by Milo Sumner in Video on Thursday 29 May 2014

All of the various religions on earth have their holy men, but the ascetic sadhus of India are among the most extreme in their practices and acts of self-denial. Brooklyn-based photographer Joey L brings us a new series focussing on the Aghori, a group of hindu priests who precide over the rituals of the dead in the sacred city of Varanasi, on the River Ganges.

‘The Aghori have a profound connection with the dead. Death is not a fearsome concept, but a passing from the world of illusion’, says Joey, who has travelled the world in search of monks and holy men. Many in Hinduism believe that a river burial on the ancient ghats at Varanasi is the only way to true salvation, and as such the Aghori hold huge influence over many communities.

The various rites that they perform include creating items from human bones, meditating over corpses and painting themselves with cremated ashes.

Their appearance, especially the dreadlocks, are symbolic of the renunciation of the material life. Joey L was accompanied by filmmaker Cale Glendenin,g who created the documentary film Beyond in Tandem.