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Baba Ramdev buys Scottish island

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The island will be the guru’s base overseas.

It’s nothing quite like the buyout of Anglo firms by the Tatas, but iconic yoga guru ‘Swami’ Ramdev has acquired a Scottish isle for about £2 million to set up a wellness retreat.

The Little Cumbrae Island, off the fishing town of Largs in Scotland, will also serve as the guru’s base overseas, where his teachings of yoga as a means to cleanse the body and mind are gaining popularity.

The acquisition itself was carried out by a Scottish couple of Indian origin, Sam and Sunita Poddar, who saw recession and the resultant fall in property prices as an opportunity to expand the base of — the institution founded by Ramdev for scientific research and treatment in yog, spiritualism and ayurveda.

The island property inaugurated today with a ‘hawan’, a Hindu fire ritual, will be administered by the Patanjali Yogpeeth (UK) Trust.

“The island base is not about property as much as it is about spreading Indian values,” Ramdev said to a question if he saw any likeness between his acquisition and those carried out by the Tata Group, which has lapped up British brands Tetley, Corus and Jaguar-Land Rover over the last few years.

“My aim is to turn this island into a peace haven,” said Ramdev, who joins a handful of gurus to have set up international bases. One of them was the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who shot to fame because of his association with The Beatles. He had shifted from Rishikesh to Vlodrop in Netherlands. Swami Ramdev will not move in here just yet.

“Swamiji (Ramdev) will naturally become a frequent visitor to this island,” one of his associates said, when asked if he would spend less time in his Haridwar ashram.

The conch-shaped island, spread over 1.25 sq km and home to a 13th century castle, was put on the block, according to a source familiar with the deal, by its previous owner due to developments related to the credit crunch.

Local media reports on the buyout were rife with taunts on Ramdev’s move to set up the health retreat and rechristen it as ‘peace island’. The Guardian reported that “a nun known as Saint Veya set up a religious sanctuary on Little Cumbrae in the seventh century, the ruins of which can still be seen today. Whether she too claimed that her breathing exercises could cure cancer is sadly unknown.”

The Telegraph’s report on the peace island described Ramdev as “India’s most controversial television lifestyle gurus, who claims homosexuality can be ‘cured’ by yoga.”

Residents of Largs, the nearest fishing town that has of-late reinvented itself as a tourist destination, said they couldn’t care less about such controversies. “Thank God for these small mercies (the retreat and investments into it)... In these times of credit crunch, any money people will spend here is good,” said a local, who wished not to be named as he has found work with the project.

About 1,000 people, mostly disciples of Ramdev and media persons, descended on the island for its inauguration today. Over the next 18 months, Patanjali Yogpeeth (UK) Trust plans to create a world-class health and wellness facility on the Little Cumbrae, island that derives its name from the Gaelic word for shelter or refuge.

“The first five-star Pranayam Yog and Ayurved medicine retreat for international visitors, global peace and harmony office, research centre for rare flora and fauna, technology mission for popular and useful herbs will be opened in 18 months,” the institution’s spokesman S K Tijarawala said. Patanjali Yogpeeth (UK) Trust trustee Sunita Poddar hoped that once the retreat was in place, people would prefer vedic teachings to rock bands. Ramdev’s close associate Acharya Balkrishna put it like this: “There are many ways for people to go astray in the West and there is need for a facility right here in the West to get them back on track.”

Asked about the rationale behind locating the retreat in Scotland, while options were dime a dozen in India, Balkrishna said the Scottish centre would help in reaching out to the youth, “especially the people of Indian origin who have lost touch with their values.” “Our aim is to make ...Cumbrae a worldwide destination with something for the whole family to enjoy,” said Poddar, who founded Lambhill Court Ltd, a care home business.

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