Sadhu Indians are religious ascetics holy persons in Hinduism and Jainism who have renounced the worldly life. They are sometimes alternatively referred to as yogi and sannyasi. A Sadhu's life is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa (liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth), the fourth and final aśrama (stage of life), through meditation and contemplation of Brahman.
Amar Bharati is a Sadhu who for the last 45 years has been holding his hand raised without once putting it down. He chose to become a Sadhu in the 1970s whilst working at an Indian bank, living a modest life with his wife and three children. Following an epiphany out of nowhere which made him choose to leave his family, job, and friends, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to Shiva, a god from Hinduism. At first, he still felt the temptation to do things that were not permitted as a monk, that is why he needed to do something more drastic to truly consolidate his religious beliefs.
In 1973 he chose to raise his hand and hold it up for the rest of his life in order to show his faith and appreciation towards Shiva. When asked why he is holding his hand up he always responded that this gesture is to militate against wars and support world peace as well as being a way to show his respect towards Shiva. At first, the pain in his hand was terrible, but the pain never outweighed his dedication. After the first two years, he started losing any sort of sense in his hand and with that also the pain started to go away.
Bharati is still holding his hand high and he is not planning to put it down any time soon. Even if he was to put his hand down, his muscles are severely atrophied, and most probably lowering his hand would cause permanent nerve damage in the arm, therefore he is better off alone keeping his hand up for the rest of his life, not only due to health reasons but also for spiritual reasons.
The 1908 Summer Olympics were to have been held in Rome but Italy pulled out after the 1906 eruption of Mt Vesuvius. Although the cost of reconstruction was blamed, it was also thought that this was a convenient excuse, the Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Gioletti having declared that the Olympic Games were “a complete waste of money”.
With an Anglo-French exhibition being planned for London, it was agreed to incorporate a sports stadium for a cut of the takings.
Unfortunately, things did not run smoothly:
- Unlike the 3 previous Olympics, athletes competed as national teams rather than as individuals, so that flags of all the competing nations would be displayed at the stadium. They forgot to fly the Swedish and American flags. The Swedes stormed out of the stadium in protest. The Americans refused to dip their flag at the Royal box, a custom surviving to the present on principle of not deferring to a foreign power. The Finns were told to march under the Russian flag but refused and marched flagless. The Irish, told to march under the Brit flag, refused to march at all.
- Every entry in the tennis was British. One of the finalists injured his hand and could not play, his opponent won the gold without hitting a ball.
- The motor boating was a washout because of gales.
- Only one team, Australia, turned up to contest the rugby gold medal. Britain’s top rugby players were in Australia on tour.
- The swimming events and the fishing competition were held in the same specially-built pool but unfortunately the water was not changed. The water became so murky that swimmers said that visibility was less than 15 cm (6 inches).
A judge walked across the athletics field and was speared by a flying javelin.
- The American shot putter was accused of deliberately dropping his shot on the foot of his Brit opponent.
- As with previous Olympics, the host nation provided the judges. The Americans complained of bias on the part of the Brit judges, illustrated by Brit middleweight boxer Johnny Douglas getting a split decision from the event referee, Douglas’s father.
- In the men’s 400m race, 3 Americans lined up against one Brit. The Americans were the favourites, having won all the sprints in previous Olympics. The Brit was blocked by the American trio on the final bend and forced off the track. Blacking, pushing and jostling was considered fair play back then at a time when there were also no marked lanes. The British judges ordered a re-run but the Americans refused to do so, in protest. The Brit runner, Wyndham Halswelle, ran the race on his own to win the hold. The NY Post reported “Our uncousinly competitors have to learn how to win from American athletes, and they still more need to learn how to lose.”
- By the way, Halswelle was disgusted by the whole affair and never ran again, being killed by a sniper’s bullet in France in 1915.