India’s Fakirs or Sadhus are religious aesthetics who practice yoga and meditation. They also perform austerities in order to demonstrate that the mind or spirit is stronger then the flesh of the body. These austerities can be simple demonstrations of faith like vowing never to cut their hair and instead wearing it in long dreadlocks known as Jatta. At other times these austerities can be extreme like subjecting the body to fire, or vowing to keep an arm raised above the head at all times for twelve full years before finally bring it down.
Many acts that have come to be associated with the american sideshow have their origins in ancient India. These feats include:
Lying on a bed of nails
Walking on hot coals
Driving a nail into the nose
Walking barefoot on broken glass
The Human Pincushion
Climbing a ladder of swords barefoot
A performance by Dai Andrews may include any of these.