When we hear the words Tantriks, Kapaliks and Aghoris, our minds start picturing bearded sadhus wearing red, sitting in front of a fire, murmuring mantras.

Little is known about these cults, but it is not difficult to figure out that they are not the same. If so, how do they differ?

What Do These Words Mean?

The word “Tantrik” refers to the practice of “tantra” or “tantra sadhana”. Tantrism is both puranic and non-puranic. It tries to refute society. It is the method of unlearning everything that has been taught to us and being born anew.

Some of the Tantrik rituals are truly dreadful. One might even be sitting on a fresh corpse, alone at night, in a graveyard, meditating.

Kapalik basically means “Kapala”, or the forehead. Kapalik traditions follow the non-puranic sectors of tantrism. It tries to identify itself with the mysticism of Shiva.

They were most prominent in the 8th-13th century. Both Kapalika and Kalamukha became notorious for their human sacrifices, and practices such as drinking from a human skull.

Tantriks in action…

Aghori is a Sanskrit word that translates to “fearless.” Their extreme practices differentiate them from Kapaliks. It is recorded that the Aghori tradition was discovered in the 18th century when a man by the name of Kina Ram claimed to be 150 years old. 

What’s The Difference?

A Tantrik can be identified by his red attire. He will have a red tilak on his forehead, and beads around his neck. It is believed that Tantriks are the most common to find among the three.

For this reason, almost all of the tantriks you are likely to meet in life are going to be frauds. An actual Tantrik will have no earthly desires. He will not act to harm another. But he will only help someone when it benefits him as well. 

A Kapalik usually wears orange clothes, but may also wear black or red clothes. They can be identified by the skull they carry around with them.

Kapaliks are a little less common than Tantriks. They will tend to help those who seek it from them regardless of how it benefits them. Their purpose in life is to follow the path of Shiva.


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Finally, we come to the most notorious of them all! An Aghori is the easiest to spot. It may be for their stark nakedness or just a thin piece of black or red groin-cloth. It may be for their ash-laden bodies, their long hair, or it may just be the fact that they are always around cremation grounds.

Aghoris will often have skulls…

How They Survive

Aghoris try to go beyond materialism. They believe that the way to God is finding beauty in filth. Hence, Aghoris can be seen consuming anything ranging from feces to human flesh.

They also carry skulls like Kapaliks and meditate on corpses like Tantriks, but they go a little beyond these two through the act of sexual intercourse with the dead. 

Your gut might be telling you that this person is beyond this world or that they are always drunk or drugged. You will be able to make out from their movements, though their eyes will always be calm. 

Kapaliks, as they seek to help…

An Aghori believes helping others helps him gain more supernatural powers, and it pleases Kali and Shiva, so they will never turn down someone in need.

You may give in to these age-old traditions, or turn a skeptic’s eye, but you cannot argue that these inspire awe among everyone. Whether or not it is justified, moral, or ethical is something that can never be answered, because it will go against its sole nature.


Image Sources: Google Images

Sources: SpeakingTree, dailyyo, Britannica +more

Find the Blogger: Debanjan Dasgupta

This post is tagged under: Aghori, kalpaliks, tantriks, tantra mantra, superstitions in India, supernatural forces, Lord Shiva followers, Puranic rituals, Vedas, Puranas, how supernatural forces help the common people, difference between aghoris kalpalik tantriks


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