SEVEN children in remote village".
Just because this young man has a broken tooth doesn't make him a member of the fearsome Aghoris...the sect whose members are described by Wikipedia as "... known to engage in post-mortem rituals. They often dwell in charnel grounds, have been witnessed smearing cremation ashes on their bodies, and have been known to use bones from human corpses for crafting skull bowls (which Shiva and other Hindu deities are often iconically depicted holding or using) and jewelry.
No self-respecting aghori would allow himself to be photographed by any photographer...even by the great Lafforgue. And sadhus do not perform cremations...the cremations are carried out by a certain caste, and there's no deviation from this tradition.
Of course, the only 'real" aghori I've ever seen is the one and only "Black Mamba Cobra Boom-Boom" who quoted me $80 for a picture in Varanasi.
UPDATE: I've received an email from Eric, who having read this POV post, affirmed that he was told the two men he met were black sadhus, and that one of them had, a long time ago, consumed human flesh that remained after cremations.