Saraha is recognized by long hair and beard, often white in colour, and an arrow held in the two hands. He sits in a relaxed posture and wears lay clothing. Sometimes Saraha is depicted in siddha appearance with a skull crown and bone ornaments. If the hand attributes are missing he will then appear similar to Brahmanarupa Mahakala. Sa5aha is included among the identifiable siddhas because of the arrow he holds. This is a unique attribute and not confused with any other siddhi from the five or more systems of the Eight-four Great Mahasiddhas.
Saraha was a brahmin born in eastern India in an area named Roli in the city-state of Rajni. His mother was a Dakini and he was a Daka, a spiritual being with magical powers. Although raised as a Brahmin and tutored in Brahmin law, he was secretly a Buddhist and had been taught by numerous great masters. He lived a double life, observing Brahmin law during the day and maintaining his Buddhist vows at night. Saraha enjoyed drinking alcohol and this offended the other Brahmins. They told the king of Saraha's drinking and pleaded for him to be exiled. When the king began to chastise him, Saraha stated that he did not drink and that he would gladly prove it to him and all the Brahmins. When they were all assembled, Saraha took out a pot of boiling oil and stated that if he were guilty his hand would burn in it, and then put his hand into the boiling oil and pulled it out unscathed. The Brahmins didn't care and continued to yell vicious insults at him, telling the king they had repeatedly seen him drink with their own eyes. Saraha then took a bowl of molten copper and drank it in one gulp and his throat was not burned. The Brahmins continued to tell the king they had seen him drink. He then challenged the Brahmins, saying he would get into a tank of water with one of them and whoever is guilty will sink to the bottom and when he did, the Brahmin sank and not him. He also stated that he would weigh himself with anyone of them and whoever weighed less was guilty. He weighed himself along with one of the larger Brahmins but still was heavier. The king decided that if he possessed such powers then he should be allowed to continue to drink.
Saraha then sang a series of three instructional songs. One was to the king, one was to the queen, and one was to the people of Rajni. These songs became the famous "Three Cycles of Dohas." After he recited these songs the king and the Brahmins all converted to Buddhism and the entire court eventually attained enlightenment.
Saraha then took a fifteen-year-old bride and moved to an isolated location in another country. The master began to rigorously practice meditation while his consort would beg for the food needed to sustain them. One day she cooked him a plate of radish stew but when she went to serve it to him she saw that he was in a deep state of meditation and did not bother him. He remained in this meditative state for twelve years but when he finally came out of it, he asked his wife for the plate of stew she had fixed him twelve years ago. She was upset by the request and questioned him, asking why after twelve years of meditation was he still full of desire for the stew. He was embarrassed and said they should move to the mountains so as to be even more isolated in his meditation and she retorted that it was not necessary for them to move. She explained to him that the greatest solitude comes when one is free from conceptual thought as well as the preconceptions and prejudices of an inflexible and narrow mind. Saraha was inspired by his wife's words and continued his meditation with the sole intention of freeing his mind from conceptual thinking. He began to experience all things as space, seeing the world in its natural state. He attained the realization of mahamudra. Saraha lived the rest of his life devoted to the constant service of others until he and his consort entered the Dakini's paradise.