As­ceti­cism in In­dia. An an­cient tra­di­tion of suf­fer­ing in­hu­mane dis­com­forts for "spir­i­tu­al pur­pos­es", some schools of yo­ga for ex­am­ple be­lieve to this day that by hold­ing their bod­ies in un­com­fort­able po­si­tions one re­lieves the rest of his vil­lage from pains and all evil things, thus such peo­ple are cho­sen at an ear­ly age and their aus­ter­i­ties are en­cour­aged. They are seen as saints who ab­sorb the suf­fer­ing of the rest of the vil­lage, and they're wor­shiped on the same lev­el as deities. It is al­so be­lieved that through his aus­ter­i­ties a saint gains in­cred­i­ble spir­i­tu­al pow­ers and ac­cess to the in­fi­nite wis­doms of the uni­verse and thus can serve the peo­ple even more by be­ing some sort of an or­a­cle.

Sleep­ing on a bed of nails is one of the world fa­mous In­di­an aus­ter­i­ties but there's a lot of less com­mon ones. Saints be­gin their ca­reer since child­hood when it's eas­i­er to teach the body to do some­thing that makes peo­ple cringe and looks bad enough to make peo­ple start wor­ship­ing you as a di­vine be­ing. At a cer­tain time chil­dren of the vil­lage line up to be ex­am­ined by a gu­ru who choos­es on­ly one, the blessed one, who has spe­cif­ic con­di­tions that on­ly the gu­ru can dis­crim­i­nate.

But younger saints nor­mal­ly prac­tice in­side caves or in far away places with their gu­ru, so this twist­ed boy hang­ing on a branch dan­ger­ous­ly high above the ground was quite a rare sight. The boy was so deep in sta­sis that even breath­ing could not be seen, his body on­ly swayed a lit­tle to the wind.

The near­by vil­lage had some in­for­ma­tion on the boy. His name was lost and peo­ple called him sim­ply Na­ga­ji. When the boy was five, his gu­ru came to his par­ents and con­vinced them that the boy was a mi­nor in­car­na­tion of the great ser­pent god She­sha, and as a proof the gu­ru bent the boy in var­i­ous ways that con­vinced the par­ents and they gave their son to the gu­ru. Since then the gu­ru would hold the boy in the most ex­treme po­si­tions for very long pe­ri­ods of time un­til the boy gained the flex­i­bil­i­ty of a snake and even a lit­tle fol­low­ing of wor­shipers who would pro­vide food and mon­ey in ex­change for wit­ness­ing the di­vine won­ders.

See al­so