Dehradun, March 10
The first endeavour of the state Tourism Department in organising International Yoga Festival at Rishikesh from March 1 to 7 passed off peacefully. The unstinted support of Swami Vishudhanand, who doubled up as event manager, besides a few tremors here and there, left sweet and bitter memories of the event.

The support of Swami Vishudhanand of Sri Swami Narayan Ashram to the management of Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), subsidiary of the Tourism Department, was laudatory. It was he who provided transportation and three meals a day to all the guests of GMVN, all free of cost. The swami also played the role of a perfect event manager. From designing and printing invitation cards, theme booklets to planning the list of programmes vis-à-vis experts on yoga and spiritual experts from his contacts, he did all this smoothly and voluntarily. Swami Vishudhanand said: “I took up this yoga festival as a service to humanity. Yoga is often presented in a distorted form. So I wanted people to experience yoga in pure form. I arranged for sessions on various genres of yoga on 10-12 spots in Rishikesh during this festival.”
He said he offered his help when he came to know that GMVN was dithering on the decision of organising this festival due to its financial constraints. Ashram is supported by Gujarati devotees who fund the ashram and a school of Veda studies.
Another spiritual guru, Swami Amrit Survananad, 70 plus, citizen of Portugal, fetched a lot of attention. He said he came to Rishikesh long ago in his youth and was so enamoured by yoga and spirituality that he not only embraced asceticism but also opened some 37 yoga centres and began holding an international yoga festival in his country.
The credit of success of the festival also goes to GMVN officials such as General Manager, HD Pandey, and managers BD Petwal and DS Negi . GM, Pandey, said: “GMVN employees and officials worked tirelessly to make this challenging event a success. All of them deserve the credit for the success.”
The faux pas such as absence of any yoga guru in the banners and hoarding, which carried only the photos of political leaders put up throughout the city in wake of yoga festival exposed the politically inclined mindset of bureaucrats. Similarly, absence of officials of another tourism wing, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board, in this important event of Tourism Department bared the fissures between these two branches. Thirdly, despite mentioning in the invitations, GMVN failed to hold cultural programmes on March 3, given to mismanagement at the backdoor. However, the Art of Living team held the fort and enthralled the audience with their soulful bhajans. An accounts officer from GMVN headquarters took away the entire cash from Rishikesh branch in the middle of the festival on March 2 morning, without informing the GM or other officials about it. This led to so much ruckus and discontentment that clouds of cancelling the event hovered on the scene. The situation, however, was handled well by GM Pandey.
The number of those ashrams/hotels which showed willingness in participating in the festival organised by the Tourism Department for the first time at Rishikesh increased from 12 to 24 by February 28. Basking in the success of the festival, they shared their personal experiences with The Tribune.
General Manager, Ganga Kinare Hotel, Pradeep Semwal, said: "The state Tourism Department has made a new beginning by opening the doors of this festival for every one. Our hotel has been conducting such events from since 1980. From 1992, the state government began favouring Parmarth Niketan Asharm and stopped giving us patronage." He showed photos of celebrity guests such as actress Hema Malini and yoga guru BKS Iyenger during such events. Elaborating on the efforts put by his hotel for the yoga festival this year, he said: " We held special Gangaji arti early in the morning and at sunset time and offered satvic food made of organic vegetables and herbs, minus onion or garlic, and jhangora rice with bransh flower juice. Yoga and spiritual sessions were also held after periodic intervals."
Deviating from commercial concerns on this pious occasion, the hotel also showed streaks of philanthropy by allowing students of AIIMS, Seema Dental Collega, PG College and DS Public Schools of Rishikesh to participate in these sessions free of charge.
Caretaker of Om Arogaya Yog said that the forte of their ashram was arogaya yoga, meaning health yoga. So they held special classes focusing on diverse ailments and related yoga therapies as a counter treatment for them. The classes were also held to teach participants about natural herbs or plants, which grew around them and had astounding medicinal properties.
Manager of Ganga Resorts BD Petwal said they did not get much time to prepare on a war-footing level for such an important event, announced only a month ago before the D-day. He said he would start the preparations from the beginning itself for next year's festival by taking contact numbers of those who showed interest for such events and also tying up with renowned yoga and spiritual gurus.
Manager of Divine Resort SK Kukreti said the festival presented an opportunity for domestic tourists to learn about the pristine yoga and its varied forms as earlier a special package of yoga had been offered to lure foreign tourists by an ashram which enjoyed monopoly and, hence, targeted it's niche foreign audience.

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