In India, a type of holy man who lives by begging and is supposedly capable of various magical and miraculous feats. Many of these tricks are produced using sleight-of-hand and cleverly designed props.
Some of the more spectacular feats, such as lying on a bed of nails, immersing the limbs in hot ash, and being 'buried alive', require yogi training involving breath control and meditation to induce trance-like states which suppress normal physical responses.
The term fakir is from the Arabic word for 'poor man'. In Islamic cultures the fakir renounces the material world and follows Allah as a beggar.
Indians often find it ludicrous that Westerners should be disturbed by the apparently supernatural feats of fakirs or holy men, which seem to them to be perfectly "natural." For example, in 1941 a Forest Adviser to the government of Nepal, E. A. Smythies, claims to have seen one of his servants, a young man called Krishna, rise into the air in a seated position and hover there before returning to earth. The boy's fellow servants were not in the least surprised: Krishna, they explained, was being punished for not making proper sacrifices to the local gods.
Another well-documented observation was made by the Marquee of Halifax, when Viceroy of India. The Resident (British Official) at Udaipur, Rajputana, summoned a sorcerer to perform for the Viceroy, who watched while an Indian boy was roped up in a blanket, put into a trance, and raised into the air for half a minute without visible means of support.
Somewhat similar is the famous Indian rope trick, when a rope is raised into the air by its own invisible means, a boy is prompted to climb it and he then disappears. There are not many reliable accounts of this trick; one, given by a journalist, John Taussig, who saw it performed at Premnagar near Dehra Dun, suggests that its effect may be produced by some form of hypnosis involving the "patter" of the fakir for while Taussig, who spoke Hindustani, saw the boy climb the rope and vanish, a colleague, who did not know the language, saw nothing.
More interesting and reliable are accounts of the extraordinary physical feats of some fakirs or ascetics themselves. These are recorded in many anecdotes, and are sometimes well-documented.
In 1835 the Maharaja of Lahore heard of a famous fakir called Haridas, who had reputedly survived four months of being buried alive. He commissioned a similar demonstration. Doctors who examined the fakir found that he had cut the muscles under his tongue so that it could be folded back to seal off the nasal passages. They noted also that for some days before he was due to be buried he consumed only milk and yogurt; for the last two days he fasted completely and used the usual yoga techniques to clean out his alimentary canal (among other things swallowing a thirty-yard (27.4m) strip of linen and regurgitating it). He then closed his nose and ears with wax (apparently so that insects should not enter them) and sat with his legs crossed. Within seconds his pulse had become undetectable. He was wrapped in linen and placed in a chest which was closed with the Maharajah's seal, and padlocked. The box was then buried, and barley seed was sown above it. A wall was built around the site, and guards were posted. Forty days later the wall was broken down, and barley was found growing above the grave. The box was dug up, and the lock and seals found to be intact. Inside it, Haridas was discovered in his original pose. Within an hour, he had recovered, and was in good if frail health. He was never found to have cheated but was eventually discovered to be a regular seducer of his female disciples and on moral grounds was rejected by his followers.
Some other fakirs performed similar feats at about the same time. The ruler of the Punjab, Runjeet Singh, organized one performance, reported in the Indian Journal of Medical and Physical Science by an English observer. The fakir was locked inside a pavilion in the ruler's garden. The closed pavilion was guarded by the ruler's private army for six weeks. When it was opened, the fakir was discovered sitting inside a wooden box four feet by three (1.2 x 1 meters), itself standing in a three-foot (1 meter) deep pit. Lifted out, the fakir was examined by a doctor, who could find no discernible heartbeat, although the body was warm. After several wheaten pancakes had been placed upon his head, the fakir seemed to undergo some kind of convulsion, and began to breathe regularly. In half an hour, he was able to walk away. It was again generally agreed that there was no possibility of cheating. Such displays seem to have become unfashionable, although there are many other demonstrations of the power of yoga to suspend or inhibit the body's normal behavior or reactions.
See Divination, India Unveiled, Occult Science in India and Among the Ancients: With an Account of Their Mystic Initiations and the History of Spiritism, Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and the Mystic East, Sadhus: India's Mystic Holy Men, Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions, Swami Dayananda Sarasvati (Mystic Saints of India, 5), The Mystic Test Book of the 'Hindu Occult Chambers' - 1909: The Magic and Occultism of India Hindu and Egyptian Crystal Gazing the Hindu Magic Mirror, More Fakir Books, Mystic Gifts and Charms - New Age Gift Shop & Wicca and Pagan Supplies, Love Spells -- Use these powerful love spells to help you find and keep your true love, The Chakra Store, The Tarot Store, Divination & Scrying Tools and Supplies, Unique Amulets, Talismans, Good Luck Charms, and Love Tokens, Powerful Witch Doctor Spell Kits, Powerful Spells - Cast by Andreika the Witch, Webmasters Make $$$, AzureGreen - Celebrating All Paths to the Divine, ISIS - Tools for Your Soul's Journey, and The Pyramid Collection - Myth, Magick, Fantasy and Romance.
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