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This article is about the yoga teacher. For the Hindu folk deity, see Ramdev Pir.
Baba Ramdev
Baba Ramdev
Born Ram Krishna Yadav
1965 (age 51–52)
Said Alipur, Mahendragarh, Haryana
Nationality Indian
  • Ram Niwas Yadav (father)
  • Gulabo Devi (mother)
Titles/honours Honorary Doctorate by Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Bhubaneswar
Founder of Patanjali Yogpeeth, Bharat Swabhiman Trust

Baba Ramdev About this sound pronunciation  (born as Ramkrishna Yadav in Haryana)[1] is a yoga guru known for his work in Ayurveda, business, politics and agriculture. He is best known for popularising yoga among Indians through his mass yoga camps. He founded the Patanjali Group of Institutions. Ramdev has more recently become interested in Indian political issues.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Ramdev was born to Ram Niwas Yadav and Gulabo Devi.[4] He studied Indian scripture, Yoga and Sanskrit in various Gurukuls (schools). He became a sanyasi and adopted the name Swami Ramdev.[5] While living in Kalwa Gurukul in Jind district, Haryana, Ramdev offered free yoga training to villagers.[6] Then he moved to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, where he practiced self-discipline and meditation, and spent several years studying ancient Indian scriptures at Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya.[7]


Ramdev founded the Divya Yog Mandir Trust in 1996. In 2003, Aastha TV began featuring him in its morning yoga slot. There he proved to be telegenic and gained a large following.[8] A large number of people in India and abroad, have attended his yoga camps.[9] He has taught yoga to many actors including Amitabh Bachchan and Shilpa Shetty.[10] He addressed Muslim clerics at their seminary in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh,[11] and has taught yoga in Britain, the United States and Japan. In 2006, he was invited by Kofi Annan to deliver a lecture on poverty alleviation at a United Nations conference.[12] Yogi Haider, considered the face of yoga in Pakistan, says that his ambition is to emulate Ramdev Baba and popularise yoga amongst Pakistanis.[13][14]

Patanjali Yogpeeth[edit]

Main article: Patanjali Yogpeeth
A view of Patanjali Yogpeeth in Haridwar (Uttarakhand) India

Patanjali Yogpeeth is an institute founded for the promotion and practice of Yoga and Ayurveda. It has two Indian campuses, Patanjali Yogpeeth I and Patanjali Yogpeeth II in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, and satellites in the UK, US, Nepal, Canada, and Mauritius.[15]

Ramdev established the Patanjali Yog Peeth (UK) Trust in 2006, with the aim of promoting yoga in the UK. He acquired the Scottish island of Little Cumbrae as a base for these activities.[16][17]

Patanjali Ayurved[edit]

Main article: Patanjali Ayurved

Patanjali Ayurved is a consumer packaged goods company, based in Haridwar, that was started by Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna in 2006.[18] According to a company official, sales in early March 2016 were 45 billion (US$670 million) with monthly sales of 5 billion (US$74 million)–5.5 billion (US$82 million).[19] According to a report by India Infoline (IIFL), at least 13 listed companies would be affected by Patanjali's success including Colgate, Dabur, ITC and Godrej Consumer.[20]

In 2015, the Maharashtra government announced plans to sell excessive material from its Van Dhan Jan Dhan scheme to Patanjali. The government set up this scheme to sell medicinal and herbal products, derived from the forests of Maharashtra, to the consumer in government-established shops.[21] Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar stated that its plan to sell wholesale to Patanjali is an effort to increase production from the Van Dhan Jan Dhan scheme. Members of the opposition party have stated that the forest products are a national asset, and plans to sell them to Patanjali is a form of favoritism.[22]

Political campaigns[edit]

In 2010, Ramdev announced plans to form a political party called Bharat Swabhiman (India Pride). He said that it would contest every seat in the next national elections.[23] A year later, he stated that, instead of forming a political party, he would influence politics by encouraging a groundswell of popular reaction.[24] In 2014, Ramdev announced that Bharat Swabhiman intended to contest some constituencies in the general election of that year and to form alliances with some other parties. It was at this time that he voiced his support for Narendra Modi to become the next Prime Minister of India.[25] His attempts to run yoga camps during that election campaign, allegedly to gain support for Modi, were stymied by the Election Commission of India (ECI) who determined that they were politically motivated.[26] The ECI had also tried to control his use of camps in the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh state elections of 2013.[27][28]

Ramdev founded an organisation called the Bharat Swabhiman Trust in 2009, in part, to support his political activities.[29] The financial arrangements of this and his two other trusts, the Divya Yog and Patanjali Yogpeeth, came under ECI scrutiny during the 2014 elections because of a complaint that they were being used to fund the campaigns of some political parties.[30]

Campaigns against government corruption[edit]

In April 2011, Ramdev called on the government to add punitive powers to the Jan Lokpal Bill, a bill to appoint an independent body that would investigate alleged government corruption.[31] Ramdev announced he would go on an anshan (hunger-strike) at Ramilla Ground in Delhi, on 4 June 2011, to pressure the government into rooting out corruption and repatriating black money.[32] A week before the scheduled fast, the government set up a committee, headed by the chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, to suggest steps to curb black money and its transfer abroad.[33]

When Ramdev arrived at Delhi airport on 1 June, four government ministers met him and tried to persuade him to call off his fast by telling him of the government's initiative on corruption.[34] Talks continued between the two sides and, on 3 June, both sides claimed that a consensus had been reached. However, in the evening, Ramdev announced that he would carry on with his hunger strike.[35]

On the morning of 4 June, 65,000 of his followers gathered at Ramlila Ground.[36] By noon, queues extending up to 3 km (1.9 mi) were chanting Vande Mataram (a patriotic call from the Indian independence movement). In the evening, government minister Kapil Sibbal publicized a letter from Ramdev's camp stating that the hunger strike would be called off if the government honoured its commitments. Ramdev took it as a betrayal by the government and hardened his position.[37]

Shortly before midnight, a Delhi police spokesman announced that permission for the gathering had been cancelled because it was "for a yoga camp for 5,000, not for 50,000 people for agitation".[38] At midnight, a team of 10,000 Delhi policemen and RAF raided the ground when most of the protesters were sleeping.[39] Tear gas shells and a lathicharge were used, tents were set on fire, and water was thrown over power generators to create complete darkness. Ramdev tried to escape capture by disguising himself as an injured woman but was arrested two hours later.[40][41] He was flown back to his ashram in Haridwar and banned from entering Delhi for 15 days.[42] On reaching Haridwar, Ramdev told reporters, "My fast is not over yet and I will continue with my satyagraha (civil resistance)."[43]

Police reported that 53 citizens and ten police were injured and treated in hospitals.[44][45] There were accusations that women protestors had been badly treated by the police.[46] A senior police officer stated that they were forced to retaliate after Ramdev's supporters started throwing stones and flower pots at them.[47] Police also released CCTV footage to prove that no women were beaten by them.[48] One female protestor suffered a spinal injury and, later, died in hospital from cardiac arrest. In a statement, Ramdev said "Her sacrifice is an irreparable loss to the whole organisation ... and her death will not go in vain. We will continue to fight for a corruption-free India."[49]

Aftermath of the Delhi protest[edit]

Ramdev accused the government of cheating him, and alleged that there was a conspiracy to kill him and that he was threatened during a meeting with senior ministers.[50] All political parties, other than the ruling Congress Party, condemned the police action. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata (BJP) said that the police action had been "a shameful chapter in the democracy of this country".[40] BJP leader L. K. Advani called it "naked fascism".[51]

Ramdev was supported by civil societies as well. Activist Anna Hazare termed the crackdown a "strangulation of democracy".[52] He said, "There was no firing otherwise the eviction was similar to Jallianwala Bagh massacre".[53] Protests were held in many different parts of the country including Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jammu and Lucknow [54][55]

Ramdev ended his fast on the ninth day, after being hospitalised two days earlier.[56] His decision to end the protest was praised by politicians from the BJP, Janata Party and Congress Party.[57]

Ambedkar stadium fast[edit]

On 10 August 2012, Ramdev launched another indefinite protest against the government's failure to take action against corruption and to bring back black money. He announced that his future strategy depended upon the governmental response to his protest.[58] Ramdev ended the fast at Delhi's Ambedkar stadium on 14 August 2012, and said he was returning to Haridwar. Seeking the defeat of the Congress Party in 2014, he said, "Congress hatao, desh bachao" (Remove Congress, save the country), adding that except for the Congress Party, all parties were together on the issue of black money.[59]

Controversies and criticism[edit]

Views on homosexuality[edit]

According to Newsweek magazine, Ramdev "detests gays".[60] In July 2009, when the Delhi High Court gave a verdict on decriminalising homosexuality in Delhi, Ramdev said, "This verdict of the court will encourage criminality and sick mentality. This is breaking the family system in India. Homosexuality is not natural and can be treated. If the government brings this law, I will take this matter to the streets of Delhi in protest."[61] In 2011, he petitioned the court to overturn the ruling.[62] He said that gay sex "is against our Vedic culture"[63] and that "I consider homosexuality unnatural and a mental disorder. A bad habit. Many people acquire bad habits and get addicted to them."[8] Ramdev stated that homosexuality could be cured using "yoga, pranayam and other meditation techniques".[64][65]

Labour law violations and animal parts in medicines[edit]

In March 2005, 113 employees of Divya Yoga Mandir Trust began an agitation for minimum wages and employees's rights such as coverage under the Provident Fund and Employees' State Insurance schemes. A meeting resulted in an agreement between the workers, management and the district administration; management agreed to pay minimum wage and not to initiate disciplinary actions against the protestors and, in turn, the workers agreed that they would restore normalcy at the workplace. However, the Trust refused to take back some of the workers, accusing them of committing sabotage. Their case was taken up by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM).[66][67]

Brinda Karat, a senior figure in the CPM, took up the cause of the fired protesters. They told her that human bones and animal parts were used in some herbal medicines manufactured by Divya Pharmacy (owned by Divya Yog Mandir Trust) and provided samples. The samples were tested at government laboratories and the presence of animal materials in the sample was confirmed. However, the source of the samples was disputed, since they had been given to Karat by the protesting workers and not procured by government officials. Karat produced what were claimed to be the prescription and cash receipt obtained from the hospital's medicine counter for the samples provided.[66][67][68] Her remarks drew strong condemnation from several politicians in North India, such as Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Narayan Dutt Tiwari.[69] Subsequently, she received a legal notice on the behalf of a BJP leader in Faridabad ordering her to apologize publicly or face legal action.[70]

Views on AIDS and sex education[edit]

In December 2006, Ramdev claimed to improve the condition of patients suffering with AIDS through yoga and Ayurvedic drugs sold by his Divya Yoga Mandir Trust. He also suggested that sex education should be replaced by yoga education, as a means of AIDS prevention. He told reporters that "Sex education in schools needs to be replaced by yoga education".[71] As a consequence of these public statements, he was sent a cease and desist order by the Indian Union Health Ministry to avoid making such claims in the future, and the civil society threatened legal action.[72] In response, Ramdev modified his statement, saying that the claims were not directly his but those of patients who practiced yoga.[73]

Detention at London Airport[edit]

On 20 September 2013, Ramdev was detained for eight hours at London's Heathrow Airport by British authorities.[74] The British Home Office declined to comment on reasons for his detention but Ramdev's supporters suggested that he could have been targeted by the Indian authorities for speaking out about corruption in India.[74] After being called for questioning the following day, he was allowed to continue the visit and preach yoga at meetings.

Controversial statement regarding beheading[edit]

Ramdev received significant criticism and media attention after he stated that he would have "beheaded" those who refuse to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai were it not for the law of the land.[75] Bharat Mata ki Jai is a traditional slogan expressing reverence for India as the motherland that became politicized during partition. These comments prompted outrage and many prominent personalities called for legal action against him for inciting violence and hate speech.[75]

Awards and recognitions[edit]


  1. Ramdev, Swami (2009). Prāṇāyāma Rahasya: Secrets of Prāṇāyāma, with Scientific Factual Evidence. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd. ISBN 978-81-89235-01-7. 
  2. Ramdev, Swami (2006-03-01). Yog Its Philosophy & Practice. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd. ISBN 978-81-89235-15-4. 
  3. Ramdev, Swami (2005). Aushadh Darshan. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd. ISBN 978-81-89235-24-6. 
  4. Ramdev, Swami (2004). Vitality Strengthening Astavarga Plants (Jeevaniya & Vayasthapan Paudhe). Divya Yog Mandir Trust. ISBN 978-81-89235-03-1. 


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External links[edit]