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The Yogic Stance
Kaivalyadhama in Lonavla is the path and destination for all seekers of calm

The famous tourist hill station of Lonalva, built by the British may be better known for its breathtaking waterfalls and crunchy chikkis, but followers of the soulful path have been streaming into this beautiful place for other, less frivolous reasons. The Yoga ashram ‘Kaivalyadhama’ has been drawing young and old alike for many years now, offering the unprecedented benefits that come with practicing Yoga. Established in 1924 by Swami Kuvalayananda, Kaivalyadhama was conceptualized as an institution that would offer and propagate health and well-being through Yoga, which would be supported by scientific evidence.

The place: Finding Kaivalyadhama in Lonavla is easy, its formidable reputation built in over 80 years draws people from all over the country, especially Mumbai and Pune. However, it’s not just people from India who seek the goodness that Kaivalyadhama offers; the ashram receives a lot of international guests too.

Kaivalyadhama is built over approximately 20 acres of green land, flanked by the Sahyadri hills, but the Samiti or Trust (Shriman Madhav Yoga Mandir Samiti, commonly known as the Kaivalyadhama Samiti) owns around 150 acres of property. It was originally given to the founder, Swami Kuvalayananda, by Maharaja Sarjerao Gaikwad. It was on this land that Swamiji established the institute in 1924. His mission was to perpetuate Yogic teachings in the classical tradition, albeit with a scientific base. From the 1920s to this day, Kaivalyadhama continues to live this vision.

The organisation: Kaivalyadhama, today, is a multi-tiered organization that works on many levels, under the chairmanship and spiritual tutelage of Swami Maheshananda.

From a single building entity that housed a Scientific Research Department, it has grown to a place that comprises the Kaivalya Vidya Niketan School, the Gordhandas Seksaria College of Yoga & Cultural Synthesis, the Philosophico-Literary Research Department, the Yoga Mimamsa Publication Department, and the S.A.D.T. Gupta Yogic Hospital and Health Care Centre.

While each centre makes its own valuable contribution, it is the hospital and health care centre where people accrue the most benefits of the Yogic way.

The Kaivalyadhama experience: I sought to find out what it was about this unassuming little ashram that has people coming to it from all over the world, over and over again. I reached Kaivalyadhama late in the evening, and was led to my room by the security guard. Life at the dham is much organised, and the administration of the place closes sharp at 5 pm. Most visitors choose weekly packages, which are from Sunday.

My room is within a simple-looking villa – one of the many where guests are put up. Apart from an AC and a TV, there are no other frills – no dressing table in the room and no toiletries in the bathroom. I realise that the setting is spartan by design, priming a participant for the simple living that Yoga and Ayurveda promote. For those who are not equipped with these, a small store within the precincts sells odds and ends like soaps, shampoos, biscuits, etc.

After quickly freshening up, I head for an early dinner at the large common dining hall at the health centre. This is where all guests eat three times a day, and exchange notes and pleasantries. The fare is simple, vegetarian cuisine prepared in accordance with Ayurvedic principles and the choices are limited. Those following anti-obesity or similar programs have different, customised diets.

Post dinner, everybody heads to the library, where the resident medical officer and Ayurvedic physician, Dr. Sharad Bhalekar is to give a small lecture. This hour-long informal talk after dinner is a standard practice, where not only are people illuminated about certain theoretical aspects of the program, but also encouraged to ask questions and share feedback. Tonight’s topic is ‘Stress, its effects on health and yoga practices to help control it.’ There are no mikes, no PowerPoint slides, no printed material. The speaker simply discusses the core concepts and solutions in a mix of Hindi, English and Marathi keeping in mind his 30-strong mixed audience.

When I say mixed audience, I do not just mean people speaking different languages. The group is diverse in terms of nationality,

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gender and age. Surprisingly enough, a lot of families come to Kaivalyadhama, and it’s quite common to see all three generations of a family attending, small kids included. Every week, a batch of about 30 to 40 people enrolls for various programs, and they are divided approximately into groups of 10, depending on their choice of program…Read the full version of this story at

Issue 7 Page 66

Writer | Urmi Chanda-Vaz

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