BY VEENA RAO
Photos by Photography by Vinod
Atlanta, GA: Baba Ramdev mesmerized close to 1500 people at Ashiana Banquet Hall in Global Mall on September 30 with yoga, pranayam and a discourse punctuated with his thoughts on society, corruption and his vision for a new India.
The yoga guru’s Atlanta visit hosted by his Patanjali Yogpeeth (USA) and Bharat Swabhiman (Overseas) also included a stop at the Gandhi statue at MLK Center, a reception by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s staff at Atlanta City Hall and a yoga camp that was attended by over 300 enthusiasts the next morning.
At the public event at Ashiana, Ramdev built an easy rapport with the audience. He expressed his appreciation at the remarkable achievements of Indians in America. “You have shown that nothing in impossible. You have even overtaken the Jewish people in per capita income.” He urged Indian-Americans to expand their influence in the US, and get into politics (raj yog), “like the Jewish.”
Alluding to his own ambitions, Ramdev said, “They say a yogi should not do this or that. But history proves that the greatest human achievements were by yogis- not bhogis or rogis.”
Speaking about corruption and the challenges facing India, he said, “A ‘lootera’ family has plundered the country more than the Mughals did.” Amidst laughter from the crowd, he added, “ABCD now refers to ghotalas (scams). A for Adarsh housing scam, B for Bofors, C for Coalgate and D for Daamadji ghotala.”
Ramdev said that he was sure history would be written in the 2014 elections.
“I will give my life if necessary, but I promise to find a cure for its ills.” Like Martin Luther King, he said, he had a dream for a better India and a better universe.
The yoga guru said there was a lot to learn from America, “which has risen in just 70 years through its ‘hosla’ (courage, bravery).” He said India would soon regain its past glory by channeling its brain power through yoga.
“I want to create universities that are bigger than Cambridge and Oxford,” he added.
The Patanjali Yogpeeth Foundation has started work on a Houston center for North America, to promote the science of yoga. The $20 million retreat for spiritual and physical healing will feature housing for seniors, educational programs, and ayurvedic herb gardens.
Ramdev said he was sure there would soon come a time when yoga would be part of every school in the US. He welcomed the recent ruling of a California court that has deemed that yoga is not an inherently religious exercise, and is thus constitutional to practice in public schools.
Yoga means enlightenment and self realization. The ultimate benefit of yoga is the collective realization of society, he said. With his trademark wit, he went on to list the many benefits of yoga and pranayam. “Get your skin, hair and teeth to glow without cosmetics,” he said.
The yoga guru spent part of the evening eliciting testimonials from people in the crowd who had benefited from the regular practice of yoga and pranayam through his DVDS and TV programs, and with the regular intake of his many ayurvedic products. Several people came up to speak about their personal experiences of healing or a healthier life. Some were cured of disease and back pain. A 95-year-old said she could still thread a needle.
Many of the 1500 people present followed the yoga guru’s demonstrations of eight breathing exercises (pranayam) and watched in fascination as he demonstrated several asanas including the surya namaskar.
The free public event was sponsored by Global Mall and supported by Shree Shakti Mandir Atlanta, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, IACA, Shiv Mandir of Atlanta, SEWA International USA, VHP America, Sadhana Mandir, Atlanta, Ekal Vidyalaya Atlanta and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA.
The program began with Global Mall’s Shiv Aggarwal welcoming the yoga guru. Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson presented a Proclamation from the City of Norcross commemorating Ramdev’s visit to Atlanta. Emory Morsberger, Chairman at Morsberger Group and several city of Atlanta officials including Councilman Kwanza Hall were present at the event.
Baba Ramdev at Atlanta City Hall
Earlier in the day, Baba Ramdev demonstrated his yoga asanas and pranayam to City of Atlanta officials at The Old City Council chambers. The program was presented by Mayor Kasim Reed’s ‘A Healthier You” Initiative and The Department of Human Resources.
“Ignorance at several levels- in health, behavior, in our business dealings and at a spiritual level- can collectively lead to problems,” he said. “Yoga can shed light at all these levels and help us lead more conscious lives.”
He recommended 20 minutes of yoga in the morning. “He who does yoga regularly will live up to a 100 without medication,” he promised. “I never fall sick, and neither will you.” Ramdev added that the regular practice of anulom vilom and meditation would ensure a stress-free life.
He said it was his mission to rid communities of disease and hunger, adding that in America, obesity was the main cause of disease.
In his welcome address, Global Mall’s Shiv Aggarwal said Ramdev’s visit was a historic day for Atlanta. “Baba has alternative methods for improving our health and wellness,” he said.
The yoga guru was presented a Proclamation by the City of Atlanta. The officials present were fascinated with the yoga guru’s demonstrations. Speaking to this reporter, Councilman Kwanza Hall said he was motivated to incorporate yoga into his exercise routine.