Book Reviews - The making of a mahatma
by Suma Varughese
The Life and Times of Baba Ramdev; Author: Ashok Raj; Published by: Hay House India Hard cover; Pages: 236; Rs. 399
This book by Ashok Raj is an academic attempt to study Baba Ramdev and to place him within the context of today’s westernised culture as well as gauge his contribution through the perspective of India’s enduring yogic and spiritual heritage.
There can be no doubt that a book on Swami Ramdev was long overdue. In the short span of 10 years the swami has spearheaded a health revolution in India as well as in the Indian diaspora. One overhears people quoting him at any street corner and every park in the country is populated by people practising kapal bhatti – his particular favourite in the battery of pranayama (breathing exercises) practices he advocates. One has personally met many people who have successfully used his regimen to heal from arthritis, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. He has got the entire country practising yoga and introspecting on the consumerist lifestyle imported from the West and that is no mean achievement. An indigenous home-grown yogi, his single-handed coup seems to have little to do with the slick marketing techniques adopted by other gurus.
Ashok Raj rightly acknowledges him for going beyond yoga to advocating a social and national resurgence through a mass awakening. Ramdev has strongly appealed to his constituency to avoid MNC products and prefer Indian ones. He is equally vociferous against the fast food culture of the day, and the allopathic approach to healing. In addition, he seems set on transforming the nation spiritually and transcend religious and communal prejudices, support agriculture, environment, and empowerment of women, reform education, and eliminate corruption. Clearly, Swami Ramdev has a key role to play in the shift to Satyug.
At the same time one wonders if an academic dissertation is the way to go. There are lengthy chapters on yoga and yoga luminaries. There is no firsthand interview with the yogi nor are there many accounts of him from devotees and participants in his yoga camps. One would have preferred a more journalistic approach, but even so, it was gratifying to find an acknowledgement of this man’s outstanding impact on modern India.