Messiah of the masses

April 2017

Ever since Baba Ramdev burst upon the scene in 2003, he has taken the country by storm in one area after another, making him nothing less than a phenomenon, says Punya Srivastava

It was in the year 2003 that a saffron-clad ascetic with a wiry frame and overflowing black beard sat behind lakhs of TV screens, contorting his lean body into various folds, and jiggling his elastic stomach, while a stunned nation sat gaping at this spectacle. There are millions of yoga teachers, but it needed Baba Ramdev to catalyse the nation into embracing yoga. Nor did he stop there. His instant and electric popularity has made him a messiah of the masses, exhorting them to return to Indian culture and traditions.

His credentials include simplifying yoga asanas and pranayama for the masses, bringing ayurveda to innumerable households, establishing modern-day gurukuls, and creating a wave of swadeshi through Patanjali Ayurveda. From yog- shivirs in Haridwar to yoga demos in the Buckingham Palace, Baba Ramdev has done it all. His sinewy persona demystified yoga and stripped it of its esoterism, making it completely accessible to one and all. The evidence is stark. Public parks are populated with people performing breathing exercises like anulom-vilom, kapaal bhaati and bhastrika early in the mornings, half the middle class in the country sits glued to their television-sets copying his asanas or listening to his discourses on ayurveda. Film actors like Shilpa Shetty and Amitabh Bachchan are said to have learnt yoga from him.

Born as Ramakrishna Yadav in Mahendragarh, Haryana, in 1965, he suffered from a paralytic attack on the left half of his body as a two-and- a-half- year-old toddler. This, he claims to have cured through yoga after he met his first guru, Acharya Baldev, in the gurukul of Jind, Haryana, and started learning Sanskrit and yoga at the age of 14. He did his post graduation and then an indepth study on Indian scriptures at the Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya, Haridwar. He got his deeksha in 1995 from Swami Shankaradev and formed Divya Yog Mandir Trust in 1996 in Haridwar. In 2003 he stormed the nation through his television stint and within three years, in 2006, he founded Patanjali Yogapeeth in Haridwar. There was a time when he and Acharya Balkrishna would prepare ayurvedic medicines themselves – from procuring raw materials to packaging them. Today, Patanjali clinics are scattered across most of north and central India and Divya Yog Pharmacy supplies are in constant demand. His ambitious dream project of Patanjali Ayurved Limited is an extension of his ideology of ensuring holistic wellness
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