Thursday, June 09, 2011

The rise and fall of Baba Ramdev

If Baba Ramdev's followers are dwindling, post Ramlila grounds, blame it on Hinduism. Hindus have problems gathering around a religious leader, as a religious leader. They quickly transform the person, saffron robes, notwithstanding, to a specialist healer, magician and personal good luck charm. Hindus, therefore, make bad devotees but good clients.

As tradition tells us, Hindus are not given to collective sentiments in their religious observances. The concept of a church or congregation is foreign to them. This is why one can be a pious Hindu yet never set foot in a temple. To be able to host an at- home with your own customised guru is the ultimate Hindu fantasy. This would not work for Muslims, Sikhs or Christians. The idea of a ' communion' is essential in these religions.

Amongst all the pop yogis, Baba Ramdev is probably the best known because he comes on television and, in full view, contorts his body convincingly. Most people in saffron are overweight, and cannot pull in their diaphragms and expose their ribs the way the Baba can. As yoga trooping Indians tend to be potbellied, they look at him with awe.

But, at the end of the day, Baba Ramdev remains a yoga expert. What does this make those who attend his yoga sessions? Clients or devotees? Clients, decidedly. None of them want to be beaten up by the police or have an income tax raid on their humble businesses. At the first sight of pain, they will boot the camp and go home.

If only politicians were to acknowledge the fact that Hindus are not saffron driven outside of the saffron domain our public life would have been less opaque. Hindus may flock to Kumbh Melas in large numbers, even go hysterical when Lord Jagannath gets an annual day out. But for every 100 Hindus in such carnivals a million and more stay back home. This is not because they are irreligious or against superstition, far from it. It is simply because it is too much effort; besides there is the store to run.

The low turnout at Baba's Haridwar ashram these days is because his clients are horrified at the prospect of pain without gain. This is exactly the opposite of what attracted them to the man in the first place. But, as the issue has now become political, they would rather stay home and watch Ramdev's re-runs on TV. For most of them, Baba Ramdev is the Bruce Lee of yoga, and that is how they would want him to be.
Dipankar Gupta in India Today. More Here

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