"The Lion of Pondicherry"
Dr Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj
at Sri Kambaliswamy Madam, Pondicherry, South India.
Pujya Swamiji was the codifier of the Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga system that is now also known as Gitananda Yoga
Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj was born on July 24, 1907, in Maharajganj, northern India, to an Irish mother and a Sindhi father. His father, Sukraj Bhavanani, was a High court Advocate in the Patna High Court and an extensive landowner. His mother Leelavathi was converted to Hinduism through the Arya Samaj rites. The Yogamaharishi received his early schooling at home from his mother. Tragically, his mother died when he was but eight years of age. When he was ten years, his Guru, the great Siddha and Master, Yogamaharishi Swami Kanakananda Brighu, (Ram Gopal Majumdhar) entered his life. For six years, he studied in the Guru Kula of his Master, imbibing not only the traditional education, but also the great mystic sciences of Yoga, Tantra and Yantra. Swamiji often remarked that everything he taught and preached and knew about Yoga, he learned only from his Master during that intensive training. When he was sixteen years of age, his Guru sent him to England to study medicine. After receiving his medical degree, he entered the British Royal Navy to serve as a doctor on board several ships during World War II. He was injured during the war, and used the time recuperating to further his medical education. He migrated to Canada and set up his practice there, also establishing Yoga schools and centres wherever he lived. Pujya Swamiji was one of the pioneers to introduce Yoga to the Western mind in the early 1950s. He was also instrumental in hosting many visiting Yoga Gurus and Swamijis at his centre in Vancouver. In addition to his busy medical practice, he traveled widely lecturing and teaching. He worked several years for the US Atomic Energy Commission in the United States and also took up assignments for World Health Organisation in South America. He returned to settle permanently in India in 1967 and established his Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry. He set up the Ananda Ashram in Lawspet, Pondicherry in 1972. In 1975 Srila Shri Shankaragiri Swamigal appointed Dr Swami Gitananda Giri as Madathiapathy of Sri Kambali Swamy Madam, which was then a dilapidated Samadhi site of around five acres in Thattanchavady near the Lawspet Ashram. Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri undertook the renovation of the ancient Samadhi site with great enthusiasm and built what was acclaimed as the Shanti Niketan of South India and An ideal Guru Kula on the Madam lands. Thus Swamiji who was the representative of the North Indian Brighu lineage also became a representative of the Saiva Siddantha Yoga Tradition of South India. The lineage of Kambaliswamy is said to go back to the Rishi Agasthya himself. Gurus of the Kambaliswamy Madam tradition include Srila Sri Kambaliswamigal, Srila Sri Ambalavana Swamigal, Srila Sri Manikka Swamigal, Srila Sri Shanmuga Swamigal, Srila Sri Velu Swamigal, Srila Sri Subramaniya Swamigal and Srila Sri Shankaragiri Swamigal. Pujya Swamiji became an active fighter for Hindu rights and leader of the Hindu community in addition to his many other numerous duties. He served as vice president of the All India Association of Maths and Ashrams under the president ship of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal the present Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Petam. From 1968 until his Samadhi on December 29, 1993, Swamiji offered every year a six month Intensive Residential International Yoga Teachers Training Course in his Pondicherry Ashram from October 2nd through March 31st. This annual course has been continued uninterrupted to this date. In this intensive 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. per daily schedule, students are instructed in classical Rishiculture Ashtanga (Gitananda) Yoga. Hundreds of Asanas, Kriyas, Mudras, Pranayamas, Raja Yoga practices, Kundalini techniques and higher meditative activities as well as yoga theory are studied in great depth. The Yogamaharishi used to tell his students, In six months I will give you enough material to occupy your Yoga Sadhana for not only one, but several lifetimes. In addition to this busy teaching schedule, in which every single class was taught by the Yogamaharishi himself, he also edited from 1970, an international English monthly Yoga journal YOGA LIFE. He wrote twenty-five books on the subjects of Yoga and made ten world tours and more than twenty All India tours. He was the Chief Guest for innumerable Yoga, Medical and Scientific Conferences, Seminars and meetings held all over India and was in great demand as a speaker because of his immense and charismatic vitality. Known as the Lion of Pondicherry he was a great example of an ancient Yoga Rishi (Seer). Majestic in bearing and manner, with luxurious flowing beard and hair, and a magnificent, booming, powerful voice, Swamijis dynamic personality captured the hearts of people wherever he went.
Pujya Swamiji was Patron and President of hundreds of Yoga and Scientific Organisations World Wide. Notably he was Patron of the Indian Academy of Yoga with headquarters at the famous Banaras Hindu University. This is an organisation of eminent Yogis, professional men, scientists and doctors interested in Yoga. He was President of Vishwa Yoga Samaj, a World Wide Organisation of Yogis, and Vice President of the All India Association of Madathiapathis. He was also the Governor-General for Yoga (1992-1995) in the World development Parliament (Vishwa Unnayan Samsad) with headquarters in West Bengal, India. He trained tens of thousands of students in Rishiculture Ashtanga (Gitananda) Yoga. His students have established more than 135 centres of Yoga in 30 countries around the world.
He received many honors in his lifetime. He was chosen by the Ministry of Health, Government of India, New Delhi, as a Governing Body Member of the prestigious Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy in March 1986and he held this post till his Mahasamadhi in 1993. He was awarded YOGA SHIROMANI by the then President of India Sri Zail Singh at the World Yoga Conference held at the Asian Village, New Delhi in December 1986. The Vishwa Unnayan Samsad at New Delhi honoured him in 1992 with the title Father of Modern Yoga Science. Pujya Swamiji had himself organised five World Conferences in Pondicherry, attended by hundreds of professional persons and Yogis from all over the world. He sponsored the First Ever International Yoga Asana Competition in Pondicherry in 1989. Since that time an International Yoga Competition has been held each year in various places in South America, India and Europe. He was one of the driving forces behind Yoga Sports. In this regard he is considered the Founding Father of the Yoga Sport Movement. Due to his inspiration and support, the Government of Pondicherry instituted an annual International Yoga Festival from January 1993 in Pondicherry, which features lectures by eminent speakers, Yoga Asana Competitions, and Yogic cultural programmes etc. Due to his influence, the Government of Pondicherry has also instituted Yoga teaching in all Government schools from 1997.
Pujya Swamiji collaborated with many films makers in making educational films on Yoga, including the famous film MUDRA by Rajiv Mehrotra. He also was the guiding spirit behind the immensely popular television series YOGA FOR YOUTH, directed by Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani which has been broadcast for several years from 1989 over Doordarshan, Indias national television network.
Swamiji was a great scientist and researcher and presented more than thirty papers on his scientific research into Yoga at various Conferences throughout India. He collaborated with scientists from leading institutes throughout the country including AIIMS in New Delhi, NIMHANS in Bangalore, DIPAS (Indian Defense Institute) in New Delhi and JIPMER in Pondicherry.
Swamiji entered Mahasamadhi on the auspicious day of Arudra Darshan on Wednesday, December 29, 1993 at 2.20 a.m. He was placed into Samadhi by his son and successor, Yogacharya Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani with all honors due to a Madathiapathy of his status in Sri Kambaliswamy Madam at Thattanchavady, Pondicherry on December 30, 1993. His Samadhi has become a famous pilgrimage place for all those seeking the blessings of this great modern Yogamaharishi, who embodied so well the spirit of the ancient Hindu sages in a modern twentieth century body and mind.
RISHI CULTURE ASHTANGA (GITANANDA) YOGA
TRADITION, TEACHINGS AND INSTITUTIONS
Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri founded three institutions in Pondicherry, India to propagate the teachings of Rishiculture Ashtanga (Gitananda) Yoga. His ten of thousands of students worldwide have established more than 135 Centres of Rishi Culture Ashtanga (Gitananda) Yoga in thirty countries. All these centres propagate the classical Ashtanga Yoga taught to the Yogamaharishi by his own Guru Yogamaharishi Swami Kanakananda Brighu. Swami Kanakananda belonged to a Paramparya that traced their lineage back to the great Rishi Brighu. Swami Vivedishananda and Swami Purnanada Brighu were the Guru and Paramguru of Swami Kanakananda. This classical Yoga System, passed down through generations of Bengali Tantric Gurus, was given a modern and scientific shape and expression through the medical background and cosmopolitan experience of Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri. In 1975 Srila Shri Shankaragiri Swamigal appointed Dr Swami Gitananda Giri as Madathiapathy of Sri Kambali Swamy Madam, which was then a dilapidated Samadhi site of around five acres in Thattanchavady at Pondicherry. Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri undertook the renovation of the ancient Samadhi site with great enthusiasm and built what was acclaimed as the "Shanti Niketan of South India" and An ideal Guru Kula on the Madam lands. Thus Swamiji who was the representative of the North Indian Brighu lineage also became a representative of Saiva Siddantha Yoga Tradition of South India.
The lineage of Kambaliswamy is said to go back to the Rishi Agasthya himself. Gurus of the Kambaliswamy Madam tradition include Srila Sri Kambaliswamigal, Srila Sri Ambalavana Swamigal, Srila Sri Manikka Swamigal, Srila Sri Shanmuga Swamigal, Srila Sri Velu Swamigal, Srila Sri Subramaniya Swamigal and Srila Sri Shankaragiri Swamigal.
Dr. Swami Gitananda was often called The Father of Modern Scientific Yoga. He was also acclaimed as one of the five leading exponents of Ashtanga Yoga in the twentieth century and one of the pioneers in making Yoga understandable to the Western mind.
His total command over the English language and his wide worldly experience gave him a unique and cosmopolitan approach. This made the ancient wisdom accessible to those conditioned by the twentieth century, materialistic life style. Pujya Swamiji propagated this body of Yogic knowledge, which he termed RISHICULTURE ASHTANGA YOGA, through his writings, books, through his worldwide teaching and lecture tours and through seminars, workshops, and conferences as well as through the monthly magazine YOGA LIFE. The main vehicle for imparting this RISHICULTURE ASHTANGA YOGA, however, was the intensive six month residential Yoga Teachers Training Course that he offered every year from October 2nd through March 31st in Pondicherry, starting from 1968. This International Yoga Teachers Training Course has been held for six months each year since that time without break. In a rigorous, yet exciting and enjoyable schedule starting at 5 am each morning and going on till 9 pm. each night, the student is totally immersed in Yoga Sadhana under the watchful eye of the Guru. Pujya Swamiji also designed his Ashrams as a Guru Kula, the traditional setting in which ancient spiritual wisdom was always imparted. The environment is half of the teaching, the Yogamaharishi often remarked. Hence, in the Guru Kula, the student imbibes automatically, as does a child in the womb of his mother, the basic Yogic thoughts and habits necessary to live a spiritual life.
In this well-structured, disciplined six-month course, the Yogamaharishi taught enough to last the students for several lifetimes of evolution. He taught 384 Asanas, Kriyas, Mudras and Bandhas. He put much emphasis on the Shat Karmas, the traditional cleansers of the Hatha Yoga system, as well as several nerve and sub-conscious mind cleansers peculiar to the Rishiculture Ashtanga (Gitananda) Yoga tradition. Students are taught how to fast, how to cleanse themselves inside and out. Swamiji claimed that the Rishiculture system included 120 classical Pranayamas, of which scores are taught in the in residence training. Higher mind development practices as expounded in Raja Yoga, including Chakra awareness using Mantra, Yantra, Mandalas, Bijas and Pranayamas are also taught. Emphasis is placed on studying and understanding the Yogic scriptures, especially the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Yoga Upanishads, Yoga Vashistha and others. Much emphasis is given to Yoga theory and the Yoga view of the Universe. The students also are given a chance to develop artistic talents through the medium of the South Indian sacred arts including the temple dance, the Bharat Natyam and classical Carnatic vocal music. Bhajana sessions help cleanse and lighten emotions. Basic Pujas, rites and rituals, are also taught to give form and stability to daily life. The students are also initiated into the daily life of the Hindu culture, so they may understand the roots from which the great Yoga science has sprung. The Yogamaharishi also cautioned his students, There can be no spiritual development without Yama and Niyama, the moral and ethical disciplines of Ashtanga Yoga. Much time is spent in each course discussing vital moral and ethic questions. Students are also counseled in these matters if the Guru feels they are straying from the path.
Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri attained Samadhi on December 29, 1993, but the Six Month International Yoga Teachers Training Course continues to be held each year from October 2nd through March 25, under the direction of his chief disciple and Ashram Acharya, Kalaimamani Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani and Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, his son and successor who is a medical doctor.
Rishiculture Ashtanga (Gitananda) Yoga is also imparted through more than twenty-five books available through the Ashram, including titles on Raja Yoga, Yoga and Sport, Siddhis and Riddhis, Mudras, Yoga Samyama and others. The most important written work and perhaps, the magnum opus of Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri is his 52 lesson Correspondence Course in Yoga entitled YOGA: STEP BY STEP. This remarkable 500-page volume is a complete introduction to Rishiculture Yoga step-by-step, with hundreds of drawings, photos and illustrations, divided systematically into lessons for easy practice and absorption. Thousands have undertaken this Correspondence Course and have proclaimed that it has brought life transforming changes.
Those who wish to enroll in the Six Month International Yoga Teachers Training Course must first qualify by undertaking the Correspondence Course YOGA: STEP BY STEP as a preparation for in-residence training.
The Yogamaharishi founded three institutions in Pondicherry. He was Madathiapathy of the SRI KAMBLISWAMY MADAM, Thattanchavady, Pondicherry-9. He was interred in his Samadhi on the Madam premises and his shrine has become a world pilgrimage site. Religious rites and rituals of the Ashram and various religious festivals, Bhajanas and Carnatic Music sessions are held at this holy Samadhi site that is more than 130 years old. The second Institution founded by Pujya Swamiji in Pondicherry in the INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR YOGA EDUCATION AND RESEARCH (ICYER), built on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, six kilometers north of the city of Pondicherry. This modern centre has hostel facilities for 25 persons and is well designed to accommodate the teachings of the Six Month In-Resident International Yoga Teachers Training Course. The third institution founded by the Yogamaharishi is YOGANJALI NATYALAYAM, the Ananda Ashram City Centre, located in downtown Pondicherry. This Centre caters to the needs of the local population of Pondicherry and has more than 300 students on the rolls at present. Classes in Bharat Natyam, Carnatic music and Yoga are imparted here to hundreds. A professional standard Bharat Natyam troupe has also developed from this centre, which performs in prestigious programmes and cultural festivals all over India.
Those who are interested in joining courses or obtaining the publications of these institutions may write for further information to:
International Centre for Yoga Education and Research (ICYER)
16-A, Mettu St, Chinnamudaliarchavady,
Via Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu -605 104.
Tel: 91-413-2622902, 2241561
Cell: 98423 11433