Prince Siddhartha came to be known as the Ascetic Gautama after taking leave from his second teacher. He wandered from place to place in Magadha and decided to live and practice in the forest of Uruvela. He found the place to be beautiful and worthy to live and meditate in as the forest was calm and pleasant. He thus began his struggle to seek truth by the means of enduring suffering.
5 young men, who too had become ascetics, sought him and eventually met him at his new abode. They were Kondanna, the one who had predicted his Buddhahood, and four sons of other sages: Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji. They joined his company and decided to struggle together and practice various forms of ritual tortures with him. They looked after him and encouraged him to strive to endure more pains. They were convinced that doing so would eventually lead to his enlightenment.
It was believed that one cannot gain enlightenment unless one is fully detached from pleasures of this world. Interpreting it as instead making one’s body suffer and torment. Thus, the company of these 6 monks did the same and endured various forms of pains.
Gautama practiced fasting, he used to live on a grain of rice a day, and then, nothing at all. This affected his body and he became frail and weak. Among other methods he would practice was the practice of holding one’s breath for a long time until it started to hurt violently. He would later describe his efforts in great details in the Sutras.
For six years, he would endure such practices. He eventually realised that such struggle was futile and he is not getting any wiser or getting close to his goal. He then began to beg for food to build his body back. Upon seeing this, his five companions left him in disappointment.