Two men attacked an 80-year-old, self-proclaimed holy man in southern India and chopped off his right leg, apparently believing it had magical powers, police said Thursday.

Yanadi Kondaiah, who claimed that those who touched his leg would be cured of illness or have wishes granted, was hospitalized in serious condition after the attack Tuesday, said R. Ravindranath Reddy, a senior police officer.

"We are looking for the miscreants as well as the leg," Reddy told The Associated Press by telephone from the Chittoor district, a remote area 340 miles south of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.

"This seems to be a case of superstition. The two people might have taken away the leg hoping to benefit from its magical powers," said Pendakanti Dastgiri, the police officer handling the case.

Superstitions, belief in magic and the occult remain widespread in much of rural India.

Kondaiah told police that two men offered him a drink as thanks for previously helping them with his magical touch.

After he passed out drunk, the men chopped off the leg below the knee with a sickle and left him to die, said Dastgiri, adding that passing villagers found him and took him to a hospital.