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Ripley's Believe It or Not - 3


"SAMADAI," the act of suspended animation, is a power long claimed by the Hindus. Although I was not fortunate enough to witness a performance of this seeming impossibility, there are many reliable records of such burials and subsequent restorations.

The best known performance of this mysterious power of suspending the functions of the body (with the exception of a faint heart action) was given before the Maharajah Runjeet Singh in Lahore during the summer of 1837.

A Yogi by the name of Haridas attained "samadai" and was buried in the ground for forty days, after which he was dug up again and revived. Yogi Haridas fell into a trance and his assistants stopped his nose, mouth, ears, and eyes with wax; then, wrapping him in a winding cloth, they lowered him into a grave and filled it tight with earth. A guard was placed about the spot to prevent trickery. When the Yogi was uncovered forty days later he appeared slightly emaciated but otherwise was little the worse for his remarkable experience."

It's probably a fortuitous linguistic coincidence that "fakir" is usually pronounced "faker." India has long been a potpourri of faith, superstition, inventiveness, poverty, colonialism and tourism - a perfect breeding ground for theatre of the P.T. Barnum sort. That said, among the snake charmers and nail sitters performing their schticks for the 1/12 annas tossed at them by condescending visitors, one finds the occasional ascetic doing things that are both mind-bogglingly painful, and sometimes downright unexplainable.

1/12 anna, or 1 pie, the smallest unit of colonial India's currency. Equal to 1/192 of a rupee. We see that the venerable tradition of pie-throwing must of necessity have originated in India. The study of cultures is full of surprises.

Wikipedia reports the following on Sadhu Haridas:

Sadhu Haridas (fl. 1837) was a hatha yogi and fakir of nineteenth-century India, renowned for his reputed power to control his body completely using the power of his mind, employing the energies of kundalini. His most notable feat, carried out in 1837, was to survive burial underground, without food or water and with only a limited supply of oxygen, for forty days. This feat took place at the court of the Maharaja of the Punjab, Ranjit Singh, at Lahore, India (now in Pakistan).

Haridas was interred in the presence of the Maharaja, his whole court, and a number of French and British doctors. He adopted a sitting posture, and was covered over and sewn up in cerecloth. He was then placed inside a large wooden case, which was strongly riveted closed and sealed with the Maharaja’s own seal. The case was then lowered into a specially-constructed brick vault. Earth was piled upon the case, and a detachment of the Maharaja's guard was placed to keep watch over the vault; four sentries mounting guard over it by day, and eight by night. Forty days later, Haridas was disinterred in the presence of the Maharaja, his court, and the French and English doctors who had been previously present at his interment. His apparently lifeless body was washed with hot water, massaged, and ghee placed on his eyelids and tongue; in a short time, he had recovered.

According to Claude Wade, the British Resident at the Maharaja's court: "From the time of the box being opened to the recovery of the voice, not more than half an hour could have elapsed; and in another half hour, the Fakir talked with myself and those about him freely, though feebly, like a sick person. Then we left him, convinced that there had been no fraud or collusion in the exhibition we had witnessed."

The article includes other references as well. As this feat was documented in 1837, verification or corroboraton is impossible, but freak incidents of human hibernation have been documented, and animals like turtles survive for months buried in mud.

While Ripley himself was not present at this event, it had been reported in the London Times in 1880 and thus had been the subject of parlor-room discussions for some 50 years before his travels to India. In light of some of the other strange feats of self-mastery chronicled over time, the only thing we can be sure of is that we know very little about the power of the human mind or the complexities of the human body. Whether such an extreme example of suspended animation is possible by sheer exercise of will is unknown - Sadhu Haridas was either an illusionist par excellence, or had powers that we cannot comprehend.

Verdict: Indeterminate.

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Sep. 3rd, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
Eat your heart out, Houdini.

I would not be surprised if a Buddhist monk could replicate this feat. The most disciplined defy all doctors' expectations.


The Old Wolf

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