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Observations placeholder

Ibn Battuta – Rihla – The levitating yogis of Delhi



Type of Spiritual Experience


Muhammad Ibn Battuta (or Ibn Baṭūṭah) (February 25, 1304 – 1368 or 1369) was a Moroccan scholar who widely travelled the medieval world.   Battuta was a geographer, historian, theologian, botanist and author.  Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the Islamic world and many non-Muslim lands, including North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and China.

Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling (تحفة النظار في غرائب الأمصار وعجائب الأسفار, Tuḥfat an-Nuẓẓār fī Gharāʾib al-Amṣār wa ʿAjāʾib al-Asfār), usually simply referred to as The Travels (الرحلة, Rihla). This account of his journeys provides a picture of medieval civilisation and Ibn Battuta’s Rihla are justly seen as one of the great works of world-travel literature, it is still widely consulted today.

During his travels, Battuta visited Delhi, India where he was the guest of a Sultan.  Having read two accounts based on the translation, we are still confused as to which Sultan he visited one account says Abdul Mujahid Muhammed Shah another says Muhammad bin Tughluq [they may be the same person].  The latter was renowned as the wealthiest man in the Muslim world at that time. He patronized various scholars, Sufis, qadis, viziers and other functionaries in order to consolidate his rule. As with Mamluk Egypt, the Tughlaq Dynasty was a rare vestigial example of Muslim rule in Asia after the Mongol invasion.

The Sultan had invited several honoured guests, including Battuta to view the feats of the Sultan’s yogis.

It is difficult, to look on this account as the work of an over active imagination.  It has the advantage of being a first hand account and its veracity is helped by the fact that Battuta admits he was so shocked by the overall ‘show’ that he fainted.

Why make it up?  Ibn Battuta was a simple eye witness and the experience was his own.


A description of the experience

Ibn Battuta – Rihla – The levitating yogis of Delhi

The Sultan sent for me once when I was with him at Delhi, and on entering I found him in a private apartment with some of his intimates and two of these yogis. They were wearing long cloaks and had their heads covered, because they remove all their hair with ashes as people generally remove the hair of the armpits. After the sultan had ordered me to sit down and I had done so, he said to them ‘This distinguished man comes from a far country, so show him something that he has not seen’, to which they replied, ‘Yes’.

One of them squatted on the ground, then rose from the ground into the air above our heads, still sitting. I was so astonished and frightened that I fell to the floor in a faint. The sultan gave orders to administer to me a potion that he had there and I revived and sat up.

Meantime, this man remained in his sitting posture. His companion then took a sandal from a sack he had with him, and beat it on the ground like one infuriated. The sandal rose in the air until it came above the neck of the sitting man and then began hitting him on the neck while he descended little by little until he sat down alongside us.

The sultan said to me, ‘The man sitting is the pupil of the owner of the sandal’. Then he said, ‘If I did not fear for your reason I would have ordered them to do still stranger things than this you have seen.’

I took my leave but was affected with palpitations and felt ill, until he ordered me to be given a draught which removed it all.

The source of the experience

Hindu and yoga

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps