Trailanga Swami was a yogi and mystic famed for his spiritual powers who lived in Varanasi, India in the 16-17th Century. Trailanga Swami lived to be 280 years old, residing at Varanasi between 1737-1887. He is regarded by devotees as an incarnation of Shiva. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa referred to him as the “The walking Shiva of Varanasi”.
Trailing Swami was from the Dashanami order and was a Nirvani. In Varanasi, till his death in 1887, he lived at different places including Asi Ghat, the Vedavyas Asharama at Hanuman Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat. He was often found roaming the streets or the ghats, naked and “carefree as a child”. He was reportedly seen swimming or floating on the river Ganges for hours. He talked very little and at times not at all. A number of people became attracted to him upon hearing of his yogic powers to ameliorate their sufferings. During his stay in Varanasi, several prominent contemporary Bengalis known as saints met and described him, including Loknath Brahmachari, Benimadhava Brahmachari, Bhagaban Ganguly, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Mahendranath Gupta, Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Abhedananda.
After seeing Trailanga, Ramakrishna said, “I saw that the universal Lord Himself was using his body as a vehicle for manifestation. He was in an exalted state of knowledge. There was no body-consciousness in him. Sand there became so hot in the sun that no one could set foot on it. But he lay comfortably on it.” Ramakrishna also stated that Trailanga was a real paramahansa and that “all Benares was illuminated by his stay there.”
Robert Arnett writes that his miracles are “well documented” and “he displayed miraculous powers that cannot be dismissed as myth” and that there were living witnesses to his “amazing feats”. He was reputed to have lived to be around 300 years, and was a larger-than-life figure, reportedly weighing over 300 pounds (140 kg), though he seldom ate. One account said that he could “read people’s minds like books.”
On many occasions, he was seen to drink deadly poisons with no ill effect. In one instance, a skeptic wanted to expose him as a fraud. The monk was accustomed to breaking his long fasts with buckets of clabbered milk, so the skeptic brought him a bucket of calcium-lime mixture used for whitewashing walls instead. The monk drank the entire bucket with no ill effect — instead, the skeptic fell to the ground writhing in pain. The monk broke his usual silence to explain the law of karma, of cause and effect.
He often walked around without any clothes as a naga sadhu. The Varanasi police were scandalized by his behaviour, and had him locked in a jail cell. He was soon seen on the prison roof, in all his unclad glory. The police put him back into his locked cell, only to see him appear again on the jail roof. They soon gave up, and let him again walk the streets of Varanasi.
Thousands of people reportedly saw him levitating in a sitting position on the surface of the river Ganges for days at a time. He would also apparently disappear under the waves for long periods, and reappear unharmed. Sri Trailinga Swami attributed his miracles to the siddhi or yogic power Bhutajaya — conquest over the five elements. “Fire will not burn such a Yogi. Water will not drown him.”