The concept of fakir derives from classical arabic faqīr. The first meaning of the term mentioned by the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE ) in your dictionary refers to a Muslim individual who meets penance and develops a austere way of life .
The most common use of the notion is linked to a ascetic which carries out different practices of mortification . The fakir, however, can also be a circus artist that performs this kind of exercises by way of show .
The mental and physical resistance It is the main quality of a fakir. These mens they can lie on nails, put a sword in their throat and walk on the flames, to mention some of the actions they usually carry out in public as an exhibition.
Beyond the circus or art, in ancient times being a fakir involved adopting a mystical lifestyle . In general, people considered these individuals as saints who, thanks to supernatural forces of divine origin and meditation, could perform superhuman actions and exercise absolute control over their body .
These fakirs used to wear only a loincloth and tour the villages demonstrating their skills . Therefore, the idea of fakir linked to entertainment came to the western world; in fact, in India there is also this "version" of the fakir, but it is not the one they respect, but one that takes advantage of the flow of tourism to get money.
It is important to establish a difference between the fakir stereotype and the true characteristics of this original figure from India. While popular perception leads us to think of an unusual ability to withstand the pain physical, that they themselves are caused by nailing needles or cutting themselves with pieces of glass, or even the fact that they do not bleed because of these actions, these people must carry out an arduous preparation on a physical and mental level that can not be represented at all through this one-dimensional vision.
As mentioned at the beginning of the definition, the etymological origin of the term fakir leads us to classical Arabic, even though we associate the fakir lifestyle with Indian culture. The meaning of this word is "poor ", and this is related to the path they must travel to achieve enlightenment, which is characterized by extreme austerity and penance; ascetic monks who live in this way in India are called sadhus.
For Hindus, the fakir is framed in the so-called fourth phase of life , being the first three study, have children and pilgrimage. To become a fakir, it is necessary to shed material goods and begin to pursue values which, according to them, are the authentic ones of life. It should be noted that, unlike hermitages, the fakirs do not move away from society, but rather resist pleasures and manage to ignore common pains.
The fakir seeks to resemble the main ascetic, the god called Shiva . Despite not sticking to material goods, many carry a trident . The color of loincloth, the only garment of the fakirs, is saffron, and this symbolizes the blessing they receive from Parvati , Shiva's wife, who offers their blood, synonymous with fertility.
Among the miracles attributed to the fakirs, are the fact of unfolding (being in two places simultaneously), the ability to levitate and even contact with the spirits of the deceased. Is that these people are considered holy and prodigious , capable of supernatural feats that arise as a result of their intense meditation . These events, of course, have not been proven through the scientific method.