This picture shows an Indian Sadhu Meditating with a Snake on Head!
An Indian sadhu meditating upon that supreme consciousness. Om Namah Shivaya.
Hoax or Fact:
An amazing picture of Indian Sadhu shared online since few years purports to show him Meditating -- with a Live Snake coiled up over his head! Yes, the picture is a genuine one.
About Sadhu Pic
The picture in question does show an Indian Sadhu meditating at Prayag ghat along the Ganges in Varanasi, India; having his hair tied in a topknot with a Live Snake. It was taken by Photographer Laurent on 10 December 2008 who shared it on Flickr with a title "Becoming Shiva". He described the Hindu Saiva (Lord Shiva) ascetic as paying his loyalty through worshipping (meditating upon) the Lord Shiva. Emulating Lord Shiva, the Indian Sadhu has extremely long strands of hair (called jata), which is regarded as the 'seat' of his supernatural powers. Those hair are tied in a topknot with a snake that was alive and moving. There's also another picture of the same sadhu taken by Laurent's photographer friend Varun Malhotra. There are great many species of snakes around the world, only some of which are poisonous. So it is difficult to judge whether that particular snake could have been deadly to the Indian Sadhu in meditation. However, there are good number of stories to suggest there's some mysticism associated with Meditation and Snakes.
Snakes, Mysticism and Meditation
Mythology stories in India and many other countries with ancient history talk about the mysticism associated with snakes and meditation. In India, there are also human beings known as Nagas who belong to the snake clan. The Naga Sadhus are known for stripping naked and covering themselves in ash. They control the religious affairs at the world's biggest gathering, the Kumbh Mela. There's this belief that the sacred rituals and practices of the sadhus help to burn off their karma and that of the community at large. There are also ancient statues where Lord Buddha is depicted in meditation pose sheltered by a Naga snake (refer to Image Gallery).
Snakes do not have ears, but they use their whole body in touch with the ground as an ear. Their sense of perception is very keen and sharp and they are very sensitive to certain energies. A coiled-up snake symbolizes Kundalini (Sanskrit word meaning circular/annular, occurring as a noun for "a snake"), a form of Shakti or indwelling spiritual energy that can be awakened to purify the subtle system and ultimately attain the state of Yoga, or divine union upon the seeker of truth. For this reason, during practice of Kundalini Yoga, a coiled serpent is laid asleep at the base of spine of the person meditating, and is then awakened and made to rise up to the crown of his head. More interestingly, there are incidents suggesting snakes are naturally attracted to people under close Dhyana (meditation), i.e. monks meditating in remote areas like jungles.
So a close, in-depth study about this association of snakes with meditation might reveal the facts behind this mysticism/science.