One of India’s most controversial television lifestyle gurus, Swami “Baba” Ramdev, who claims homosexuality can be “cured” by yoga, plans to transform a remote Scottish Island, Little Cumbrae, into a yoga and traditional teaching centre.
Ramdev, a bearded yogi who claims his branch of pranayama yoga cures everything from Alzheimer’s to acne, attracts up to a 20 million viewers to his yoga show broadcast every lunchtime on India TV.
The Scottish owners of Little Cumbrae plan to transform it into a centre for yoga and traditional teaching under the guru’s direction, reports have suggested.
The world’s most popular Hindu guru will attend a ceremony on Little Cumbrae to bless the new project, the creation of an “international base” for his expanding yogic empire.
The tiny island was bought recently for about £2 million by two Scottish followers, Sam and Sunita Podda.
Ramdev is a national celebrity in his homeland, where he has been photographed with Bollywood stars including Shilpa Shetty.
But he is also a controversial figure. His claims that yoga can treat cancer and HIV have been blasted as “quackery of the highest order” and he has been slammed for giving “false hope to ill people”.
The couple who bought Little Cumbrae, Sam and Sunita Poddar, insist that Peace Island will be an asset to Scotland.
The Poddars run the Patanjali Yog Peeth (UK) Trust – a registered charity and sister organisation to Ramdev’s movement in India.
Their website says their mission is “to make a disease-free world through a scientific approach to Yog and Ayurved (alternative medicine)”.
Hundreds of Ramdev’s followers are expected to travel to the island for the opening ceremony.
His critics are unlikely to be happy to see him expanding his global presence.
Mohammed Abbas, of the Indian Medical Association, has blasted Ramdev’s claims for the benefits of yoga.
Abbas says that although yoga is good exercise, “it cannot be used to make ridiculous claims about curing HIV or cancer.
“This is false hope for ill people”.
Another critic, Sanal Edamaruku of the Indian Rationalist Association, has called for Ramdev to be prosecuted for “peddling quackery of the highest order”.
He said: “Claiming such absurdities is against the law.
Baba Ramdev’s current headquarters, a 500-acre site in Haridwar, a pilgrimage town built on a propitious spot where the Ganges emerges from the Himalayas, are likely to provide the model for Peace Island.
The Haridwar site includes a dental clinic, an eye clinic, a surgery for minor operations and a large organic farm that specialises in growing medicinal plants. A pathology lab contains the latest machines from Germany and Japan and workers produce books, DVDs, CDs, soaps, oils and even a soft drink for sale online.
The accusations against Baba Ramdev have done little to blunt his popularity in India, where he is one of a group of elite gurus gaining traction both commercially and ideologically. He has popularised yoga through plain speaking, diatribes against Western lifestyles and a cable TV channel that attracts 20 million daily viewers.
While attacking overseas businessmen — last year he told The Times that Western companies were “looting” India — he has grown a nonprofit organisation that will turn over at least £20 million this year.
The Times story also includes a roundup of other ‘Superstar Swamis.’
The island was bought this summer by Sam and Sunita Poddar. The couple head the Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust (UK), a sister organisation of Divya Yoga, a group Mr Ramdev established in India 15 years ago.
The group’s website says it aims “to make a disease-free world through a scientific approach to Yoga and Ayurveda”.
Intriguingly, Guru Ramdev, who says he overcame paralysis through yoga’s powers, is not the first aesthetic to have been lured to Little Cumbrae. History suggests that a seventh-century nun known as Saint Veya established a religious group on Little Cumbrae. History does not record, however, whether Saint Veya was as flexible as Guru Ramdev or whether she had such kind and generous friends.
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