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Letter XXIII

Leaving Malwa and the "independent" (?) Holkar territory, we soon found ourselves again in strictly British possessions, going by railway to Jabbalpore (now Jabalpur) and Allahabad. In the former we stayed – just for a few hours to look at the famous Marble Rocks. Having no desire to lose a whole day, we set out by boat, leaving at two in the morning, thus avoiding the heat and taking a magnificent row along the river ten miles from the town.

Jabbalpore (in the Saugor and Nerbudda Territories, 222 miles from Allahabad) is a town that was once on the Maratha territory, and now on the British one, was taken by the British from the Marathas in 1817. As always, they got it by cunning rather than by force. Although they boast in their History of India, that on December 19, 1817, General Hastings, at the head of only 1,000 English soldiers, utterly defeated 10,000 Marathas – the army of the Rajah of Nagpur, killing seven thousand soldiers, taking nine cannons and capturing the entire camp, while the English had only two killed and ten wounded; but tradition tells the story differently. Under the pretext of negotiations, the Maratha leaders were invited by the English to a feast; their officers gave them some kind of potion to drink, while the soldiers performed the same operation among the enemy's rank and file. Thus, they managed to kill them half asleep and took possession of the city. This story, for which I cannot vouch for its veracity, since it is already too implausible and disgusting, was conveyed to us by a half-caste-Portuguese (Eurasian), whose father, according to him, was an eyewitness to it. It was narrated to us not to heap abuse on the English, but even with some pride, as if in the form of a praise hymn to his compatriots, "Europeans" who, as I have already mentioned more than once, despise the semi-castes even more than the Hindus.

The surroundings of Jabbalpore are charming and of the greatest interest to lovers of natural history. For the geologist and mineralogist, there is an abundant field for scientific research in the extraordinary variety of mountain formations, delivering all kinds of granite, and a long mountain range can keep busy a hundred Cuviers, giving them work for a lifetime. The limestone caves of Jabbalpore are a real ossuary of antediluvian India: they are full of skeletons of monstrous, now extinct animals.

But far away from other mountain ridges and completely apart stand the Marble Rocks – a caprice of nature, of which there are many in India. On the rather flat bank of the Nerbudda, overgrown with dense bushes, for no reason, like a wart on the smooth cheek of Mother Nature, there suddenly appears a strangely shaped long range of snow-white rocks. But what rocks!.. White and pure, as if polished by human hand to have their capricious shape, they fancifully pile one on top of the other, rather like a colossal paperweight from a Titan's desk, rather than rocks. Already half way, at the winding bends of the river, they began to appear to us for minutes, now looking out, now hiding again, they were trembling in the predawn fog, like a distant deceptive mirage in the desert sky, until finally they completely disappeared. But just before sunrise, they again and unexpectedly appeared to our enchanted eyes, appeared twice, on the bank and in the river. Like an enchanted castle, summoned by the wave of the magician's wand, they suddenly rose as if out of the ground on the green bank of the Nerbudda, reflecting, as in a mirror, all their virgin beauty on the calm surface of the lazy, sleepy waters of the river, promising us a shadow, and coolness ... And how precious every moment of pre-dawn coolness in India can only be appreciated by those who have stayed and lived in this fiery country.

Alas! no matter how early we set off, but upon arrival at the rocks we did not have to enjoy their coolness for long. No sooner had we moored to the magical shore, expecting to have a prosaic tea in the midst of this poetic setting, when the sun rose and at once began to shoot its rays of fire both at the boat and at our unfortunate heads; persecuting us from one place to another, it finally drove us out even from under the cliff overhanging the water. Marble beauties from the snow-white turned into the golden-purple ones, showering the river with fiery spray, heating the coastal sand and blinding our eyes ... It is not without reason that legend supposes and the people see in them either the dwelling or the incarnation of Kali herself, the cruelest of the Hindu pantheon goddesses. For many Yugas, the evil spouse of Shiva has been waging a desperate contest with her lawful husband, who, under the guise of Trikutishvara (three-headed lingam), claims illegal rights to the rocks and the river, whose patroness is his goddess Kali.

That is why, probably, every time the daring hand of the innocent coolie (Hindus) working in the government quarries cuts off a piece of the goddess's white thigh, as if underground cries can be heard from somewhere. And now the ill-fated stone-breaker trembles and hesitates between the fear of the overseer and the expectation of the revenge of the bloodthirsty deity. Kali is the patroness of not only the rocks, but also of the ex-Thugs – stranglers, who until recently terrified all lonely travellers. Many bloodless sacrifices were made by these Thugs on the marble altar of Kali; the country is full of blood-curdling stories about their terrible exploits, supposedly performed in honour of the goddess. These stories, which are still too fresh in human memory to pass into ornate legends, are completely true, especially since they are fully confirmed by official documents of judicial and investigative commissions.

If England ever leaves this land (and it will not do this before the bone is completely gnawed), then among the few services it has rendered to the country the complete suppression of Thugism should be put in the foreground. Under this name, the craftiest and the worst form of homicide had been practiced in India for over 200 years as it is still probably remembered. As it was finally found out in the forties, it was simply robbery and brigandage. Perverted notions of the meaning of Kali were only a clever excuse: in this case, the goddess served as a screen for the villains. How else could the presence of so many Muslims among her devotees be explained? The majority of the "knights of rumal" or the sacred kerchief, with which the victims were strangled, appeared to be Mohammedans when they were caught; the most famous among their leaders were not Hindus, but the sons of the prophet, such as Ahmed, so that among the last thirty-seven caught by the police twenty-two were Muslims. It is clear that the religion of the latter, having nothing to do with the gods of India, did not play any role in this case: the motive was simply robbery. It is true that the final rite of initiation into Thugism [1] was performed in the woods in front of the terrible idol of Bhavani wearing a rosary of human skulls [2]. Until that time, a Thug was taking a course of study, which consisted in teaching a particularly difficult technique to throw a rumal around the neck of an unsuspecting and pre-marked victim and strangle a person so that he died instantly, without letting out the slightest groan. In this rite of initiation, the role attributed to the goddess was indicated by well-known symbols, such as those in common use among Freemasons: for example, an unsheathed dagger, a skull, and even the corpse of the murdered Hiram-Abiff, the "widow's son," resurrected by the Grand Master of the Lodge. Kali served no more than a stage setting for other purposes. Thugism was the same Freemasonry, with special signs of mutual recognition, a password and its own incomprehensible uninitiated jargon – only with a criminal purpose. Meanwhile, Freemasonry in our age is a completely harmless (except perhaps for the pockets of the Freemasons themselves) pastime. Just as the Masonic lodges receive as their members indifferently atheists and Christians, so the Thugs received thieves and robbers of all nations, and they even say that there were some English and Portuguese among them.

Poor poetic Shiva, wretched Bhavani! What vile role the people's ignorance has invented for these deeply philosophical types, full of poetry and knowledge of nature! Shiva, in its primordial meaning, is at the same time the all-crushing and all-regenerating force of nature. The Hindu Trinity is an allegorical representation of the main elements: fire, earth and water. All three: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, in their various phases, alternately depict these elements; but Shiva is much more the god of fire than Vishnu: he burns and at the same time purifies, reviving, like a phoenix from the ashes, new forms full of fresh life. Shiva-Sankara is the destroyer and Shiva-Rakshaka is the rebirth. He is represented with flames on his left palm and with a staff of mortification and resurrection (sulayutham) in his right hand. His worshipers wear on their foreheads, between the eyebrows, his sign: three parallel, horizontal lines, traced with wet ashes (remnants of substances burnt out in fire), which they call vibuthi (purified substance). Shiva's skin color is yellow-pink, turning into fiery red, and his neck, head and arms are entwined with snakes – emblems of eternity and constant rebirth. “As a snake crawls out of an old skin and appears in a new one, so a person, dying, appears in another, purer body,” say the Puranas... In her turn, his spouse, Kali, is an allegorical representation of the land of Shiva, fertilized by the flame of the sun ... If her worshipers allowed themselves to be convinced that she should love human sacrifice, then this is only because the earth loves organic decay, which fertilizes it and helps it to revive new and fresh forces from the old, obsolete ashes. The Shivaites, burning their dead, put the idol of Shiva at the head of the pyre; but, having collected the ashes and scattering them over water and earth, they invoke Kali, crowned with skulls, so that the goddess would receive the ashes purified by the sacred fire into her bowels and develop new embryos of life in it. But what truth is not at last distorted by the gross superstition of ignorance! And in this way, the perverted emblem fell into the hands of the robbers. But, according to them, the goddess, demanding human sacrifice, at the same time hates blood: they decided to kill without soiling their hands with blood.

We visited a very aged man, a former Thug. After serving his sentence on the Andaman Islands, he was forgiven due to sincere repentance and some services rendered by him to the government. Having returned to his native village, he now serenely ends his days, weaving ropes, a profession he chose, probably due to pleasant memories of the boldness of his youth. He initiated us into the skills of "Thugism", first in theory, and then kindly suggested that if we buy him a ram, he could show us his dexterity in practice. He wanted to prove to us how easily, in less than three seconds, a living creature can be sent to the next world: the whole secret consists in dexterous and quick play with the finger joints of the right hand. After agreeing, a fateful cry of an owl (a bird dedicated to Bhavani-Kali) would be heard, even if there were even twenty travellers cleverly lured into a trap – there was already a Thug behind the shoulders of each of them. One second more, and the rumal is already on the victim's neck, and the practiced iron fingers of a Thug firmly hold both ends of the "sacred kerchief"; a moment later – the finger joints, squeezing the cervical vertebrae, make the famous artistic twist – and the victim falls breathless! Not a moan, not a cry ... The Thugs worked as swiftly as lightning. The strangled one was immediately carried away to a deep hole prepared in advance in the forest, often under the bed of streams or temporarily drying rivers, and buried. Not a trace remained. And thirty years ago, when there were no regular railway communication or regular Government system, who knew or worried about the disappearance of a Muslim or Hindu who set out on a journey, except perhaps his family and friends? In addition, the country is full of tigers, as you can see, destined to be responsible for their own and others' sins. Whoever used to disappear one can hear all the same answer: "tigers ate!"

It was an amazingly cleverly organized system! Dexterous accomplices, Brahmans, prowled all over India, stopping mainly in big towns, inquiring at the bazaars – these social clubs of the Asians – when and where someone set off; they frightened travellers with the Thugs and advised them to go with one or the other party – with disguised Thugs, of course. Having managed to lure the unfortunate, they warned the robbers and received a commission for this depending on the total profit. For a long time these elusive, invisible gangs, scattered throughout the country and working in parties from 10 to 60 people, enjoyed perfect freedom, but finally they were caught. The investigation revealed terrible, disgusting secrets: these gangs included wealthy bankers, officiating Brahman, Rajahs having small estates, and even a few English officials. For this service, the East India Company truly deserves the people's thanks in India.

We did not buy a ram for the old robber, but gave him money. Out of gratitude, he suggested the colonel show, on his own American neck, all the preliminary sensations of a rumal, promising, of course, to save him from the last, famous "twist". But our president generously refused...

On the way back, we stopped near the "Muddun Mahal" – another mysterious curiosity: this is a house built by no one knows who and for what, on a huge rounded boulder. This stone (must be akin to the cromlechs of the Celtic druids) at the slightest touch sways in all directions, along with the house and those who are curious to climb into it. We, of course, were curious, and only thanks to the vigilance of those who followed us like gentle nannies, Narayan, the Babu and the Thakur kept our noses intact...

These natives are amazing people! I don’t think there has been such a thing in nature on which they could not sit with the greatest comfort, only by preliminary and slightly balancing. A Hindu will jump on a peg, on an iron crossbar a little thicker than a telegraph wire, twist around it all ten toes, tenacious and long, like monkey legs, squat down, and sit for hours...

– Salam, sahib! – I said once to a respectable naked old man who was sitting like a crow on some perch by the seaside. – Are you comfortable, uncle?.. And aren't you afraid to fall off?..

– Why should I? – the "uncle" answered seriously, spitting a bloody fountain of chewed betel nut aside. – I'm not breathing, ma'am sahib...

– Are you really not? How can a person not breathe? – I asked, a little stunned by such information.

– Well... I'm not breathing now. But in about five minutes, as I begin to draw air into my lungs again, then I will hold on to the post ... And then I will again sit quietly and not breathing...

After this extraordinary physiological statement, we parted. We have achieved no more explanation from the venerable old man, but only left with the inner conviction that he could earn big money at any theater in Europe, like an acrobat. And this incident at once confused all our "scientific" considerations.

We recently heard that yogis and other practitioners of Gupta Vidya (Secret sacred science) in India are famous for having discovered the secret of holding their breathe for 21 to 43 minutes in a row and – still be alive! Some of them, after years of daily, constant practice, acquire, so to speak, the property of hibernation: they hibernate, like some animals, and, remaining in this position without breathing and even the slightest signs of life, allow themselves to be buried in the ground for several weeks, even months, and then – come to life! .. At last we saw a similar thing ourselves; but in the days of the curious reply received by me from the old man, we were familiar with this phenomenon only from the books and stories of eyewitnesses, travellers, and some of our native acquaintances. True, according to the testimony of one English surgeon Coathope, who for a long time did not believe this ability to stop breathing for a while, but finally surrendered, as he puts it, "to the fact", one such yogi personally known to him could remain without breathing from seven to twelve minutes. But physiology positively teaches that even with healthy Arab and Sinhalese divers, suffocation occurs no later than after one and a half, many two minutes of complete stay of the body under water. Then, although some of us believed in the existence of natural forces latent in man, caused only as a result of a special "mode", about which science, having hitherto extremely superficial acquaintance with yogis and Hindu "charmers", could not yet know; others, as Miss B ***, believed in spiritualism, and still others, as Y ***, did not believe in anything – but all of us, believers and non-believers alike, protested against such a strange statement. Do we really believe in such nonsense? –we argued. Until now, we naively imagined that only sturgeons and similar aquatic acrobats were clever enough to learn how to fill up their insides with air in order to become lighter, and to rise to the surface of the water. It is possible for a sturgeon, but for a man!.. Yes, if, for example, for a man there is in exceptional cases such an opportunity to make air supplies, it is still a rare and difficult to acquire gift: to use it for sitting on poles like a bird is simply an absurd foolishness!.. We decided that the elder boasted to laugh at the "white sahibs". But the necessary process for such an original seating, as we learned later, he described correctly.

In those days, however, we were actually a little offended by such explanations, taking them for ridicule. But here again, and this time in Jabbalpore, we saw even much greater wonders. Passing along the river bank, the so-called Fakirs’ Avenue, the Thakur suggested that we turn into the courtyard of the pagoda. This place is sacred and Europeans are not allowed there; as well as Muslims. But Gulab Singh spoke to the head Brahman and we entered. The courtyard was full of devotees and ascetics, and among other things we noticed three completely naked and very ancient fakirs. Black, wrinkled, thin as skeletons, with gray chignons on their heads, they sat or, rather, stood in the most, as it seemed to us, impossible postures. One of them, leaning literally with only his right palm on the ground, stood, stretched out perpendicularly, head downwards and feet upwards: his body was as motionless as if instead of a living person he was a dry tree branch. His head did not touch the ground, but, rising a little upward in the most abnormal position, with eyes staring right at the sun. I don’t know whether the talkative inhabitants who came to our company spoke the truth or not, assuring us that this ascetic spends all the days of his life from noon to sunset in a similar position. But I know one thing: we spent exactly an hour and twenty minutes among the fakirs, and during all this time the fakir did not move a single muscle!..

The other stood on one leg on a round stone, five inches in diameter, which they called "the sacred stone of Shiva", tucking the other leg under the belly and arching the whole body back in an arc; he also gazed at the midday sun. Both hands were folded with palms together and lifted up as if in prayer... He seemed glued to his stone. It was almost impossible to imagine how a person could come to be master of such equilibration.

Finally, the third was sitting with his legs tucked under him; but how he could sit was equally incomprehensible. His seat was a stone lingam, as high as an ordinary street stone, but no wider than the “stone of Shiva”, that is, five, maybe seven, inches in diameter. The seated man's hands were intertwined behind his neck, and his nails had deeply grown into the flesh of his upper arms.

“This one never changes his posture,” we were told. – He has been sitting in this position for seven years...

– But how does he eat? – asked we in disbelief. They brought him to eat – or rather drink – milk, once every 48 hours, from the pagoda, pouring it down his throat with a bamboo. His disciples (every such ascetic has his own voluntary servants, candidates for holiness) take him off at midnight and wash him in a tank; and after washing, they put him back on the stone, like an inanimate thing, for he can no longer unbend.

– Well, and what about those? – we asked, pointing at the other two. – After all, they should be constantly falling down? The slightest push would overturn them wouldn’t it?..

– Try! – advised the Thakur us; – While a person is in a state of samadhi (religious trance), he can be broken into pieces, like a clay idol, but he cannot be removed from his place...

To touch an ascetic during trance is considered by Hindus as sacrilege; but apparently the Thakur was well acquainted with exceptions "unlike others." He again entered into negotiations with the frowning Brahman accompanying us and, ending a quick consultation, announced that no one of us was allowed to touch the fakir, but that he personally had received permission, and would show us something that would surprise us even more. With these words, approaching the fakir on the little stone and carefully taking him by the bony hips with both hands, he lifted him up and put him on the ground a little aside. Not a single joint moved in the body of the ascetic, as if instead of a living person it was a bronze or stone statue. Then he picked up the stone and showed it to us, asking, however, not to touch it, so as not to offend those present. The stone was, as already mentioned, round, flattish, having rather uneven surface. Lying on the ground, it swayed at the touch of a finger...

– Can you see how unsteady this pedestal chosen by the fakir is? And yet, under the weight of the ascetic, the stone remains motionless, as if being planted into the ground.

And, taking the fakir in his arms again, he moved him to his original place. In spite of the law of gravitation, which, in all evidence, should have attracted his torso and head, bending far back in an arc, he as if instantly and together with the stone became rooted to the spot, without changing his posture by any line. How they manage to achieve such art, only they know. I am stating a fact, but I don’t undertake too much to explain anything.

At the gates of the pagoda, we put on our shoes again, which we were told to take off at the entrance, and left this sanctuary of age-old mysteries, more embarrassed, even before the entrance.

India is a country of surprises; even from the point of view of an ordinary European observer, everything in it is topsy-turvy: from shaking one’s head, which is everywhere understood as a gesture of denial, but here it means a complete affirmation, to the owner's duty to show the most pleasant guest the door, who would otherwise stay for a whole week at his place and perhaps even die of hunger, rather than leave without an invitation – everything here contradicts our Western ideas. Asking a Hindu, for example, about his wife health, even if you are acquainted with her, or how many children he has, and whether he has sisters, is a gross insult. Here, when you find that it is time for your guest to leave, you sprinkle him with rose water and, hanging a garland of flowers around his neck, kindly point to the door, saying: "Now I say goodbye to you ... Come again!" The Hindus are strange and original in general; but their religion is even stranger and more incomprehensible ... With the exception of some disgusting rituals of certain sects, and abuses by the Brahmans, the religion of the Hindus must have something deeply and incomprehensibly attractive in itself, if it is capable of seducing even the English from the path of truth. For example, this is what happened here a few years ago.

An interesting and extremely scholarly brochure appeared, although in terms of its content it turned all modern science upside down. It was written in English and printed in a small edition by the regimental doctor of medicine and surgery, N.C. Paul, in Benares. Paul's fame as a learned specialist in physiology was great among his compatriots, the British: at one time he was considered an authority in the medical world. The brochure dealt with the examples of "hibernation" seen by the doctor among ascetics, lasting in one case for eight months, with samadhi and other phenomena produced by yogis. Appearing under the title A Treatise on the Yoga Philosophy, this brochure immediately produced a sensation among the representatives of European medicine in India and aroused a furious controversy between Anglo-Indian and native journalists. Dr. Paul spent 35 years studying the incredible, but for him completely certain, facts of "yogism". He could never get to the raja-yogis, and with great straightforwardness and apparent regret he confesses this; but he became friends with fakirs and secular yogis, that is, those who do not hide their rank and sometimes agree to make a European a witness of certain phenomena. Dr. Paul not only described the strangest facts that happened in front of him, but even explained them. Levitation, for example, which contradicts the recognized laws of gravitation and against which the astronomer Babinet so rebelled, is explained by him scientifically. But the main thing that helped him penetrate some mysteries considered hitherto impenetrable is his ardent friendship with Captain Seymour. The latter, 25 years ago, caused an unprecedented scandal in India, especially in the army: Captain Seymour, a wealthy and educated man, accepted the Brahman faith and became a yogi! He, of course, was declared insane and, after being caught, was forcibly sent to England. Seymour fled England and returned to India, dressed as a sannyasi. They seized him a second time, put him on a steamer, brought him to London and locked him up in a lunatic asylum. Three days later, despite bolts and sentries, he disappeared from the establishment. He was then met again by acquaintances in Benares, and the governor received a letter from him from the Himalayas. In the letter, he announced that he had never been mad, despite the fact that he was taken to the hospital; he advised the general not to interfere with his private affairs anymore and said that he would never return to civilized society. "I am a yogi (he wrote) and I hope to die no earlier than having achieved the goal of my life: to become a raja yogi." The general did not understand, but waved his hand. Since then, no Europeans have seen him, no one except Dr. Paul, who, they say, corresponded with him until his death and even went to the Himalayas twice on botanical expeditions. The chief inspector of the Medical Department, considering Dr. Paul's essay as "a direct slap in the face of the science of physiology and pathology," ordered to buy up at a high price from private individuals all the copies that were published and sacrifice them to this science, committing them to the flames. As a result, the brochure has become a rarity. Of the several books saved, one is in the library of the Maharaja of Benares, and another was given to me by the Thakur.

The train to Allahabad was to leave at 8 pm, and we were to spend the whole night until 6 am in the railway carriage. Although we had ten reserved seats in a first-class carriage, in which no strange passengers could travel, however, for various reasons, I was sure that I would not fall asleep all night. Therefore, having stocked up with candles for a reading lamp in advance, I prepared to break the railroad rules that night by reading Dr. Paul's brochure, as it interested me.

An hour and a half before the departure, we all went to have lunch in the Refreshment Rooms, that is, in the buffet of the railway station. Our appearance caused an evident sensation: with four Indians we occupied the entire edge of the table, at which there were about fifty first-class passengers, staring at us with astonished eyes full of undisguised contempt. Europeans fraternizing with Hindus!.. Hindus dining with Europeans!.. Restrained whispering began to turn into loud exclamations, and one grand lady could not even bear it: she got up from the table and left. If it were not for the imposing presence, undoubtedly, of the native type: the British Y *** and Miss B ***, and the colonel, whom everyone took for an English officer, there would probably have been a scandal. Two Englishmen approached the Thakur and, shaking hands with him – also a rare occurrence – took him aside, as if for business, but essentially to satisfy curiosity: they turned out to be old acquaintances of his. No one paid the slightest attention to the other Hindus. Here we learned for the first time that the police were keeping an eye on us. The Thakur, pointing to a captain with a very fresh complexion and a long blond moustache in a white tunic, quickly whispered to me: "beware". It was a secret police agent from the Political Department, sent after us from Bombay. Hearing this good news for us, the colonel burst out laughing loudly, which made the natives of Albion, who were eating, even more excited. We learned later that all hotel servants are required to spy. But in India, they have the custom to take their servants everywhere, even to dinner parties: therefore, a Hindu stood behind each chair of ours, and behind the Thakur, there were his four shield-bearers and two servants. The enemy was thus completely cut off by this army of bare-legged defenders, and the hotel spies had little chance of overhearing our conversations; besides, we had nothing to hide. But, I confess, this news had a very bad effect on me. Finally, this unpleasant dinner ended. Having settled down for the night in the carriage, I began to study my brochure...

Among other interesting things, Dr. Paul explains in detail and very scientifically the secret of periodical suspension of breathing and some other, apparently completely impossible phenomena practiced by yogis, which he personally observed many times. His theory of "breathing" is summarized as follows:

Yogis have discovered the secret and acquired the ability of a chameleon to assume the appearance of plumpness or of leanness. This animal, as you know, having filled its lungs with air, is very fat, then suddenly, freed from the air that fills it, it is extremely puny. Many of the reptiles, by the same method of inflating the body, get the opportunity, if necessary, to swim across large rivers, and by means of the excess air remaining, after the oxidation of blood, gives them excessive liveliness, both on land and on water. The ability to store more air than is necessary is a characteristic feature of all animals undergoing hibernation. The ancient Hindu philosophers, noticing this ability, used it and improved it. The technique used by yogis, known as bhastrika kumbhala, is as follows:

Yogis wishing to acquire this gift retire to underground caves, where the atmosphere is more uniform and humid than on the earth's surface, and where, therefore, the appetite is less. A person's appetite is proportional to the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled in a certain period of time. Therefore, yogis never use salt, but live on milk alone, drinking it once a day at night, and spending days in a semi-cataleptic state. They move very slowly in order to breathe as little as possible: movement increases the amount of exhaled carbon dioxide; and the philosophy of the yogis prescribes them to avoid movement.

The amount of exhaled carbon dioxide increases with loud and lively conversation and decreases with quiet one: the yogi is taught to speak slowly and quietly, and is often forced to take a vow of silence. With physical labour, the amount of carbon dioxide also increases, and with mental labour, it decreases: therefore, the yogi spends his life in contemplation and reflection. Yogis practice two methods, padmasana and siddhasana, for as little breathing as possible. This is what Shukadeva says [3]:

"Cross your legs; firmly straighten the neck and back; rest the palms of the hands on the knees; shut the mouth and begin to expire forcibly through both nostrils. Next inhale and exhale as rapidly as possible until you are fatigued. Then inhale through the right nostril, and filling the abdomen with the inspired air, suspend the breathing and fix the sight on the tip of the nose. Then exhale through the left nostril, and inhale through the left one. Suspend the breathing again and exhale through the right one. Then begin the process all over again, starting with the right nostril, etc.

When the yogis are able to practise the above quiescent postures for the period of two hours, they commence to practise Pranayama, a stage of self-trance which is characterised by profuse perspiration, tremblings of the system, and a sense of lightness of the animal economy. They next practise Pratyahara, a stage of self trance in which they have the functions of the senses suspended. They then practise Dharana, a stage of self-trance in which sensibility and voluntary motion are suspended, and the body is capable of retaining any given posture, the mind being said to be quiescent in this stage of self-trance.

The Yogis, after attaining the stage of Dharana (cataleptic condition), aspire to what is termed Dhyana, a stage of self- trance in which they pretend to be surrounded by flashes of eternal light or electricity; termed Ananta-jyoti; (from two Sanskrit words signifying endless or all-pervading light), which they say is the universal soul. The Yogis in a state of Dhyana are said to be clairvoyant. The Dhyana of the Yogis is the Turya avastha of the Vedantists…

“Samadhi is the last stage of self-trance. In this state the yogis, like the bat, the hedgehog, the marmot, the hamster, and the dormouse, acquire the power of supporting the abstraction of atmospheric air, and the privation of food and drink. Of samadhi or human hybernation there have been three cases within the last 25 years. The first case occurred in Calcutta, the second in Jesselmere and the third in the Punjab. I was an eye-witness of the first case.