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Swami Ramdev: Yoga does it

By rediff Features Desk
January 05, 2006 18:26 IST
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Swami Ramdev is in the eye of a controversy.

Communist Party of India-Marxist MP Brinda Karat claims the yoga guru's medicines contain animal extracts. The swami alleges Karat is an agent for multinational companies and that she is after him because he opposes MNC products.

Things have come to such a pass that the swami's supporters clashed with CPI-M cadres in New Delhi on Thursday.

If all that has got you curious about just who Swami Ramdev is, read on:

Swami Ramdev Maharajji, as devotees call him, began his yoga programmes on Indian television in 2002. He claims that through Pranayama -- the yogic practice of breath control -– all 'incurable diseases' can be cured.

Today, he is one of the biggest draws on Indian television. He can be seen not only on religious channels like Aastha, but also news and features channels like India TV and Sahara One. Millions around the country follow his programmes religiously and use ayurvedic medicines prescribed by him.

Extracted below is a paragraph from the biographical sketch on the yoga guru's web site:

'Rev Swami Ramdev, a celibate since childhood, is well-versed in Sanskrit Grammar, Ayurveda and Vedic Philosophy. A strong Proponent of Indian cultural values, his practical approach to Yoga, research in the field of Ayurveda and the service in the field of cow-breeding, won him several thousands of followers throughout India and made him a living symbol of Indian culture. His detachment from worldly happiness and devotion to social service has made him a phenomenal character in the saintly world.'

Swami Ramdev, according to his web site, is learned in the holy scriptures of Hinduism and has spent a considerable amount of time in the caves of Gangotri -- in Uttaranchal, from where the Ganga emerges.

In 1995, along with Karamvir Maharaj and Acharya Balkrishna, Swami Ramdev set up the Divya Yoga Mandir Trust in Haridwar, Uttaranchal, which sees a regular stream of devotees and is a multi-million rupee venture now. He also runs an educational institution in Haryana where, according to his web site, 'instructions are being imparted not only in Indian culture and philosophy but also in modern subjects like chemistry, physics and computer science etc.'

The outspoken Swami Ramdev is strongly anti-West, and advises people to use cola drinks as toilet-cleaning fluid. He strives for a 'medicine-free world' and firmly believes yoga is the cure for all illnesses.

His web site has a letters section, with testimonials from people who say they have benefited from his yoga programme.

The son of a poor farmer from Kalwa village, Narnaul district, Haryana, Swami Ramdev was born Ram Kishen. He went to the gurukul of Swami Baldev when he was four years old. When he was four-and-a-half years old, he wanted to become a sage. He has four brothers, one of who is in the army.

He says he was struck by paralysis when he was two-and-a-half years old, which he cured through yoga. He also says he was a fat child, and his knees would knock. He says he has never watched a movie.

Now, he says he has been on a diet of milk and fruits for the last two years.

Swami Ramdev reportedly had a portrait of the late Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Madhavrao Sadashivrao Golwalkar as the backdrop for one of his television shows, which are beamed live to 170 countries. For the Bharatiya Janata Party and its affiliates in the Sangh Parivar, Ramdev holds a special status.

In one of his camps, which are attended by hundreds of people, Swami Ramdev claimed Vice-President Bhairon Singh Sekhawat had asked him to hold a camp for patients at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.

Among Swami Ramdev's countless followers are Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia and former Sikkim chief minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari. Delhi Industries Minister Mangat Ram Sharma insists the swami stay in his house when he visits the capital.

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