KOLKATA // Looking remarkably unlined for his claimed 120 years, an Indian monk claims he is the oldest man to have lived.
Hindu monk Swami Sivananda was born on August 8, 1896, according to his passport. If true, he will have lived in three centuries, but despite his apparent age he remains strong enough to perform yoga for hours at a time.
He is now applying to Guinness World Records to verify his claim. It lists Japan’s Jiroemon Kimura, who died in June 2013 aged 116 years and 54 days, as the oldest man to have lived.
India’s passport authorities confirmed Mr Sivananda’s age from a temple register, the only record many Indians even decades younger have of their date of birth.
However, it would be extremely difficult to independently verify his age.
Mr Sivananda was featured by the Times of India this summer, which took his claims at face value and saying he looked 50 years younger.
From the holy city of Varanasi, Mr Sivananda grew up in extreme poverty and chose to become a monk, saying he owed his age to “yoga, discipline, and celibacy”.
“I lead a simple and disciplined life. I eat very simply – only boiled food without oil or spices, rice and boiled daal (lentil stew) with a couple of green chillies,” he said after a two-hour yoga session in Kolkata, where he had come for a short visit.
Standing 1.58 metres tall, Mr Sivananda sleeps on a mat on the floor and uses a wooden slab as a pillow.
“I avoid taking milk or fruits because I think these are fancy foods. In my childhood I slept many days on an empty stomach,” he said.
Mr Sivananda said he had not come forward to claim the record because he did not seek publicity, but was persuaded by his followers to apply.
The elderly man lost both parents before he was six and was given away by his relatives to a spiritual guru, whom he travelled with around India before settling in Varanasi.
Fit and without any medical complications, he lives independently and even travels alone on trains.
Mr Sivananda, who was born in colonial-era India without electricity, cars or telephones, says he is not enthused by new technology and prefers being on his own.
“Earlier people were happy with fewer things. Nowadays people are unhappy, unhealthy and have become dishonest, which pains me a lot,” he said.
“I just want people to be happy, healthy and peaceful.”
* Agence France-Presse