Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Kanphata Mean?

Kanphata is the name given to an Indian sect or yogic school, who venerate the Lord Shiva. Kanphata is thought to have been founded by the Guru Gorakshnath, in the 12th century. Its ascetic members, known as Kanphata yogis, are distinguished by the large earrings they wear in the pierced conch of their ears. The word Kanphata itself can be translated as “ear split.”

The Kanphata tradition combines alchemy, magic, erotic rituals and yogic practices, incorporated from a combination of Shaivite and Buddhist systems as well as Hatha Yoga practices.


Yogapedia Explains Kanphata

The Kanphata sect flourished between the 12th and 15th Centuries AD, but it still has active members today. These tend to be split into one of two groups:

  1. Kanphata yogis who still subsist on begging and practice celibacy.

  2. Kanphata yogis who have formed a community where they may marry within the community and have children. They may work in tailors, bread shops or have farms rather than rely on begging.

Within Kanphata practices, more focus is said to be placed on developing supernatural powers than devotional or meditative practices.

The “ear-splitting” process of diksha, for which the Kanphata is named, is only carried out on young males between the ages of five and fifteen. It marks the beginning of the boy’s dedication to the practices of the sect. After a long ceremony, with the whole community present, a razor is used to cut open the boy’s conch. The piercing is traditionally further opened with a large, terracotta earring which may be later replaced with jewellery of stone, glass, wood or ivory.

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