Grand Yog Shibir at Miramar beach on February 18, 19 & 20, 2023 FROM BHOGI TO YOGI IS NOT EASY! —Baba Ramdev

AT THE MIRAMAR BEACH YOG SHIBIR…Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna Subedi, long term partnership of brawn and brains or vice versa!

YOU have to salute him or least grant him a bow. Simply called Baba Ramdev, the man who brought the discipline of yoga into millions of homes in India through his Astha televisions series. If today yoga is a household word in most Indian Hindu homes it is thanks to Baba Ramdev and of course our very own Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given his blessings and a blank cheque for the promotion of yoga and Ayurveda as well as do anything else the good Baba Ramdev desires. Arguably he is the least controversial godman of the country and perhaps the wealthiest with all his conglomerate of companies?
In this rags to riches story one must hand it to Baba Ramdev that he has come a long, long way from teaching basic yogasan to spreading an awareness of Ayurveda over a popular TV series and now he is keen to have his own Patanjali Wellness Retreat in Goa so that all our Goan bhogi may reap the rewards of wellness and …er…not exactly turning into yogi, but at least achieving better parameters of health vis-à-vis bringing blood pressure down, blood sugar down, cardiovascular risks down, arthritis down and so on and so forth. Who doesn’t want that! To be in the pink of health at 15 or 50 or 70 years of age, plus, plus?

Many followers participated in the yog shibir on all three mornings, Baba Dinesh Vagela and wife Theresa (standing), Dr Ashok Amshekar (sitting on chair); elsewhere a table set up for the sale of havan samagiri for several devotees conducted small havan puja at the shibir to purify the air. From the looks of it Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has become an ardent devotee of Baba Ramdev too!

IF TRUTH be told Baba Ramdev’s large number of aashiq are living proof that if you can discipline your mind and body, heart and soul, you have nothing to lose — but our current diabolical cocktail of fast stress-filled urban life, which is turning out more and more and more young and not so young frustrated, unhappy, depressed human beings! Even at his shibir Baba Ramdev stressed that today’s stress levels are the biggest cause of diseases and ill-health. We need to touch base with the grassroots of our traditional knowledge and religious grounding…our happiness index is dismal. Ask Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who is now constantly talking about it! What will it take to improve the happiness index of Goans?
Some yoga and Ayurveda maybe! At a press conference late the evening he arrived to Goa in capital city Panaji everybody was treated to trademark infectious smiles and humor, as he told media people, “Health is in the DNA of Indians!” Generally speaking, stop concentrating on being bhogi and roghi and concentrate on being yogi at least a little bit, enough to count…there is a childlike enthusiasm about this undoubtedly evergreen vishvaguru which can be quite beguiling (even if you know that the flip side is he a hard-headed ambitious businessman with his partner Acharya Balkrishna, CEO of Patanjali Corporation which runs a host of businesses from yoga centers to consumer goods ranging from groceries to soaps to toothpastes to flours and pulses and flours, and toothbrushes and Ayurveda pharmaceuticals, health products. The latest on his list is wellness retreats for the wealthy and well-heeled).

INDEED, Baba Ramdev is surely one of the 21 billionaires of India! Of course he was happy to be in Goa having fallen in love with Miramar beach. At least that’s the impression one got for after the three-day, at the crack of dawn yoga shibir he conducted on Miramar beach sands, under the open sky as a colourful sunrise beckoned — 1,000 to 2,000 people stretching and swaying their arms and legs under his guidance from high up on a very sturdy rigged stage. The session over he would walk the beach sands and breathe in the air accompanied by his group of followers, fans, admirers, curiosity cats. Clearly, he is in love with Goa.
And in pursuit of a Goa Patanjali Wellness Retreat…that is if the government of Goa or one of his wealthy followers would donate or bankroll some beachside land and the construction of a wellness retreat? Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has promised to help Baba Ramdev out with a memorandum of understanding whatever that means. The yoga guru’s latest catchword is “wellness” and presumably he is anxious to woo a wealthier class of health seekers or travellers from the affluent countries of the world.
“Wellness” presumably incorporating a gamut of Ayurveda and yoga regimes along with naturopathy and other high-end features to soothe and beguile the senses — all set against a luxury setting of accommodation and housekeeping services. Ayurveda programs can come quite highly priced at five-star deluxe retreats set amidst gardens of paradise and fruit orchards and there are any number of them now in India offering the 7 to 21 day de-tox regime of panchkarma, various Ayurveda massages, and of course diagnosis of ailments and prescriptions for cure and wellbeing. Plus, his ashram educational facility in Haridwar (part of his growing complex of Patanjali Sant Kutir Ashram/Patanjali Yogpeeth) turns out young yoga teachers and presumably they’re looking for jobs in wellness retreats.
From all accounts at Haridwar his team of yoga and Ayurveda cater to visitors seeking yoga and health at much lower pricing and many visitors foreign and desi like to divide their time between Haridwar and nearby Rishikesh on the banks of the sacred river Ganga. The Patanjali ashram and yoga and Ayurveda treatment clinics are spread over several establishments and from all accounts there is a basic free OPD center too for those who cannot afford the upper crust accommodation rooms and programs.

TALKING to one of his long-time devotees at the yog shibir at Miramar beach, a Dr Ashok Amshekar who had come all the way from Valpoi, he said “For the last 15 years I have been Baba Ramdev’s yoga and it has benefited me physically as well as brought me mental peace, I do 30 minutes of yoga daily and go walking, do pranayama, my BP has come down…” Dr Ashok had much earlier on been to do a seven-day yoga course at Baba Ramdev’s Haridwar facility and has what he calls a miraculous experience, “On the first day itself while we were sitting down on the ground I got these allergy all over my body, it was very painful. But I went to Rishikesh and bathed in the cold waters of the Ganga river here and my allergy varnished and it has not come back even once!”
A Khushi Ghai shared, “People are here from 5.30 am onwards or earlier to prepare for the morning’s yoga session. Yoga is worth it. I take some of the Patanjali medicines too and my knees feel better, my thyroid is not giving me too much trouble now…” Baba Ramdev travels with his own Ayurveda vaidya (Ayurveda doctors) from his Haridwar establishments and if I want to take a consultation I may visit the impromptu camp set up outside the doors of the Patanjali Mega Store at St Inez circle, “the doctors are there listening to patient’s problems, checking them and prescribing Patanjali medicines.”
The speaker of that morning’s yog or yoga shibir was a Dr N P Singh (a retired government servant) who has become part of Baba Ramdev’s core team in Haridwar and this worthy gentleman spent considerable time briefing the participants into the goodness of making yoga and Ayurveda a way of life. He extolled Sanskrit as the mother of most world languages and the importance of not falling into all the traps of the good life coming to us from the West, “They talk of pressing the nuclear button! We in Bharat talk of values and karuna, not yudh..what do you want to teach your children, war or peace?” So it is time we stopped looking at the West for solutions to our problems, the solutions are here in our own country.
Generally speaking Dr N P Singh’s advice is we as a country stop looking West to solve our problems, instead look East which has better solutions to offer. All this and much more. Say what you like this makes good sense to many including yours sincerely here! So, don’t knock Gurudev Baba Ramdev. There are any number of stories to listen to if you spend some time talking to the people who attend his yoga shibir. At the Miramar shibir several devotees had lit small fires on which they sprinkled a “havan samagrahi” of incense, herbs, woods, etc, “to purify and energise the air around.” Pooja Mangeshkar from Porvorim replied to a query, “Such havan also have medicinal effect on the senses, breathing in the energized havan air benefits the respiration system and is healing…” Pooja and Popatlal are experienced in performing havan puja and do it on request from those who know them.
Most of the yogasan practitioners were made of his regular group members in Goa as well as the group which had come with Baba Ramdev’s entourage; an Aastha van was parked nearby probably to handle all the promotional videography of the event. On the first day of the shibir Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was present participating in the yogasan, twirling his hands this way and that way as the yoga teacher directed and the gathering on the well-laid out flooring with yoga mat or cotton ghadi spread out. Doing a bit of yoga meditation out on the beachside can be very agreeable!
It was a very well organized yoga shibir with some of Goa’s noted business families participating and facilitating Baba Ramdev’s itinerary which apart from the dawn yog shibir included a visit to Kamala Kant’s goshala or cow sanctuary at Valpoi, he also visited Bharat Swabhiman Kamlesh Bandekar’s Ayurvedic Dhanvantari Aushadhalay in Bicholim and received a basket of the first mangoes of the season from Sandhya Kanolkar. All in all one may say it was a rewarding business holiday out for Baba Ramdev of Patanjali healthcare enterprises in Goa!

—Pankajbala R Patel

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