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Gitananda Yoga: The Living Tradition

The Yoga Parampara of ICYER at Ananda Ashram Pondicherry, South India is the Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga as synthesized by Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri.

The rich Vedic Rishi concepts were received by Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri from his Ashtanga Yoga Master Yogamaharishi Swami Kanakananda Ji, a Bengali saint, who initiated Swami Gitananda (then Ananda Bhavanani) at the age of ten years into this ancient Yoga teaching in Swamijis ancestoral childhood home in Maharajganj, Bihar. Swami Gitananda maintained his relationship with his Guru, who lived in Swamijis ancestoral home, up to Swami Kanakanandas Samadhi on October 26, 1967.

Swami Kanakananda was Head, Department of Mathematics, at Banaras Hindu University in the early 1920s, when one day a disastrous fire destroyed the housing colony in Varanasi, in which he lived with his wife and infant son. Driven nearly insane by the tragedy, Ram Gopal Mujumdar, (as he was then known) ran away into the Himalayas to wander as a Sadhu, seeking peace of soul. In the course of his Parivrajaka, he met Swami Vividishananda, who initiated him into a particularly rich Yoga tradition, which contained many Asanas, Pranayamas and Dharana practices. Swami Vividishananda had learned this esoteric knowledge from his Guru, Swami Purnananda, who was part of a long line of Yoga Gurus. Thus, the transformation from mathematics professor to saint occurred.

Swami Kanakananda became famous for many siddhis. One was his Vak Siddhi. Swami Kanakananda was able to speak for days on end, continuously, without tiring, without sleeping, without eating. Thousands of people would come and go, but he would continue his discourses, uninterrupted. His second Siddhi was that he was, like Arjuna, a master of sleep. He never slept, though he would rest, or sit with eyes closed in Padma Asana for hours. He was also a master of Yantra, the science of number, name and form, and imparted this esoteric teaching of his disciple, the eager young Ananda Bhavanani.

The Paramparai contained knowledge of hundreds of Asanas, Pranayama, concentration practices, and deep meditative knowledge.

Swami Gitananda wrote these words when recalling his Guru,

"It was 1967 and my Guru had just left his body on the 26th of October. I was a little numb inside and I sometimes felt I was just on the edge of great sadness. The light of my life had just gone out, and there was a real sense of loss although I had the sense of Knowingness that he had made it. He was now One with the one. He had lived so long as a Jivana Mukhta in Sahaja Samadhi. Now I would really find out the answer to whether the knowledge I so glibly spouted was coming from within me, or if I was but Kaikeyi's parrot. I had once posed him the question Was I but the reflection of him, or was the knowledge Universal? His last request to me was that I return to India and take over his work. I knew that I had to go back, but was slow to act. My long sojourn in North and South America had jaded me to Western life. Vancouver, Montreal, San Francisco, New York, Montevideo, Rio de Janerio, Caracas, were all in the past. I wore only the Sadhus Gurua and had long been Know only as a Yogacharya Gitananda."

In the end, his Guru's wish became his command.

When Swami Gitananda returned to India in December 1967, to take up the work that Swami Kanakananda had asked him to fulfill, he established Ananda Ashram in central Pondicherry. He visited all the holy places in and around Pondicherry at that time, to offer his pranams to the Great Souls who had hallowed this land.

At that time, he had visited a small Madam, set in a jungle-like environment in Thattanchavady on the north western side of Pondy, far past the luscious rice lands and village tanks that then flourished there. He met the old Sadhu in charge, Srila Sri Shankaragiri Swamigal, who told him of the great power of the shrine of Sri Kambaliswamy, whose Samadhi cored the Madam.

Sri Kambaliswamigal was a Digambari Sanyassin who took Jala Samadhi in the Amavasi of Marghazhi in 1863. Sri Kambaliswamigal was a great Siddhar and many miracles are attributed to him. He was praised in many old beautiful Tamil hymns as The King of Ashtanga Yoga over the whole Earth. He was also hailed as a Kalpa Vriksha Who would grant all boons of his devotees. Other hymns declared he was worthy of worship by the whole world. At that time, the Madam consisted of one small tiled house, and the Samadhi of Sri Kambaliswamigal. Few dared to venture there as it was infested with cobras and scorpions. The land behind it was used as a cemetery.

Swami Gitananda was attracted to the Samadhi and to the old Sadhu, in between his works of establishing his Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry. In October 1969, Swami Gitananda established his Ananda Ashram in Lawspet, which was only a half kilometer walk Sri Kambaliswamy Madam. He then began to frequently visit and participate in all spiritual activities here.

During the Annual Guru Puja in December 1973, Srila Shri Shankara Giri, then 73 years of age, fell ill and requested Swami Gitananda to perform the Pujas. On the 21st day of January 1975, Srila Shri Shankara Giri nominated Swami Gitananda as his legal heir and successor to the position of Hereditary Trustee and Madathipathi of Sri Kambaliswamy Madam as per the Madam tradition. Then the great restoration and rebuilding of Sri Kambaliswamy Madam Tradition.

Then the great restoration and rebuilding of Sri Kambaliswamy Madam was undertaken by Swami Gitananda. The madam became famous throughout India and the world s an ideal Guru Kula and the Shanti Niketan of the South. Classes in Ashtanga Yoga, Bharat Natyam and Carnatic Vocal were started from 1975 onwards and attracted thousands.

Sri La Sri Shankara Giri Swamigal was Siddha, who lived the life of a traditional Sanyasi. Born in a village near Trichy, into a family of gold smiths, he renounced the world at the age of 51, and spent nearly a decade wandering in the Himalayas. He came to Kambaliswamy Mada in the early 1960s and became the chief disciple of Subramaniya Swamigal, then head of the Madam. He became well known as an adept in Siddha Medicine and many Siddha Medicinal herbs were grown in the Madam. He was named as successor to Subramaniya Swamigal.

Sri Shankara Giri wore his hair coiled on top of his head, and when he opened it, it was more than five meters in length. He was born on December 25, 1900. He lived a very austere, simple life, and walked wherever he went, sometimes as much as fifty kilometers a day. He was a staunch upholder of Dharma, and his favorite saying was Dharma protects those who protect Dharma.

He had a great influence on Ananda Balayogi, son of Sri Swami Gitananda, Sri Shankara Giri confirmed Ananda Balayogi as the successor and head of Sri Kambaliswamy Madam in January 1994. Sri La Shri Shankara Giri Swamigal was the Chief Guest for many of Ananda Ashram programmes even though he was then in his Nineties; he relished each and every programme and gave his perceptive remarks and appreciation for all programmmes. Sri la Shri Shankara Giri Swamigals attained Mukti on June 11, 1995 at the age of 95. His Samadhi is placed in the northern side of Sri Kambaliswamy Madam and daily pujas are performed there.

Thus the Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga teachings of Yogamaharishi Kanakananda Swamigal and the South Indian Saiva Siddhanta, tradition of Akanda Paripurna Sri la Sri Jnanananda Desigar Kambaliswamigal came together in Yoga Maharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj and the spirits of these great Gurus are the guiding force behind all of the activities of the present Ananda Ashram.

Yogacharya Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani (Giri) is the current lineage holder of the Gitananda tradition and current Madathipathy of the Sri Kambaliswamy Madam. He continues the illustrious tradition under the watchful guidance of his mother, Param Pujya Ammaji Yogacharini Smt Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, one of the great Yoginis of Modern Times.

Connect with Yogacharya Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani HERE