Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram

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Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram
Type Tribal emancipation
Founded December 1952
Founder(s) Balasaheb Deshpande
  • Jashpurnagar, India
Area served Health care, education, basic amenities, tribal sports and preserving tribal culture
Focus(es) Tribal and indigenous communities of India
Motto Nagaravāsi Grāmavāsi Vanavāsi We Are All Bhāratavāsi

The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram is an Indian social welfare organization based in Jashpur in the Chhattisgarh district of India. It focuses on indigenous tribes in remote areas of India and has branches all over India. These branches focus on agriculture, healthcare, child education, sports and culture in their respective regions.[1]


The Ashram was founded in 1952 by Ramakant Keshav Deshpande. Based in Jashpur (214 km from Raigarh), it established schools in Raigarh and Surguja districts - areas with large tribal populations. R K Deshpande worked from 1948 to 1957 with the state's Department of Tribal Welfare.[2]

The Ashram grew rapidly after the emergency was lifted, so much so that in 1977 it acquired a National status (expressed in its new name Bhāratiya Vanavāsi Kalyān Āshram). From 1978 to 1983, the number of its full-time volunteers rose from 44 to 264 (56 of whom were tribals). In Jashpur, a hospital was established, and schools, hotels and centres for apprenticeship in manual trades were also established in 40 villages.[2]

The programs are presently located in 312 districts throughout the country and are supervised by more than a thousand full-time workers. While most districts have primary schools, many other places have residential schools, hostels, libraries and health centers. Important annual events include establishing medical camps, playing traditional sports, and celebrating tribal festivals.

Mode of operation[edit]

Folk dance performance at a tribal congregation organized by Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram

Economic development[edit]

The tribal communities in India suffer from a lack of education and proper health care facilities.To bring them into the mainstream of our country Kalyan Ashram play a very important role.As a result, many carry out disruptive activities. Vanavasi Ashram helps the communities protect their interests and assists them to solve their own problems.[3]

The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram helps with the formation of people's self-help groups. It also encourages smaller gatherings in post offices, provides training for scientific cultivation of cash crops, distributes seeds and seedlings and helps arrange local resources for irrigation. It also helps widows and the elderly get their pensions. The Ashram increases people's awareness by organizing occasional symposiums on current issues like 'Impact of Globalization and Liberalization on Tribal Life' and publishing books and periodicals dealing with socio-cultural aspects of day-to-day tribal life.[1]

The Ashram, by providing the basic amenities like health care, employment, and education, help to prevent the tribes from joining hands with disruptive forces that hamper their development. Their efforts are also directed at conflict resolution between the different tribes which can, at times, indulge in clashes among themselves over petty issues. The Ashram has been promoting the concept that all the tribal groups belong to India and hence are one.[3]


At a school of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram for the Siddis of North Karnataka

The Ashram has a network of single teacher schools across the tribal areas where there are no government schools,[3] based on Swami Vivekananda's saying, "If the mountain does not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. If the poor cannot come to education, education must reach them at the plough, in the factory, everywhere." Many tribal people are now serving in higher government posts at the central and state level. Almost 90% of Hindi teachers in Nagaland state are products of Kalyan Ashram hostels, as well as our one medical officer serving in the central government in Delhi. Many of our former students are selected for state police services and they are serving the nation with excellent commitment.

Tribal sports[edit]

Archery competition conducted by Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram for tribal brothers

The Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram has hundreds of sports facilities and centers across the tribal areas of the countries that promote tribal sports, especially archery. The students from various schools and hostels run by the organization have won laurels in archery at national and international levels.[3]

Limba Ram, belonging to the tribal community of Rajasthan in Northern India and a product of the Ashram, has won many medals and has represented India in the Olympic games. Many other students from different schools of the Ashram across India have won medals at state and the national levels in games conducted by the Sports Authority of India. Ashram has various centers across the country where basic infrastructure is provided to train them in archery and help them preserve the tribal games.[3] Kavita Raut, winner of commonwealth and Asian games athlete, also a product of Vishva Hindu Parishad Nasik is taking training from SAI Bangalore for better performance for the forthcoming Olympic games.

Protecting culture[edit]

The Vanavāsis (Tribals) were called Aboriginals and made victims of divide and rule policy of the British. They were declared to be animists with no religion worth the name. The tribal regions were scaled off as "Protected Areas" to all except Christian missionaries[citation needed]. Now, the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram has begun working in those areas in a spirit of service, equal brotherhood and love. Sanskar Kendras (Devanagari: संस्कार केंद्र) for women and children, schools, hostels, reading rooms, free dispensaries, and village and cottage industries have been started in increasing numbers in all the provinces.

The Ashram helps the tribes protect their rich cultures. It organizes performances of traditional folklore and dances like `Kolatam', `Chakka Bhajana' and `Dhimsa' dance.[3] Among the several events, the important ones include medical camps, traditional sports, and celebration of tribal and major Hindu festivals (like Raksha Bandhan, Hanuman Jayanti, Ram Navami, Govardhan Puja, Indal Pooja and Krishna Janmashtami).[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Govinda Chandra Rath, Tribal development in India, 2006,
  2. ^ a b Jaffrelot, Christophe (1996). The Hindu nationalist movement and Indian politics: 1925 to the 1990. London: C Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd. pp. 322–323. ISBN 1-85065-301-1. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Aiming high: Vanavasi Kalyana Ashram is helping tribal groups achieve self-reliance, The Hindu, Saturday, Feb 25, 2006