Ibn Batuta: Hindu Yogis

     Ibn Batuta (Travels in Asia and Africa: 1325-1354 AD), speaking of Hindu yogis, says thus: “The men of this class (Jugis = yogis) do some marvelous things. One of them will spend months without eating or drinking, and many of them have holes dug for them in the earth which is then built in on top of them, leaving only a space for air to enter.

  “They stay in these for months, and I heard tell of one of them who remained thus for a year. The people say that they make up pills, one of which they take for a given number of days or months, and during that time they require no food or drink.

  “They can tell what is happening at a distance. The sultan holds them in esteem and admits them to his company. Some eat nothing but vegetables, and others, the majority, eat no meat; it is obvious that they have so disciplined themselves in ascetic practices that they have no need of any of the goods or vanities of this world.  There are amongst them some who merely look at a man and he falls dead on the spot. The common people say that if the breast of a man killed in this way is cut open, it is found to contain no heart, and they assert that his heart has been eaten. This is commonest in the case of women, and a woman who acts thus is called a kaftar….

  “The sultan sent for me once when I was at Delhi, and on entering I found him in a private apartment with some of his intimates and two of these jugis. One of them squatted on the ground, and then rose into the air above our heads, still sitting. I was so astonished and frightened that I fell to the floor in a faint. A potion was administered to me, and I revived and set up. Meantime this man remained in his sitting posture. His companion then took a sandal from a bag he had with him, and beat it on the ground like one infuriated. The sandal rose in the air until it came above the neck of the sitting man and then began hitting him on the neck while he descended little by little until he sat down alongside us.

  “Then the sultan said “If I did not fear for your reason I would have ordered them to do still stranger things than this you have seen.” I took my leave, but was affected with palpitation and fell ill, until he ordered me to be given a draught which removed it all.”

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