When Baba met Balkrishna

Author Bhavdeep Kang
It was inevitable that the Arya Samaj should have been a major influence on young Ramdev or, as he was known then, Ramkishen Yadav, one that eventually shaped his career and engagement with public activism. At he age of ten, Ramkishen discovered the founder–philosopher of Arya Samaj, Dayanand Saraswati. “By the time I was fifteen, I had read all his works,” said Baba Ramdev. He was at pains to explain that it wasn’t so much the Arya Samaj, as Dayanand Saraswati’s writings, which shaped his outlook on life.

Former BJP general secretary and social activist, K.N. Govindacharya, a long standing friend of Baba Ramdev, views his distrust of ritualism and rampant capitalism, impulse towards systematic change, capacity for unremitting labor and penchant for amassing wealth without giving in to its comforts, as stemming from these early influences.

According to Govindacharya, the other defining feature of the milieu in which Ramkishan grew up was the mutual distrust between farmers and traders in the region. Broadly speaking, it was a cultural divide. The village boys wore pyjamas; the city slickers wore trousers and were mercilessly bullied
for it. The college–going peasants boys presented themselves as “tough guys”, under the influence of whose dadagiri (muscle power) all acquiesced, the shahris (city dwellers) quietly handing over their lunch money to the ganwaars (local yokels) .

There were other dimensions to the rural-urban polarity. The wealth and glamour of the city stoked aspirations while the traders’ physical dependence on comforts evoked contempt . He traders followed Sanatana Dharma, closer to dogma, while the farmers preferred the robust purity of Arya Samaj.

Ramkishen Joined the Gurukul which was located in Khanpur Village, in Kishangarh Ghaseda in the Rewari district of Haryana. Sanskrit, the Vedas, Upanishads, the philosophy of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, meditation and of course, yogic exercise, formed the bulk of the curriculum. Plagued by boyhood ailments which had partially paralysed the left side of his body,he embraced the regimen, exercise and herbal therapy with great enthusiasm and, but for the nerves on the left side of his face, which gave him a permanent squint, he recovered fully.

“As a child, I had boils on my legs, knock knees and a big tummy. Children used to tease me, calling me “petal” (big belly). I also suffered paralysis on the left side of my face.. The effects are still there”, Baba recalled. It was at the gurukul, that Ramkishen adopted Brahmacharya (celibacy) and sanyas - according to him a decision he took when he was just four years old.

From Rewari, the young yogi, now swami Ramdev, moved in the late Eighties to Jind in Haryana, where he joined the Kalva Gurukul headed by Acharya Dharamveer and began teaching in villages across the the state. Soon after, he succumbed to the call of the unknown, a compelling motive force in the lives of renunciates and decided to head towards the Himalayas. Legend has it that he went from ashram to ashram, collecting various techniques of yoga and meditation, until he found himself in a cave near the Gangotri Glacier. And as the story goes here the met the baby- faced Balkrishna, who would become his life-long friend, companion and business partner. He also met other members  of his coterie hereabouts : Karamveer, Muktananda and Virendra.

In 1993, the twenty-nine year old Ramdev decided to move yet again and with in tow, went to Haridwar and joined the Kripalu Bagh ashram under the tutelage of swami Shankar Dev. Two years later, after receiving diksha from his teacher, he was officially recognized as a master in his own right.

[ Excerpted with permission from “: Stories of India's Leading Babas” by Bhavdeep Kang, Westland Books, June 2016. Views expressed are writer’s personal ]

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