A 35-year-old tea picker in Alipurduar, India, is getting tailed by followers every day -- mainly because the 14.5-inch tail growing out of his back makes them think he's a living god.
Chandre Oraon has had his tail since birth and some Hindus believe it's a sign he's an incarnation of a monkey god known as "Hanuman," Barcroft TV reported.
It isn't just the tail that makes believers think he's a monkey god. Oraon's job picking tea leaves requires him to climb up trees just like a monkey.
Worshippers from all over India travel to his home in hopes of touching his tail and getting blessings.
One woman, Monika Lakda, said she travelled overnight to see Oraon at his small makeshift shrine, hoping he would be able to cure her nephew's fever.
"We gave him medicine but it did not work. So we came to Chandre to seek his blessings. The baby recovered soon after that," she said, according to the Daily Mail. "We believe that Chandre is an incarnation of Hanuman. They say he was born on the Holy Hanuman day. So we have faith in him."
Not all people believe Oraon's tail is a sign he's a god.
Bhushan Chakraborty, the local medical officer, told the Indian Express that despite Oraon's outward appearance, he's no monkey god.
"He climbs up trees, behaves like a monkey and is a strict vegetarian, but he is no god and his condition is just a congenital defect," Chakraborty said.
Oraon's condition is actually a form of spina bifida, when the spinal column does not close all the way down.
Some people with the condition develop growths on their lower back or tufts of hair, according to Dr. Scott Meyer, a member of the neuro-spine team at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.
"The combination of a membranous sac with a tuft of hair could certainly produce a likeness to a monkey's tail,” he told The Huffington Post.
Most doctors recommend patients with tails like Oraon's have surgery to put it back into the body, but he refuses to have any work done on his vestigial tail.
“Once my mother chopped off my tail when I was young. Soon after, I got a high fever and I was very sick. My mother told me that I almost died," he said, according to the Mirror. “After that, everyone said I must keep the tail. My family said they felt me getting sick was a sign that my tail was divine."
It hasn't been easy. Kids used to make fun of Oraon's tail and, despite his fame, he lives in humble dwellings and can't afford to build his dream temple.
Even worse, he was rejected by more than 20 women before he met his current wife, Maino, and she's not exactly happy living with a living god.
“He doesn’t look good. My mother and my father passed away when I was young. So my brothers wanted me to get married. So I had to compromise," she said according to the Mirror.
Oraon isn't the only alleged monkey god in India.
Arshid Ali Khan, a 12-year-old boy in Chandigarh, India, has what looks like a 7-inch tail sticking out of his back.
Like Oraon, he's worshipped as a living incarnation of Hanuman, and has faithful followers who refer to him as "Balaji."
He also doesn't want surgery to have it removed, despite a serious risk of infection.
“I love my tail. It’s a gift from God. It’s unusual, but people respect me and bow before me because of it," he said, according to the Sun. "I feel special.”
About 40 cases of human tails have been reported according to a study by the People's Journal of Scientifc Research, but you don't necessarily need the condition to have one.
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