The Hindu ascetic Prahlad Jani



Lock bottom

On Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 9.00 pm the program Voyager on Italian national TV channel Rai 2 presented the case of an Indian ascetic who claims to have spent many years without eating and drinking (according to several journalistic scoops, also more than 70 years). This report, more than exhaustive, aimed at impressing the audience.


Let's think...on the basis of different studies


A poor village


The name of this man is Prahlad Jani. He is 83 years old. He lives in a cave near a temple devoted to goddess Ambaji, in the north of Gujarat (India).

He looks like a common, healthy, elderly person. He can not hear very well and has difficulty in speaking, probably because of his loneliness and because he had only limited access to culture, being barely able to read and write.

He wears the typical red garment of Ambaji's devotees. He has a nose ring, a necklace and bracelets. On his forehead there is a vermilion tika.

Prahlad Jani is an adherent of Jainism, an ancient Indian religion sometimes considered an offshoot of Hinduism and practiced by many people in the north of Gujarat.



The goddess Ambaji is one of the 140 local goddesses in Gujarat region. They are ancient goddesses which can be identified in the same entity and in Shiva's paredra. Shiva's paredra (in partnership goddess; paredra in Greek ancient it means: "That sits nearby") is often called Uma, Parvati, Durga, Kalì, etc.

Shiva is both destructive and constructive, exactly like his wife; their fusion generates a strong vital energy.

Ambaji's behavior is very evil towards human beings: she causes diseases, cholera, smallpox, fever, etc.

In order to honor this goddess, animals are horribly sacrificed and killed in an orgiastic way.

The person charged of the sacrifice kills, for example, a ram, using the teeth. The aim of these rituals is to obtain the benevolence of the goddess, the vital energy, the plants, the life. Ambaji represents both fear and benevolence, that's why human beings have to be conscious of her power if they want to receive her benefits.



The ascetic, or fakir, Prahlad Jani left his village in Charod Mehsana region when he was 7 years old in order to live in forests, probably following the ideas of some ascetics belonging to Jainism. According to his words, when he was 11 years old (some journalists say at the age of 8) he met goddess Ambaji who gave him the power to survive without eating and drinking.

According to Prahlad Jani, Ambaji created a sort of hole in his mouth and thanks to it, he can survive taking the necessary energy from a particular substance passing through that hole.

Anyone, however, has never proved this hole really exists.

The religious meaning is clear: meditation and ascetic fasting in return for life and freedom from karma (karma means action, and it is the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as affecting their future fate. Once a person is liberated from karma, the reincarnation cycle is completed).


Difference from Breatharianism


It is clear that we are not talking about a case of breatharianism, according to which it is possible to survive though meditation and prana breathing (the universal life force) in the air, without any food or water.

A prominent advocate of this theory, not scientifically proved, is Jasmuheen ( pseudonym of Ellen Greve), born in Australia in 1957.

She was submitted twice to medical testing in order to see if she really did not drink and eat (she states she can live on approximately 300 calories per day), but twice she had to stop the test after a few days for serious problems: dehydration, strong weight loss, stress, high blood pressure, pupil dilation, difficulties in speaking. Moreover interviewers found her house stocked with food.

The difference between Prahlad Jani and the Breatharianism consists in the intervention of a goddess that touched the mouth of the ascetic man with her finger, during a samadhi (beatitude).

Prahlad Jani presented himself not as a man able to live on prana through meditation, but as someone who has received a gift from Ambaji. Despite this, he was considered by the media as a Breatharianist. At the age of 15, he was submitted to medical assistance and monitoring at the  Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai (people say police officers took him to hospital).

The results of this testing period, lasted 45 days, were not published but this long period of hospitalization was due to serious diseases caused by a destructive ascetic diet.


The interest of the science


Surely, Jasmuheen, a big proponent of “pranic nourishment” (the ability to live on sunlight) aroused  in 2003 the (officially) lay interest of DIPAS (Defense Institute of Physiologist and Allied Science, New Delhi), department of DRDO (The Defense Research ad Development Organization) for goddess Ambaji. This organization hoped to find survival methods in case of war and also for spacemen.

The DIPAS, or better the neurologist Shah Sudhir, believed it is possible to live many years without eating and drinking; the situation of Prahlad Jany was right there to be analyzed.

Shah Sudhir, a proponent of Breatharianism theory who had had the possibility to know Jasmuheen, was the staff manager responsible for the medical testing.

The observation was carried out by Sterling Hospital in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat and lasted from the 13th to the 22nd November. During this study, he lost weight, hearing and had kidney troubles.

In particular it was observed that his urine was absorbed in the bladder and he never went to the toilet. It must be pointed out that no independent observer could take part to the study.




As it can be seen in a video related to the test Prahlad Jani was allowed to spill water on his head more than once a day, it is possible that he could get a little water using his tongue. He could gargle and protect mouth and throat mucosa.

We do not know how long he really fasted from 13th to 22nd November.

Even if they were 8 or 9 days, he had access to water, in this way he could complete the test in good health conditions.

It is possible that he drunk his urine (it was not absorbed by his bladder), that is why there were all conditions to allow him to survive.

It is well-known that after few days (three or four) a man who does not drink shows strong dehydration and that after seven days his situation is unrecoverable. A human being can live 10/12 days without eating but not without drinking.

There are many cases of people saved from rubble thanks to their urine after several days.


Basic considerations


The test showed a physiological activity, even if minimal: Shah Sudhir's expectations had no success.

The “pranic nourishment” is pure science fiction: “pranic energy has never been scientifically proved, and without any doubts, even if it would exist, it would never need to be breathed. Every kind of yoga meditation can not affect common life parameters (this should be the effect of pranic energy).

Prahlad Jani's blood test results were within normal limits. His meditation should have provided him with extraordinary, not only with normal, health conditions. So, something is missing. It was all normal and yet, his meditation had to transform his nature and allow him to survive taking the energy from pranic nourishment. After some time Mr. Sudhir published the medical analysis results.


Anyway Shah Sudhir was not convinced at all, so DIPAS and a team of 35 specialist doctors decided to investigate this case more profoundly.

From 22 until May, 6, 2010, Prahlad Jani was observed and tested again at the Sterling Hospital in Ahmedabad.

Sanal Edamaruk, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, required the presence of indipendent observers but his request was denied.

Some comunications were given forth during the observation of the Godness Ambaija's ascetic, but from the 6th day (during this period of time the physical conditions are still good, but only in presence of water) onwards no other comunication was given. It's known that on the fifth day the ascetic has had the opportunity to do several ablutions on his head and gargles.
Six days after the end of the test, the Deshgujarat Blog, with a worldwide exclusive report, published general information praising all the doctors involved in this research.

However anything about this case appeared on the most important newspapers in those days, no news on “The Times of India”, on “The Hindu”, on DIPAS website.

Even today (27th October 2010) we can not read any specific information concerning the test. Moreover, it must be said that Shah Sudhir is responsible for the publishing process.


The upshot was worse than in 2003: actually, for an elderly person, 7 years are many.

According to the press, Prahlad Jani returned to his cave near Ambaji Temple. This is a journalistic invention: he lives in a one-room flat, in which there is a big fridge probably full of food, as ABC News correspondent Clarissa Ward reported.

The correspondent was not allowed to see what was in the fridge because her request was judged unnecessary by some devotees, as the fridge contained only water to wash the ascetic's mouth.

If that had been true, there had been no reason to keep the fridge closed! But it was all vain.


The scientific community is skeptical about Prahlad Jani and does not recognize Breatharianism.

The atheist Sanal Edamaruku, engaged in discovering the guru's tricks because of the prevailing Breatharianism and the religious appearance of this man to which the military power had provided with a big public visibility, in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Defense expressed his own opinion: “It is a shame, how can the government and doctors be so naive to believe that is possible to live without food and water for decades?”.


Thanks also to the media interest, Hindu and New Age had a great success.

Therefore, it makes sense to analyze this context from the religious point of view based on philosophy and theology.


The contribution of philosophy and theology


The philosophy is focused on a transcendent creator which is completely different from his creations.

The theology is based on the action of God but also on the action of his enemy.

The Catholic theology, in the Mystique, is studying many cases related to pseudomysticism and is sure that the devil, a fallen angel, can operates in many different ways.

This angel banished from Heaven can raise the body temperature, condense the atmospheric humidity to quench the thirst drop after drop, slow the metabolism for a certain period of time to slightly let a person lose weight even with few food or no food at all.

Only God can allow a person to live without food or water because all necessary elements for the life, water, vitamins, amino acids, fluids, minerals, should come from the Nothing.

In the History of the Christian Mystique there are several cases of people able to live without drinking and eating, apart from taking the Holy Communion, for example: the Blessed Angela of Foligno (+ 1309), 10 years without any nourishment, Holy Catherine of Siena (1348-1380), fasting for 8 years, the Blessed Elisabeth of Reute (+1421), fasting for 15 years, Saint Lidwina of Schiedam (1380-1433), fasting for 28 years, etc. until Saint Therese Neumann (1898-1962), fasting for 36 years who was submitted to an unobjectionable observation test.

The Church parameters to judge someone's holiness are the heroism of his/her virtues and the miracles after his/her death.

The fact of fastening is not considered a proof of holiness.

This phenomenon is to be read as a sort of anticipation of the ability of the resurrected bodies to survive without any necessary external condition. If it is true that the “pranic nourishment” is based on sunlight, it makes no sense for this way of life to consider people like Therese Neumann, whose blood poured every day from her wounds in her bed and who was not exposed to sunlight as Saint Catherine of Siena.


The “pranic nourishment” is based on cosmic energy and New Age, misunderstanding Einstein's equation E=mc2 , believes that matter does not exists, only energy lives.

As far as we know, the mass is a body property so it is not matter: the matter, according to Einstein's equation is energy.

The misunderstanding is clear: the abstract concept of energy is not the real concept of energy.

In the New Age, light is only energy but it is not so because it is also matter, and this matter has got a certain energy. Photons (basic units of light) are not only energy but also matter. What is the aim of reducing all to energy? The appearance. In this way, we have only colors, volumes and the real essence of things is replaced by an impersonal, divine entity. Anyway, things exist, objects have different colors and forms.

Under the effect of drugs, the reality seems to disappear, it is transformed in color and volume without substance. New Age wants to read the reality according to the ecstatic states to reach and to consider as the access to reality. These ecstatic states show a deep fragmentation of the human being    who is not able to have control on things, on their use and who has not the power to manage them through the work; moreover the human can not understand their properties using scientific knowledge and reason in order to explain their origin, the transcendent and almighty Creator.

How can a New Age advocate think about all these issues, a fragmented person who wants to understand something beyond the common reality?

Probably you will smile but let's think: if I give a kick to someone, this kick is a sign that gives the sense of reality, an immediate information which does not need to be proved.


Yahoo New- Fresh-air dieticiam fails TV show's challeghe - 25 ottobre 1999 (Jasmuheen)

BBC NEW- by Rajeev Kahanna corrispondend in Ahmedadab - 25 november 2003 (dati clinici esami Prahlad Jani, 2003) 29 aprile 2010

Comunicato SchwartzetReport 30 aprile 2010

Comunicato SchwartzetReport 11 maggio 2010

Agenzia France-Presse 21 maggio 2010